This article first appeared in the Teaching Professor on April 8, 2019. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved. Students often put in a great deal
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Q: Why did the chicken cross the road? A: To show the squirrel it could be done. Most of us attempt to teach our subjects
Editor’s Note: In part one of this article, the author shared openly some of the mistakes he made early in his teaching career. In this entry, he outlines some of the changes he’s made to his teaching over the years and the principles he uses to guide his teaching.
I had known it all along at some level, but now it suddenly became glaringly obvious to me. Deep down, sometimes out of conscious reach, students want to be transformed and their lives made more useful, productive, and powerful. I added the following new goal to my personal mission statement:
It’s the first day of class. They shuffle in, spot similar life-forms, and slip in with that group. Hipsters sporting wild hair and tats, buttoned-up and serious young scholars, middle-aged moms and dads, maybe a couple of aging hippies. One or two sad souls choose spots isolated from the others; they don’t want to identify with them for reasons of insecurity, arrogance, or something else.
The first day of class is critical. What happens on the first day, even in the first moments, sets the tone for the entire course. The impression you make will last the entire semester, and today’s students are not shy about sharing their opinions. Most students will make up their minds about the course and the instructor during that first class period.
At its most basic level, the syllabus is used to communicate information about the course, the instructor, learning objectives, assignments, grading policies, due dates, the university’s academic integrity statement, and, in some cases, an increasingly long list of strongly worded admonitions on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in the college classroom.
Once upon a time people told stories to share experiences and to teach. With the growing popularity of distance learning modalities educator have been searching for ways to enhance social presence and reflective thinking in the online learning experience. The use of digital storytelling might be a strategy to bring human thought and emotion into online education.
For most teachers, a room full of bright students is the stuff dreams are made of. Unless, of course, you’re teaching a course that’s outside of your area of expertise – then it can be a nightmare. You feel like an imposter, and worry that your students will call you out. You cram for each class like you’re back in school.
As a college student, I always liked it when I had a course that met in Edwards Hall – if for no other reason than a lot of the classrooms in that building had theater-style seating with chairs that swiveled. The fact that I would remember that after all of these years is an indication of the effect a more welcoming learning space can have on students.