As another semester comes to a close, I feel I should reflect on my teaching, and how I’ve grown (assuming I have). Reflecting is a good thing, especially when you need to feel like you’re doing something important while ignoring the pile of ungraded essays on the dining room table
The difficulty, of course, is accurately assessing one’s own effectiveness. Well, maybe I’ll just start by seeing if I can actually remember what I did, or if my brain refuses (it’s tired, poor little brain).
I actually had to be a bit of a mean teacher this semester. One reason I like teaching adults is that they generally pay for their own classes and therefore feel motivated to show up. Also, they tend to be fairly mature. I had a few students, however, who bucked the trend. I understand the need to nap (it’s like, my favorite thing some days), but if I’m going plan out a bunch of activities and present information that will help you, I want you awake! How are you going to learn if you don’t participate??
The first few times I noticed a snoozing student, I asked a neighbor to tap the student’s shoulder. That was usually enough. Sometimes I was a bit more vocal: “Are you with us, [redacted]?” I definitely called on students who were less than conscious (or, even worse, on their phones AGAIN and NOT using them as dictionaries!)
What was that I wrote previously about not talking about any of my students? Well, there were SO MANY who did this, there is no way this post could be seen as singling anyone out. And I really do feel a certain level of compassion for students who are not only mentally tired, but probably emotionally tired – traveling overseas to learn and function in a new language and culture is taxing!
But sometimes enough is enough and you bang on the table, saying, “Hey, wake up!”
Does this make me a mean teacher? One of the ladies at my mother’s salon says it makes me a good teacher, because it shows I care about their learning. I think I’ll go with that.
I’m usually rather direct (see above), if gentle in my phrasing. But sometimes I just don’t want to have to say things, even though I know they should be addressed.
I was probably at my most passive-aggressive this semester on the day we were discussing the use of the word “ignore” in a piece of writing. The author stated that her treatment by her peers was worse than being ignored – it was like she didn’t even exist to them. To make sure my students grasped the nuance, I asked them what “ignore” means. One student suggested “neglect,” which was good because neglect means not to care for properly, or not to pay attention to. “Ignore means you know something or someone is there,” I told them. “You just don’t pay any attention to it. Kind of like when I see you texting on your phones, but I choose not to say anything about it. That’s me ignoring it because I have better things to do.”
That was on the last day before the final. I had previously asked students not to be on their phones unless they were using them as dictionaries. I also had to ask a student to take out an ear bud… but it was back the next week. So, by the end of this class, I turned into passive-aggressive teacher. At least it was just that once (as far as I remember, anyway).
I had a few students approach me after the final and tell me they learned a lot in my class. That was pretty awesome. It makes me feel better about the mini MLA-style lectures I gave. I hate lecturing, but sometimes students just need to hear info and see examples. That’s how I justified it, anyway. And we did spend quite a bit of time discussing in partners, small groups, and as a whole class. So, maybe it wasn’t the boring little lectures that helped them, but hey, something worked. And I think everyone did improve in their ability to express themselves in English, in writing and speaking, and that’s why they’re there, after all. I hope that as they move on, either in our program, or at other schools/in other phases of life, that they take something useful from my classes with them (although it’s probably not going to be MLA-style citations).
Okay seriously, I need to finish grading their papers now.