Today was my first day to co-teach an EN 102 class. Overall, I think it went really well. Alex was the main instructor, and I assisted by executing my keyword “active learning” activity that I demoed in our weekly meeting last week.* While the application of the activity in a real classroom wasn’t perfect, the instructor seemed to like it, and even complimented me on it at the end of class. So, yay.
Which brings me to our reading last week, “Becoming Critically Reflective: The Process of Learning and Change.” The article’s main focus was to illustrate how our assumptions about the way we teach and the ways we present can be changed by viewing our performance through different lenses. So, while it is certainly healthy to be self-reflective in our vocation, sometimes it is important to get the outside opinions of others, whether it is our peers, our students, or even the theoretical literature surrounding our profession. As I’ve mentioned before, I often get nervous speaking in front of people, so getting to demo my methods in front of my fellow “padawans” each week is super duper helpful. For example, getting that little bit of encouragement from my peers and mentors last week really and truly gave me the confidence to co-teach the class today. Feedback from others is crucial to my success in this internship, as it gives me confidence in what I’m doing and helps me see beyond my nervous disposition. So, keep the criticisms/feedback/praise coming, and I’ll try to do the same for you!
*I added a worksheet component (that used word bubbles) to help guide them along.
This week we presented our mock exercises for keyword recognition in broad, narrow and related form. While I initially wanted to use Apples to Apples cards, as they are more visually inviting, I could not get a hold of the game. It is most likely just as well, as I believe it would have been difficult to find enough Apples to Apples cards that could fit together in broad, narrow and related terms. Instead I made up my own terms, and I made two groups of term cards so that I could split the Jedi counsel into two teams. These two groups consisted of two topics–Bigfoot and Lance Armstrong.
I would first like to discuss what I think went well with the game. Because the teams were forced to organize the cards on the table in order of broad to narrow, with related terms beside one another, I believe it was a visually stimulating game because you actually had to move the cards around, not just rank them on a word document. You could pick them up; you could actually see how broad terms relate to narrow terms in a real way, how related terms are defined in a real and simple way. The ‘Bigfoot’ group was by far the better of the two. The terms ‘legend,’ ‘folklore,’ ‘cryptozoology,’ ‘bigfoot,’ ‘sasquatch’ and ‘Washington State sightings’ move from broad to narrow in very defined and easily recognizable ways, and related terms are also easy to spot. This group of terms will certainly be used again.
Now, on to the negatives. I wish I had defined one term in each group–‘Lance Armstrong’ and ‘Bigfoot’–as the ‘anchor’ terms. That would have been much better. I also wish I had remembered to think like someone who is very inexperienced in keyword recognition. The reason I wish that is the ‘Lance Armstrong’ group contained a lot of terms that could easily trip you up; I myself did not organize them correctly when I was preparing for the session. ‘Sports scandals,’ ‘performance enhancing drugs’ and ‘steroids’ move from broad to narrow pretty easily, but where does ‘Lance Armstrong’ fit in? Are ‘2000 Olympic Bronze Medal’ and ‘Tour de France titles’ more broad or narrow than ‘Lance Armstrong’? These I got incorrect, so I can guarantee that freshmen students will not understand them immediately. I believe this word grouping should be scrapped.
Overall, I believe my two mock sessions went well. I learned what works and what doesn’t, and I also was surprised to find myself pretty comfortable in front of the group. While a room full of students will be much different, I felt calm and collected, and I hope that demeanor holds up under pressure.
I think we’ve gotten off to a great start. Our Interns Louise and Alex, and our GTA Karlie are all settling into their new schedules, and are beginning their special projects. We are having some great conversations in our training sessions.
This week, Brett and I both shared examples of times when we failed pedagogically. Reflecting and sharing those experiences is what allows us to grow as teachers. Everyone read an article called “How Do They Conduct Class,” and we talked about finding our teaching style and allowing ourselves to experiment. We also talked about not being hard on ourselves if something doesn’t work out the way we hoped. We can only improve if we are willing to try new things, and sometimes new things don’t work, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth trying! We learn something new through the experience of trying, and that new knowledge is ours regardless of the success of our experiment!
Welcome, Alex, Louise and Karlie! Let’s have a great semester!