Monday, September 08, 2003

Ok I'm a little late about posting this but I did it by hand to start with when I wasn't around a computer. Silly analog stuff!

Anyway, this past Thursday Dr. Thatcher came to observe my class. I was much more nervous to have her observe me than when Dr. O'Neill came to observe in my first class. I really have no idea why. Maybe it's because it was so bloody hot in the computer lab.

To begin with I went through the first part of my lesson plan way too fast. I had intended on spending 30 minutes on essay format and thesis statements and such and then have them spend the last 45 minutes writing their rough drafts or outlines for the Significant Event paper. Unfortunately I was so nervous that I sped through it all in about 15 minutes. Because of this I had two or three of the faster students practically finished with their essays by about 4:30. I was concerned that their focus would start to wane a bit so I decided to have them stop and spend the last fifteen minutes of class in their groups discussing their strengths and weaknesses they were discovering as they wrote. I was hoping they would be able to work out some minor problems this way and I believe this was a good thing to do. Granted a group session with a bit more focused topic would probably have made the activity more productive but I still feel like the students were able to deal with some issues and the majority of them stayed on task.

The most blatant boo-boo I noticed about that day's lesson was that I did not remember to decide on how many pages this paper should be. I was asked and caught off gaurd. That was a pretty stupid mistake but one I tend to make since I focus so much on getting the idea of what they should be writing about across. I settled on 3-5 pages but I'm not sure if 3 is too few and 5 too many. I guess we'll see what happens. I've made some notes in my book about being sure to have a specific number of pages for the rest of the papers.

Another problem I'm having is figuring out how much reiteration is too much. I expect them to listen to me the first time I say something and to take notes but is it expecting to much for them to get it right the first time? Especially since most of these kids are first time freshmen? I know I would get irritated when a teacher would repeat the same stuff over and over again...but maybe that's because I'm a well-trained student by now. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I was a freshman it's been so long! I suppose a quick replay of the previous class wouldn't really bother many of them and it would take up a few extra minutes when my lecture material is a little thin (like on a peer critique day).

Another reminder for myself...give their papers back at the END of class! When am I going to learn this one? I've already violated that rule with their diagnostic essays. Hopefully I will remember when I hand the next batch back.

So what went well? Hm. This was not one of the strongest lessons so far but it wasn't a total disaster. I was really impressed that almost all of the students were on task for the whole 45 minutes that I had them writing. There are a couple that drift in and out going to the restroom (or something) but as long as they aren't disturbing anyone else I'm going to let it go for now. I think that everyone is at least getting the gist of the assignment and I saw plenty of progress. Everyone was on time again and I only had one student absent but she called just before class to tell me she was sick.

I'm worried about one student though. It's probably more than a teacher sort of worry. It's probably stemming from my psychology background and my almost going into the counseling program. He seems so sad. He actually said that he tries to avoid life for the most part. Wow. Can you imagine feeling that way? He's a military brat and has been moved constantly so he doesn't have any friends and claims he's never had any significant event. I can relate to the moving thing since I'm a Navy brat myself so I almost feel like I should be helping this kid but I'm just his composition teacher not his mom or his counselor. I asked him if he felt ok with the fact that he couldn't come up with a topic for this paper and he said no so I told him that this paper is his significant event then. It has made him focus on the fact that he needs to change something in his life. I think I let him know that I cared and he seemed to respond well to it. He did evenutally get some writing done so maybe I did the right thing with him. I'll just have to see how the rest of the papers go I guess.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Today was my first day teaching in the computer lab. Things went delightfully smooth thanks to my preparation well beforehand. I'm really very proud of myself because I'm a notorious procrastinator but I've been more than ready for each day so far (all two of them). I made several Powerpoint slides and had a lesson plan with lecture notes all typed up with some notes I scribbled on there as I thought of new things. I've found that I really don't have to refer back to the lesson plan very often because the process of writing the lesson plan itself seems to clarify and concretize that day's activities for me so I tend to remember it. Maybe just the knowledge that I have something right in front of me that I can fall back on makes me more confident anyway.

I was very pleased with several things that happened in class today. Most of my students kept to themselves last semester but this class seems comfortable piping up when they need to. Also all of my students showed up for class and not a single one came in late. The timing of my lesson was exactly the way it was supposed to be. I had planned on talking for about 30 minutes then letting them have the other 45 for the diagnostic essay and it worked out perfectly. And they all took the whole 45 minutes to write instead of just typing what they felt was adequate and then darting out of the room.

I seem to have tapped into some store of patience I didn't know I have. I was asked the same question several times and I answered it just as nicely the last time as I did the first. It didn't even bother me to have to repeat what was still written on the board behind me.

I do have a couple students that tend to chat a little while I'm lecturing but it was only once or twice that I noticed. There's also one that tends to fall asleep. I thought maybe it was because I left the lights off (for the powerpoint stuff) but I remember him nodding off a bit in the regular classroom so I'm not sure what to do about it. He seems to think that he knows most of the stuff we have to teach in 102 though. I haven't read the diagnostics yet so maybe he's a good writer...who knows.

Something just a little out of place is that same guy who falls asleep brought me one of his short fiction pieces to read. I'm not sure what to do with it. I'm flattered that he would want me to read it (I believe I mentioned I was a creative writer in the first meeting) but then again I know I would never be so bold as to bring a teacher a piece of my fiction on the second day. Maybe he's one of "those" writers. You know, the ones that are so confident in their abilities that they shove it under the noses of anyone even vaguely interested and have a horrible time with criticism. I hate to think that of someone though. Maybe I'm just such a young, hot teacher that he's already developed a crush. (HAHAHahaaaa..I'm funny, aren't I?)

To sum things up I had a really good class again. I'm convinced that it's the time difference. If I teach again I will insist on afternoon and evening classes only. Since it will be only part time I may be able to get away with it. It wouldn't just be for me though, it would be for the students. I can teach better in the afternoons so they get a better education.

Oh, and to my sheer delight the girl that gave me a hard time the first day has dropped the class...yay!

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