Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's been too long.

Looking over the last month of teaching is at once infuriating and illuminating and even inspiring.

I just finished a meeting with a student who has yet to turn in a big essay assignment that was due two Sundays ago. He's a smart kid, a bit of a troublemaker but often a good contributor in class, and he has huge problems getting work done, not just for my class but for several others. Two things happened during our meeting that struck me:

1. We had finished discussing the overdue essay and were now talking about this weekend's writing assignment, because he has to finish (and start) that one as well. It's supposed to be a little essay where you create an ethical dilemma, and use your response to that dilemma as a springboard to discuss your own personal ethics. We were talking about his ideas of where right and wrong came from, and all of a sudden he described an experience this week in which he was disciplined for an incident in the dorms. He opted to tell the truth despite knowing he'd be punished (a deontologist if I've ever seen one). This, we decided, would form the basis of his ethical dilemma, and of his personal ethical principle. I was pretty surprised that he was so honest with me about his experience, and a little proud of myself to hear that he'd considered our class discussions on teleology and deontology in this disciplinary situation.

2. Looking back at the handouts and assignments I've given thus far, it is abundantly clear to me that I had (and still have) essentially no idea what I'm doing. Things that made sense at the time, or that I chose because I didn't know what else to do, are now so transparently useless that I can't imagine I ever thought they would work. I sometimes pity this first semester of students because of how little their teacher understands about this job; I feel so much more competent than I did a month ago, but it's very clear that I am not even close to actually knowing the best ways to plan, to structure, to grade, to teach.

This is the inspiring part, though, because it really is exciting to think about how much better the second semester can (and hopefully will) be. If I actually take the mistakes I've made so far and do something with them, I can make my class that much stronger and get that much out of it. Today I observed our dean of faculty teach a class about the Parthenon for AP Art History - he put so much STUFF into 45 minutes and the kids were latching on to every second of it. There was so much energy and so much momentum, but also so much purpose and focus, and also so much spirit and enthusiasm and everyone was having FUN which is the crazy part. That's what I want my classes to be like, and the only way to get closer is to keep doing it. And to keep evaluating, and rethinking, and observing.

Which, I suppose, is why I haven't had the time to update my blog.

I'm on duty this weekend, so I'll be spending lots of time with the kids as a chaperone and generally responsible person. There might be enough time to check in again; I just got pumped up by that unexpectedly interesting meeting with my delinquent student and wanted to get some thoughts out.

Glee Club's going really well; we sang in three parts on Tuesday which I don't think any of these kids had ever done before. Yes, a nonsequitur, but I figured I should say something about it. That was an amazing rehearsal. Teaching is an amazing job. Amazing and really, really hard a lot of the time. But don't we all need more challenges in our lives?

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