Monday, January 18, 2010

Mrs. Teter.

Last semester was my first semester as an instructor at a college level (or, really any level aside from 3 and 4 year old children's church help). It was certainly a learning experience. I feel like I'm still trying to figure out how to implement what I learned last semester into this one.

I'm not sure I can actually name all of the things I learned-- this seems so silly because, duh, don't you write those things down Claire? Well, if you're really asking me this, if you're really I didn't. Dumb, right?

But the main thing I learned I knew I wouldn't forget. I like strict professors-- always have. I flourish under high expectations (as I have them for myself anyway, so might as well have someone else expect the same or better so I can rise to that too, ideally). I like clear objectives, expectations, and challenges. I like having to stretch and be disciplined in order to succeed academically. So naturally I envision being this kind of instructor for my students-- that strict and demanding professor who ultimately helps you learn more than you thought you could.

It turns out, I'm rather a softy, much to my dismay. I'm not sure how it happens, except that I guess I have a little more compassion than I thought I would. I don't ACTUALLY buy the excuses, but I'm also painfully mindful of how "at risk" the freshman population at APSU is. If I don't invest in them, give them a second chance, will they ever get one?

Well, probably yes. And at 18 or 19 (or 50), it is time to learn to meet deadlines and follow directions. But still! I'm a sucker!

[And on a side note, I am continually blown away by the aspiration to mediocrity that some students are so comfortable with. Matthew constantly laughs at me for my genuine consternation and disbelief of the real nonchalance with which students accept Bs and Cs (Cs!!!). I just really don't have that ability, nor have I ever. But realizing that not all students are created to eat, sleep, and breathe school is a good reminder, and Matthew is sure to help me realize this anew on a weekly basis.]

So I realized this (that I'm a sucker) last semester, which was important. I've tried to bolster my syllabus so that the things I feel are important to really stick to, I've given ample instruction about. The primary thing is deadlines, and I've created a kind of lenience in my syllabus that I think will allow me to give grace when something comes up, but still ultimately have a way to penalize students who don't meet deadlines. We'll see how that works.

The tricky thing with all the other things I think I learned is that this class is entirely different than my last! The students are from more places (fewer from just Clarksville), I have more non-traditional students, and a majority of male students (vs. 15% of my class last semester). Will the male population change how I teach? I have no idea.

I think I've got a good plan, but it is often overwhelming to think that I'm responsible (in some ways, not all though, I do realize) for their understanding of the English language at a college level. I'm creating and ideally helping them meet the expectations of written communication at this new level-- no longer high school or the work place. Intimidating!

I know they'll learn in their next classes-- they are required to take 1010, 1020, AND 2030 at APSU, so they get quite a dose of Language and Literature. But I do set them up for success or failure, in many ways, for their future language classes. Yipes.

I received my evaluations from my first class, and they were very good. I'm pleased with the feedback, but I do realize that this basically only means that they THINK they learned something, not that they actually did. I saw improvement in ALL of them over the semester... but will I this semester? And is it simply improvement that I think is valuable, but won't actually serve them well in their next class?

Who knows. I AM excited for the coming weeks. My first class went well on Thursday. I think I always scare them with the syllabus-- I sound very strict, though hopefully they hear that phrase I continually repeat after EACH deadline or expectation I give: just contact me ahead of time if something comes up and we'll work together to figure it out. We'll see!

As for my education, I only have one class I'll attend (Southern Literature-- woohoo! Going to read some fabulous authors!) and the other six credits worth of my time (which, by the way, makes me so glad I don't actually have to pay for this-- how lame to pay for... well basically, nothing) will be spent on my thesis. Feel free to ask me each and every time you see me or interact with me what I'm writing. I need help staying on track. I do SO much better when I've got a million things going on, and for some reason the freedom that this semester seems to have is a little worrisome!

Ok, enough babbling... man I can just go on and on!


Allison and Noah Riley said...

As I read this post and pictured you in front of a class of minds just waiting to be dazzled and inspired, I had a moment - "are we OLD enough for this?!"

Here I am - dazzled and inspired. Good luck this semester, prof :).

melissa oholendt said...

I am with Al, dazzled and inspired. SO PROUD of you. For real. Love you.