What I’ve been doing besides blogging, Part 1: Teaching!
As I’m sure you know, I’ve been teaching for several years and that didn’t stop me from blogging. But this quarter, I taught the first class that I had designed myself. And it was a helluva lot harder than I thought it would be. While I thought the hard part would be choosing the readings and writing the syllabus, it turned out that this was the easy part. I forgot I would actually have to teach said readings. Oops. And that meant figuring what to do during each class–figuring what to do that actually involved students learning. Lordy, Lordy. And I’m not sure I actually succeeded in this. It could have been that I had two classes of shy, bored, or mute students. More likely, I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t get them to speak. Even when I knew they had read, they didn’t speak. It was weird.
I tried youth-ish audio-visual aides, and, still, only three or four kids would speak. Even after showing these two videos and asking them to analyze them in light of Marita Sturken’s “AIDS and the Politics of Representation.” Barely a peep.
Okay, I got a peep from these. But it was mostly nervous laughter. It’s possible that I had such stilted discussions because the kids were too nervous of saying something politically incorrect that they chose silence in order to be safe. It’s also possible that they didn’t care. And it’s possible that discussing AIDS at 8am is just too much for Generation Whine, er, Generation Y.
So, I was pretty worried about where the class was heading.
And then I made some scheduling errors. Actually, they were disasters. And Firestorm 2007!!! happened. And so on. And I started overworking on the class. My comments on their research paper proposals, annotated bibliographies, and paper drafts were rather detailed. Probably too much so, considering how much I’m being paid. And I kept meeting with students, beyond my office hours. Which isn’t really my job. But as I told my students, my goal is not a bell curve of grades. I want everyone to get an A. And that means I have to work with them. And work with them.
Wonderfully, I’m more than two-thirds of the way through the final papers and while a few are not good–a couple students got really, really lazy–there are some papers better than anything I’ve read at UCSD prior to this quarter. Some seem to be on the level of good graduate students. And, no, I’m not high. I still have eight more to read, so it’s possible I may end up with a bell. But it’s looking more parabolic, with y and x getting pretty high. I have no idea if that makes any sense.
Sounds like (and looks like) you put together a pretty damned interesting course — good teaching is hard work, isn’t it? Too bad the folks who hold the purse strings done realize that. I’d say that, if you’re getting papers that please and excite you, then you taught something. Often, silence simply means the material is brewing in the student’s mind and he/she’s not ready to respond yet.
You can tell more by the level of eye contact and the interest (or lack thereof) in their facial expressions.
Well, I did get a lot of eye contact. I also got a lot of vacant faces. But that expression can also mean attention. Hmm. —Ed.
Um-did you ask your students why they were not talking? Anyway the kids learned a lot apparently.
Ask them? No. But I chastised them! —Ed.