Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Taarique teaches career planning but doesn’t want students to plan their future too strictly: ‘Keep on experimenting’

In the ‘Educatips’ column, psychology lecturers share their most important insights on teaching. This month: Taarique Debidin thinks making contact with one another is more important than cramming knowledge. ‘I’d get no energy at all from being a formal lecturer.’

Taarique Debidin: ‘If I’m tired when I start the tutorial, the contact with students boosts my energy levels again.’

Becoming a teacher? Actually, Taarique Debidin had never thought of that. Rather, he became a therapist, ‘like many who study Psychology. So Debidin, born in Suriname, enrolled in the Bachelor of Psychology at Anton de Kom University after studying IT for six months. It was the only study programme, he realised just in time, that seemed really interesting to him. ‘I was actually too late to register, but a lady, I think dean or study advisor, called me: ‘If you send your documents today, I can help you.’ The other day I tried to look her up online, but I can't find her anymore. Side note: I am still grateful to her.’

He took his Master’s in Clinical Psychology at the VU, after which he did social work as a temp in various clinics in the Netherlands. ‘I wanted to find out what different psychological disorders were like in practice.’ To his surprise, he didn’t find giving people caught up in persistent patterns a little push in the right direction at all satisfying. ‘There are times when you just can’t break through that behaviour.’ It’s different with students: ‘It’s easier and more effective to inspire them, simply by putting them in contact with one another.’ Debidin started as a lecturer in Psychology at the VU and Erasmus University; he has worked in Leiden for the past three years and recently also at the UvA. He teaches – and talks – in a mix of English and Dutch: ‘It just comes automatically.’ What lessons has he learned from his recent years as a lecturer?’  

Lesson 1: Allow yourself some time not to know things

‘I teach the Clinical Psychology specialism and Perspectives on Career Planning, where students orient themselves towards their career. In an average tutorial group there are a maximum of three students who are certain about of their future plans; for most of them, it’s still very vague. That seems logical to me: second-year students are often still very young. So we keep it all very general, and I focus on what they find interesting. I try not to influence students too much but let them see the assignments mainly as an opportunity to experiment. I hope that this way they’ll get to know themselves better and create something concrete that they want to work towards. For me it’s less about the objective material that they have to learn, but more about the soft skills they can get out of the contact with me and with one another. I teach them the same things I try to achieve myself. I have all kinds of open tabs in my head with future plans, but it’s also fine to just enjoy where I am. Whatever has to happen will evolve in time.’

Lesson 2: Focus on what you can already do well, and make that better

‘During my Bachelor’s in Suriname, I had one lecturer, Tommy Hendriks, who I found particularly inspiring. He was a great fan of positive psychology, and we were able to help him with a study on helping employees to function better. That has stayed with me: the principle of making the best of yourself, and as a result, I guess, making yourself as happy as possible. You can see it as a counterpart to focusing on mental disorders, which often dominates within psychology. An important concept within positive psychology is “flourishing”. So, not: how can you fix what’s broken? But: how can you improve what you’ve already got? And how can you strengthen your own positive characteristics even more? If you take the time to think about that, you’ll develop a basis in yourself that you can always fall back on. If you’re good at planning or showing empathy for people, for example, how can you use that more effectively? Sometimes I think it’s a pity if I see that students don’t realise what their strengths are. I think: if you’re good at something, you can let it be known. There’s no need to be humble.’ 

Lesson 3: Be vulnerable with students

‘If I’m tired in the morning when I have to teach, I get a lot of energy from the contact with students: somehow it kind of peps me up. I think that as a  lecturer it’s important to stick to your own style. When you start out, you might tend to behave ‘like a teacher’: rigid, distant, formal. For some people, that is their style. But what if I were to adopt a very formal attitude? Sure, it would get the job done, but the part that matters most, making contact with the students, would be missing. I wouldn’t get any energy from that. My advice for lecturers just starting out would be to accept your own vulnerability, and let your students see that too. This is now my fifth year of teaching. If I’m honest, there’s still a lot to learn.’

3 x Taarique Debidin

Fitness ‘Later I want to do research on the relationship between fitness and mental health. In times when I am doing a lot of exercise, I have a lot more mental clarity. Since moving to the Netherlands, I do a lot more sports. First, I did pole fitness and yoga, and now I’m primarily at the gym. I exercise more in spring and summer, and less in autumn and winter. ‘There’s still work to do there.’
Karaoke ‘My father used to be in a karaoke group and sang Hindustani songs. If they needed an English singer, they got me to join in. I want to take up singing again. ‘I like the idea of singing and seeing people enjoy it.’
Friends ‘Keeping in good contact with my friends is one of the things I think is most important in my life. I actively make time to be with my social circle. Some friends recently said that that’s something they appreciate about me.’ 

This website uses cookies.