Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lounging on my Laurels

Apparently, along with tenure comes lots and lots of requests to observe other people's courses. This completely makes sense to me; the number of senior faculty members that I trusted to write observations for me---which go in the big binder from hell---were few and far between. So this is not the kind of request where I even think about saying no.

Observing other good teachers is, on the one hand, a delightful experience. It gives you something of a student's eye view to the classroom. It can show you how your own content and pedagogy connect with your colleagues. It can make you privy to a whole different side of your colleagues--even the ones you thought you knew pretty well. And, for me, it can make me realize how lazy I've become as a teacher.

There are certain things, I think, that have prevented me from getting hit in the face with the consequences of my own laziness. For the most part, students tend to not hate my classes. I suppose I'm relatively entertaining, and the classes are pretty interactive. And I'll stand by this til I die: letting students know that you actually give a crap about what they think goes a long, long way.

So, without any mutinies or absolutely horrendous classroom experiences, I haven't really been all that attuned to how totally boring I've become. But going to other people's classes sure have. One of my colleagues has convinced students to do some marvelous multi-media projects. In spite of the griping and moaning that they did while they were working, the final projects were great fun, and they were all aglow about everything that they had learned. In another colleague's class, the students had developed these terrific patterns of interaction with each other; it was just a great conversation to watch.

Visiting other classes reminded me going to class with a list of passages and depending on my conversational skilz to tie everything together is just not really enough. In general, "enough" isn't really enough. What am I doing to get excited about the text? What am I doing to get them excited about it? What should I be doing to engage those who aren't already hooked, and what am I doing to push those who are? I fear that this is the kind of habit that creeps up on you, particularly when there are no checks in place (hello, no post-tenure review!!). And I wish, in some ways, that my students were harder to please (not in the Marcia sense, but in the "we're not willing to settle for "you're not sadistic or insulting so we love you!"). But in the absence of these external motivations, I'm going to have to muster up my own.

Registration is upon us, and I'm watching my courses fill pretty quickly, but this is a reminder to myself to do better by those students. Let's see what I can do to be a more engaged, and engaging teacher.

[And a quick note to myself? The theme for the post-tenure year is clearly "self-motivation."]

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Blogger Ashley said...

It is like you are inside my BRAIN. Oh I am so lazy.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 10:30:00 AM  

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