Thoughts on my second week of teaching
I’ve begun teaching two sections of an information literacy class at a local career college two nights a week. The student body is age 19-50+, many first-generation college students who are working full-time and have families in addition to attending school, and encompassing a wide range of computer savviness.
The first week was spent (per my supervisor’s instructions) entirely on introductions, the syllabus, and class expectations without any real teaching, so I didn’t feel there was much to document, other than the need to remember to wear comfortable shoes that have traction, and that the class will be much more lively if I start the night with interactive activities rather than lecturing.
One of the first things I did this week was ask what they remembered about last week’s class, both to jog their memories and help out the students who weren’t at the first class (students can add classes through the 3rd week of classes). The things that stuck out most (aside from critical policies like coming to class every day and turning in the homework at the start of class)? The YouTube video I showed (which, though from 2009, neatly illustrates how the world of information has changed in just the last 10 years and why the course is necessary) and that we “played games.” Affirmation that I need to include more of these in my future lesson plans–cut down on the talking head!
They love the FYE component (another 1-credit course that the information literacy instructors are required to teach as well, since it’s a first-semester class). It’s very non-lecturey; I briefly go over the required material (it’s all life skills stuff like goal-setting and time management), give some examples of various concepts (e.g., discretionary time activities, black holes/time sucks), and then ask for more examples from the students, as well as the strategies they use in their own lives. These are busy people–working and with families, even before they started school–so they’ve already developed some time management strategies on their own, some better than others. They love talking about their lives, so this has gone over well both weeks.
I love my Friday class. They range in age from low 20s to ex-military men in their mid-50s, encompassing an equally broad range of computer savviness and chattiness, but they are just a delight. One of my students failed out of the class last semester mainly, he says, because he didn’t like the instructor, and was listening to headphones and browsing Facebook last week, but I connected with him the first day of class and felt I’ve got a solid connection now after the second week–he was even helping other students of his own volition!
Last week’s homework reading was a brief introduction to all the different reference sources. Since most of my students are already working in their desired field in some capacity already, I figured some might already be familiar with a few field-specific handbooks, manuals, etc. (e.g., the ICD-9 and DSM-IV for those going into medical assistantship/nursing), I put them in groups based on their majors and had them discuss the topic and then present their findings to the class. While I certainly didn’t expect everyone to know something, I thought it would be helpful for those with little prior knowledge to learn from those that do. This assumption was overwhelmingly proved false, however, and the students clearly thought it a waste of time, one group even going so far as to say, “We don’t use books in criminal justice. Everything’s online.” I put this on the chopping block for the Friday class.
Checking in on the progress of students who are next to the wall, and therefore not within easy reach of the aisle. Peering over the tops of computers is just weird.
Getting everyone’s attention back after group/class discussion. Need some sort of cow bell or other noisemaker.
Surly/belligerent/easily frustrated students. Not quite insubordination but teetering on the brink. I outsourced this to my teacher friends on Facebook; will implement some of their suggestions and see if they work.
Students with widely varying degrees of familiarity with Windows/MS Office. This created frustration on both ends–from those who finished early and were bored, and from those who were (I thought) too distracted/unwilling to follow the step-by-step instructions for making their APA paper template. Thankfully several of the more advanced students stepped in and helped their classmates (some more willingly than others), since I could only help one person at a time.
Already, in just my first two weeks of teaching, my experience has neatly encapsulated why I decided not to become an English teacher, after spending 4.5 years in the teacher education program/student teaching: I ADORE teaching. I am really great at building a rapport with students, even the ones who are reserved or come into the classroom on the first day feeling, at best, neutral about the class and unconvinced about its relevance to their education and their lives. But students who come in determined to be angry, troublesome, and know more than me upset me, perhaps because I can’t relate to it at all; I am a teacher’s daughter and have always loved school, and I am doing my best to make my lessons relevant. I am also a perfectionist and can’t resign myself to the likely fact that my Thursday class will just have to be my guinea pigs as I work out the kinks in my taught-for-the-first-time lessons.