Reflections on the New Semester

This semester, I am starting at a new school and I’m teaching classes that I have not taught before, so I wanted to offer some reflections on some strategies or observations that I have benefitted from over the course of this first semester:

  • Some students just want to sit back and listen to a lecture.
  • BUT, if you ask them to summarize their reading with each other, they are more inclined to engage in a discussion about the reading.  It helps get everyone on the same page and remind themselves where they are in class.
  • This semester, in order to try to make sure students are carefully completing the reading assignments, I am asking them to complete a quiz on BlackBoard before each class.  The quiz is 15 minutes and about 10 questions, and they can take it twice.  A few times, before class, I have checked the grades in order to see how well students are doing.  I have used this check to gauge how much I will need to explain the reading or how much can I get students to discuss the readings.  This was particularly useful to check before one of the days that I talked about the Homeric Question in my mythology class.
  • Sometimes students just want you to solve a problem for them instead of troubleshooting and solve it themselves, especially in e-mails.  This is troubling to me because I want students to leave class with some better problem solving skills.  When students’ questions relate to a course policy, I provide a straight answer.  When they relate to the subject matter or a short writing assignment, I have apologized for not providing them a straight answer and then offered them a little guidance on how to more fruitfully answer their question or think about the writing assignment. In class, this can take the form of asking the entire class.
  • Don’t beat yourself up over a class that did not go as smoothly as planned or as you hoped. Figure out what went wrong–sometimes it’s just the time of day or week (like a sleepy Friday afternoon class)–and move on. If it’s a pattern, then readjust, if possible.
  • Colleagues are greatly helpful.  They have helped me troubleshoot ideas, inspired my thoughts about classes and teaching methods, reminded me of more recent scholarship and discoveries, and been a good reference for topics that I’m less familiar with.
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