Saturday, January 09, 2016

New Semester, New Students

One thing I imagine that non-teachers think about teaching is that when you teach the same class--in the same day or from semester to semester--that it must get completely boring.

It does not.

I admit I have a certain amount of restlessness in me that appreciates the opportunity to teach new classes. If I do get the chance to teach a new class, I jump at it. Recently I jumped so high that they gave me a new class to teach in a big way--but that won't kick in until next Fall. More on that in the future.

In the meantime, I am teaching the same class I taught last semester and EVERYTHING is different about it. Mind you, this course is a LOT like the course I taught every spring for five years at Penn State. Not exactly--I'm always tweaking it. But over time there are things I got rid of that I brought back in because the course needed them and things I used for a long time that I got rid of and found I didn't really miss. That's kind of the point of teaching it for a long time--it should evolve into a rich and interesting course where students tell the next incoming group to take the class--that they're going to love it.

Last semester was my first at BYU and I taught the course twice a week for 75 minutes each time, which is exactly like the format at Penn State--except at 2 credits instead of 3 credits, the course ended weeks early. That was weird. But I had 28 super terrific students and we had a good time figuring things out, learning to think about some things in new ways, and coming away having grown and changed a bit--all of us.

This semester is my second at BYU and I have the same course, but I tweaked it considerably in response to two huge factors. The first was that my favorite textbook had been rewritten and is better than ever with new expanded sections on bilingual education and translanguaging and other greatness. So that meant moving some things around and using it as an anchor text. I'm not usually so textbook oriented. But I love it.

The next issue is that I have the students for the whole semester this time, but only 110 minutes a week. This is causing chaos in terms of how and when I cover certain ideas. In the end, I'm covering more topics--but with less time spent on each. We'll see. The first day was not a strong one. Too much time on the syllabus and not enough on the reading. Next week will be better.

But to get back to the thing that non-teachers don't know....each class is its own entity. They have a feeling, a personality, a way of moving together and being together and thinking together that makes them unpredictable and exciting--and sometimes frustrating and nerve wracking. Every time you get a new class--you are meeting a new group of students--but you are also beginning to get to know the entity that is that class. I'm tempted to name this winter's class, but I'd have to let them pick the name and that would be weird. "When I talk about you on my blog, what you like me to call you?"

I am currently reading the class's first reading memos. The class discussion was not particularly helpful this week (normally it's a very large part of the information for the week) because it was getting to know you week and syllabus week and also key information about ELLs week. So mostly they got that last part from the reading and not from me. So one of the things I'm discovering about this group is that they are very smart. They have, collectively, excellent recall of their multicultural course. They are already making connections to previous courses they've taken. After I gave my speech on improving their academic writing--many are already using proper APA citations and reference lists.

I'm happier than a rescue pup who finds themselves adopted by a dog-food manufacturer for the purpose of being one of their 200 dog-food testers. (They really exist. And there are people whose job it is to wrangle the doggies all day--big open dog park time, smaller open rooms for quieter times, kennels at night.)

I only have 23 students this semester and it may drop to 21 (no sign of two of them yet). If that happens, I'm making it my goal to learn ALL of their names by week 6. That would be a personal best.

Regardless, the semester is off to a good start. This is a good class--and you can research and write and all that good stuff--but if the teaching doesn't go well, it's not a good semester. In the end, at least in Teacher Education, it has got to be a good class. I have one :)

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