Thursday, September 4, 2014

The First Two Weeks

Well, it's for real. I wrote syllabi. Students showed up last Monday, pens in hand, and made frantic attempts to write down everything I projected onscreen. Three interesting points about this simple observation:

(1) Yes, I said PENS, not keyboards. And WRITE, not type. Three classes, approximately 110 students (less than half of whom are freshmen), and only three who regularly type during class. A pleasant surprise - definitely cuts down on the time I spend policing in class. Though they still seem surprised that I want hard copies of their assignments.... go figure.

(2) Some things haven't changed since I last taught, in 2011 - students made the mistake of assuming that the words on the PowerPoint were the (only) important ones. Or they tried to write down everything on the screen and everything I said, which is a nonsignificant improvement. I decided to nip this behavior in the bud with the freshmen by doing a bit of coaching. 

On day 2, I asked everyone to put down their pens/stop typing and just engage with what I presented. I spent a few minutes discussing the "nature-nurture" question with respect to human behavior and ended by guiding students toward the conclusion that both contribute. Then I asked students to summarize the discussion in their own words. After a few lengthy summaries, we got down to a one-sentence overview; I encouraged students to write down this one-sentence summary, rather than trying to record all of the detail and missing the context of the conversation. The goal was to help them learn, rather than simply memorize. We'll see how well it worked when the first exam comes around.

(3) Eight months after I accepted a faculty position, I stood at the front of a classroom and didn't have to correct students who called me "professor." I have a two-room office, a one-room research lab, six research assistants, and three teaching assistants. I spend a lot of time on my own work. I'm getting used to this, but it's still strange, in a very pleasant way.

One final note about the first week of class, in particular: I spent most of it without a voice, due to a bad cold and consequent laryngitis. I croaked through two of three class days, three hours each day, plus a lab meeting. I got creative on the second bad day, by spending extra class time on an activity and inviting my TAs to give students feedback as they started an assignment. And in between teaching, I took a real sick day - watched/slept through several movies while lying on the couch. 

Eventful, and enjoyable, first two weeks as faculty. Now I need to work on my website.

No comments: