Purposive Rambling

the journey is the reward.

Posts Tagged ‘students

Teaching is full of surprises.

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3772470003_7690c3676fMost courses in our department are capped at 70 students. And in the past I’ve had somewhere between 65 and 70 each semester. But this time around I am teaching a service-learning course, and because it takes a bit more coordinating, the department capped it at 50 students. But, I actually only have 28 enrolled. And wow. It is so different! When I was putting together the syllabus and preparing lectures I wasn’t thinking about what it would be like to stand in front of the class. I figured I might get a few butterflies before the first class meeting, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’d done it before. But I hadn’t done it quite like this. Looking out at only 28 faces is much different from looking out at 68 faces. I love that I can actually see all of their faces – even the ones in the back of the classroom. And I love that I can see if they’re reading the newspaper or talking to their friends or texting. And the smaller class size will make learning their names much easier. However, I can also see that they’re all looking at me! I think because they know I can see them clearly, they know they have to pay attention. So when I look out at them I don’t see any tops of heads that are staring at their desk or off into space or at the cell phone in their lap. Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is great. I want them to pay attention. But it’s a bit intimidating. And unexpectedly intimidating. If anything, I thought a smaller class would be less so than a larger class.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/38117207@N03/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
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Written by Lisa

September 2, 2009 at 10:29 pm

A Favorite Thing

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I wouldn’t say that I’m “addicted” to lolcats. It’s not like I would have some sort of withdrawal if I was away from the computer for a few days and couldn’t check them out – as long as I knew I could catch up soon, of course.

Typically, I check them out a few times a day. It’s harmless, though, right?

What’s the worst that can happen? It might cause you to LOL? I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.

I suppose there’s also a risk of embarrassment if you go public with this kind of obsession.

Let’s say you (hypothetical scenario, of course) hang some of your favorite lolcats on your office wall and your students stop by for some exam review. They might see it – along with the framed picture of your own cat on your desk – and remark that you must “really love cats.”

Maybe a little embarrassing, but you can shrug it off with a laugh, change the subject, and make a mental note to take those off the wall ASAP.

That’s probably not enough to earn the label of “crazy cat lady.” If you want to avoid that label, you should probably not tell your students that you also have a favorite lolcat on your computer’s desktop background and that you keep a special folder on your desktop with 66 of your past favorites (examples below) that you may or may not look through from time to time when you need to LOL. Yeah. I wouldn’t tell them, or anyone, about the folder.

funny-pictures-cat-cannot-brain-today

funny-pictures-cat-makes-a-wish-for-you

Written by Lisa

May 13, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Midterm Evaluations

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I asked my students to complete a midterm evaluation this week. First of all, midterm?! We’re at midterm?! Eek! But, yes, it appears that we have reached that point in the semester. I’m pretty much freaking out about the amount of work that I need to get done and the lack of titina_feyNBCime available to do it. But, that’s not the point.

The point is, I wanted to get some sense of how the students were feeling about the course. Particularly, I wanted to know if there were any major problems that I need to address when we still have time to right the ship.

Luckily, there were no big surprises. The feedback was generally positive, and the suggestions they gave were ones I anticipated. Given the number of students suggesting the same things, though, I am considering making some adjustments to the course. I have preferences for the way I teach and the way that I organize the course and individual lectures. But we’re all in this together. It is a give and take, to some extent. I am willing to meet them halfway.

I did receive one unexpected comment, though. One student said I look like Tina Fey.

I’m not sure that I agree, except that we both have brown hair and glasses. I just hope that I am more reminiscent of the Liz Lemon version of Tina Fey than the Sarah Palin version.

Written by Lisa

February 26, 2009 at 9:09 am

Teaching is like baking a cake.

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I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I am teaching for the first time this semester. That is, I’m teaching on my own a course that I designed. I have been an assistant for a number of courses as an undergraduate and graduate student. And I have had a little experience leading classes and discussion sections. But this is totally different. Being in the driver’s seat, not having anyone to answer to, having to figure things out on my own. Weird, exciting, intimidating, awesome.

I am really loving it. But it can be a little scary. So we do have a faculty supervisor and an advanced grad student to go to with questions or for advice. Last week the faculty supervisor visited my class, observed, and gave me some feedback.

It was a little nerve-racking to have him there. I felt a little distracted, wondering what he was thinking as I was making my way through the lecture. But it was well worth it. It was very encouraging and helpful to hear what he thought about the class.

Overall, he gave me pretty positive feedback. He said I seemed calm and confident, which is good because I feel calm and confident, but it’s hard to say if you’re actually projecting what you hope to be or what you think you are projecting. Also, the students were paying attention and taking lots of notes. All I see is that they are looking down at their desks, but I can’t see what exactly they’re doing. So I figure they’re doing a combination of taking notes and texting or working on the crossword puzzle from the newspaper. I’m glad that’s not the case.

I also got some constructive criticism in the form of an analogy that I think is worth sharing. He said that in order for me to move from being a good teacher to being a great teacher, I need to add more exciting examples – examples that will really grab the students’ attention, something surprising that they don’t know about or wouldn’t have expected. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I feel a little bored with my lectures, and I’m sure the students are too. Examples would be great. In some cases, they’re hard to find, though – or at least it’s time-consuming to find them. And, if you haven’t heard, there happens to be a shortage of time. But, back to the analogy.

He said that a lecture is like a cake. First you have to build the layers. And then you have to ice it and decorate it. I’ve pretty much got the cake baked and the layers stacked up nicely. But it’s a little plain still. I need to fancy it up with some icing and decorations. But it takes time. Luckily, I’m not in a cake competition where I’m on the clock. I have plenty of semesters of teaching ahead of me. So the layers are okay for now. I’m going to move slowly with the rest. It will come with time.

But I definitely want to have a fancy cake someday. I want it to be exciting for all of my students. I want them to look forward to coming to class everyday. I want them to leave every lecture with some new knowledge. And I want something to be so unexpected and powerful for the students that it sticks with them long after the semester is over.

Written by Lisa

February 5, 2009 at 8:30 am