And the last in the series, title still taken from King Henry V’s speech from the third act of his self-titled play by Will-i-am Shakspeare.
And on Thursday of last week, the 19th of February to be exact, I solo taught my last two sessions of the semester. Can you hear the hallelujah chorus in the background? I sure could.
The first class was a little rough. I got through everything and, I think, achieved everything I needed to–reaching half the class and making sure they understood. While there were a couple of people who really got into what we were doing, there were pockets of people who just weren’t paying attention. There were people who, after doing an active learning activity, wouldn’t stop talking while I was talking. I also caught two guys sleeping (or very near sleeping). While I could understand their sleepiness, because I was also tired myself at the end of the day, it was a little disheartening. Then again, I reasoned with myself that it wasn’t me–it was typical freshman behavior. When their teacher isn’t teaching, it’s like they are back in high school with a substitute instead of a guest lecturer/teacher/instructor. They’ll learn, hopefully, in time to be more respectful when it comes to being physically present and mentally engaged in classes.
The second class went much smoother, thanks in part to the professor of the EN102 section telling them to be engaged and respectful before I began. I felt as if the entire class got something out of it this time, even though one of the groups was really struggling to delve deeper into the activities. They’re good at getting the surface information but failed to look any deeper than what they “had to.” I squashed most of that thinking by going around and checking in on what they were doing if they were “finished” and prompting them to look other places. I also got better at giving them resources according to slack-off level, which I didn’t do in the first class. I made the mistake of giving a pocket of people who weren’t paying attention an easily researched article and they got done too quickly. I re-evaluated that for the second class and they were, mostly, fully engaged with the material.
All in all, I think I did well. James did tell me that I may want to reconsider giving so much positive feedback. I didn’t want to tell them they were wrong, because I hadn’t found the right phrasing to tell them so without crushing what they’ve said completely. Practice, at least in that aspect, may help. I’ve gotten a taste of teaching, and I enjoy it for the most part. I only have to practice more to get the nerves out as well as try and hone in on my rhetorical/pedagogical skills to try and further the student’s engagement/knowledge once the class is over.
One thought on “The game’s afoot (3 of 3)”
Unruly classes are tough. Sometimes, if students don’t stop talking while I’m trying to talk I will use the opportunity to cold call them and start asking a few discussion questions. I was talking to Kayla yesterday, and she told me a trick that she’s been using to get students to put their phones away during class (she says she tells them that she finds students using their phones very distracting and that when she’s distracted she slows down, so if they want to get done faster they need to not distract her 🙂 ) As librarians, we’re in a tough spot because we’re not giving students a grade, but we can still find ways to manage the classroom dynamics. You’ll develop your own little tricks as you get more practice!
Also, James’ advice is really good. You do need to validate engagement, but you also need to find ways to give truthful, useful feedback. It’s not necessarily telling a student they’re wrong. You can say “yes, or perhaps we can consider it in this other way.” This, too, takes practice. You’ll get there. You’ve done a great job this semester!