11 December 2015

End-of-Semester Teaching Reflections

The top Google Image result for "clip art teaching" is just what this blog entry needs for a little bit of visual flair, thinks the blogger with satisfaction.
I always mean to post more about teaching on this blog, and I always forget to; I should do it more often, as it's an easy source of content. (I do, after all, teach twice per week if even I do absolutely nothing else!) (Yes, committee, I am totally working on my dissertation. Totally.)

This week was the last week of the semester here. My students had rough drafts of their fourth papers due on Tuesday, and so I spent all day Wednesday and all Thursday morning reading them so that I could do one-on-one conferences with my students Thursday afternoon and all day Friday. It's kind of tiring and time-consuming, and so I only do one-on-ones for their first and final papers. I like doing them for the first papers to clearly set the grounding for the course, and I like doing them for the last papers in order to tie things off at the end. It gives me a chance to touch base with each and every student before they go, which I prefer to them all filing out of the classroom on the last day.

I was pretty happy with how this semester went; for the first time in a long while, I was assigned the same course two semesters in a row, which meant that for the first time in a long while I could teach the same syllabus two semesters in a row. As a result, I had a feel for the trajectory of the course I haven't had a long while, and the assignments and readings were pretty refined. Though I could, of course, always refine them more. I think I'd like to take another stab at this syllabus, but not next semester: I'm teaching a new prep for the fourth time in five semesters! But it's a course I'm looking forward to, so that's fun. More on that come the spring, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, individual conferences always remind me of what I like about teaching: I work with a lot of bright, young people, and they have great ideas and interesting perspectives. Working with them is about building on that and using that, giving them new perspectives and helping them reconsider old ones. I love it when we end up tossing ideas back and forth, and they end up considering something they haven't considered before, and it hasn't come from me: it's all them. (At least I hope it's not all coming from me.)

Of course, I also had two PLAGIARISTS in this batch of papers, but what can you do?

Something I wish: as a teacher, you receive student evaluations of teaching at the end of every semester. But there are times I think there ought to be teacher evaluations of students, i.e., narrative write-ups of what your students are like apart from the grades they receive in your course. Because the fact they might have written a sloppy draft or gotten a B- is just the smallest fraction of who they are, yet the channels you're given as a teacher allow for so little. I had a great semester this semester, and I want my students to know that they were a big part of it, and that I think so much more of them than a B- or a D or even an A implies.

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