January 6, 2009
And so begins another semester or term. Being in a job with so many endings and beginnings has its advantages. Sometimes I think we take them for granted and might need a gentle reminder of the promises they hold.
There will be new students. Chances are good that some will be ready to learn. Chances are good that some will want to learn. Chances are others can be motivated, their confidence developed, and their commitment to learning grown. There could be a future leader, wise doctor, great humanitarian, or brilliant playwright in your class this semester. Believing in what students can become makes teaching better.
There can be new content. There will be if it’s a new course or one you haven’t taught for a while. Every semester offers teachers the opportunity to learn new material and its new material in fields we already love. If you’re up to your neck busy, it doesn’t have to be a whole new unit, but a new example here, an interesting new discovery there, a compelling fact not before included. Not only do these additions engage students, they are ways that keep teachers glad they’re teaching.
There can be new assignments or activities. Every new class is a chance to try some different instructional approach. You don’t have to toss out a whole assignment; you can change something about it—what students will write up, a discussion they will have in a small group before they start writing, a grading rubric distributed with the assignment. So many possibilities for change: reconfigure the chairs in the classroom; get of the podium; greet students at the door when they arrive on the first day. Change is the antidote to tired teaching and burnout.
It’s a new course, you have new students, and it’s a new semester. It’s a new beginning and with it comes the chance to do things differently, to do them better! All that takes is a teacher who believes in possibilities.