Monday, April 27, 2009

Lessons Learned

As the end of the semester approaches, contemplating the lessons students have learned is an easy one. Based on student performance throughout the semester, it's relatively easy to determine who is doing well and who thinks they still have all the time in the world and/or already know it all anyway. One student who called themselves stubborn has turned around her attitude; we'll see if performance follows. (Answering the question asked on an essay and/or exam is quite crucial here.)
Several students have worked hard to do well and to learn more. A few have atempted to game the system with varying results.

But what lessons has the professor learned? I've definitely had a truly "light bulb" moment regarding my control - or primarily my lack thereof - over whether or not students want to do well. I can provide them all the tools and assistance in the world short of doing it for them - and that's not doing them any favors in their pursuit of a college degree or in life in general. I've done better this semester at taking a step or two back and letting the chips fall where they may. I've been at this teaching thing since 1985 in some form or fashion (if we don't count playing school until 8th grade if that tells you anything). But, I fear I've discovered students only resent it if you try to help them more than they want it and/or feel they need it.

This is especially important given the sacred trinity of teaching, research, and service. I can better inform my teaching if I take more time to do research, including teaching-related research, and less time overwhelmed by the minutia that can quickly take over my day. Before I know it, all my best productive time is gone. I have done much better this academic year requiring students to use the CMS to correspond about class matters and only checking it once a course day. This is in contrast to feeling compelled to answer it as it comes in - which is obviously very much a misuse of time. It also keeps the email organized so that it's clear what course a student is referring to along with the context (ie related emails) being right there.

I've also balanced some department politics a bit better - primarily by not letting them intrude on my getting my job done. And at least one colleague who lives in a glass house and likes to throw stones had at least one lobbed right back. The biggest joy this year has been a new colleague whom has been everything I had hoped for and more both as a teacher and as a professional colleague. His being involved in tech and blogging (which is how I became aware of him despite our distinctly diverse topical areas of study) is an added plus.

As the semester is winding down, an even busier summer is winding up. As I've discussed before, TAH grants are wonderful things but they also ensure the summer flies by before I know it.

Now to get organized to get done what just has to be done by May 30:

Planning Teaching
Finish textbook ancillaries

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