This term I (Clive) have two wonderful graduate classes, each with 25 students. One is on Foundations of Curriculum Studies and the other Reflective Professional Development. As part of the community building effort we go to the pub after class three times during the twelve week term (that evening we finish the class half an hour early). This week we had our second pub visit in both classes.
As always, I was impressed with how enjoyable it was and how much we got to know about each other. Only about half the students came, due to the frigid weather, family responsibilities, and school classes early the next day. But it was nevertheless entirely worthwhile.
Other strategies to build a social culture include: sitting in a large circle for most of the evening; having the students say each other’s names around the room each time we meet; chatting and joking at the beginning of the class and at other times; each student giving a brief presentation on their emerging essay topic (2 or 3 presentations a week) with responses from the 3 students sitting to their left or right; small-group discussions on interesting topics, with everyone in each group reporting back. All this leaves less time for me to talk, but I find the students say at least 90% of what I would have said; and anyway, I get to choose the weekly topics and readings.
It is only a 36 hour course, shorter than most school courses, yet a real bond is formed. The social atmosphere adds greatly to the enjoyment of the course and the discussions are deepened. It may not seem very “academic,” but I wouldn’t do it any other way!
Teaching can be very satisfying, but it isn’t easy. I (Clive) just received my course evaluation for last term and was reminded that “you can’t win them all.” I thought the course was my best ever, and most students rated it as “excellent.” But some just said it was “very good” (hmmm – why was that?) and one gave it a “good” or “moderate” on every item (what’s their problem?!).
One of the most important principles in teaching, I think, is that you can’t win them all. Some people don’t like it because it implies you aren’t going to try hard enough: it lets you off the hook. But on the one hand, it helps you be realistic and maintain your morale as a teacher; and on the other, it reminds you that everybody’s different. Different people want different things from a course and have different views on how to teach. Yes we should try to meet every student’s needs in a course, but no we shouldn’t be surprised or become dispirited when some students are not ecstatic about our teaching approach.
But come to think of it, if I found some good videos and varied the class format more, maybe I would get excellent from everyone…. Just joking!
I (Clive) have long believed in having a warm, friendly class community and a good teacher-student relationship. However, my understanding of what this means continues to grow. This term in my graduate course with 22 students I seemed to develop a closer bond with my students than ever before.
As time went by, each would greet me in a friendly, open way with a smile on their face. They told me more personal information about themselves (often in emails about why they couldn’t be at class that evening!) Before and after class, at the break or in emails, they shared with me (and I discussed with them) individual matters, e.g., interest in going on to doctoral work; wanting to teach high school rather than elementary; wanting to take an individual reading course; moving from the public to the private school sector; the struggles of teaching while raising 3 children; not really wanting to be a teacher.
I found this closer relationship had several advantages:
- There was a higher energy level in our engagement
- Our interactions – and the class experience generally – were more enjoyable
- Attendance was higher
- I could better understand “where they were coming from”
This was quite apart from the help they received by discussing their individual concerns.
Sometimes people worry about an overly close relationship between teachers and students. However, a sensible teacher can figure out what is appropriate and what is not; and in general I feel we are still far too removed from our students. We need to be constantly developing appropriate links with our students, rather than being afraid of links in general.
In terms of appropriateness, one important point is to avoid having favorites. We should go out of our way to have meaningful conversations with – and hence get to know – every single student in our class. They will really appreciate it and our own teaching experience will be enhanced.
Attention Division K New Faculty!
This Division K New Faculty Seminar is an exciting opportunity to meet, share, and network with other new faculty and the facilitators. The seminar is designed to:
- Provide support for new teaching and teacher education faculty members,
- Ask long-term Division K members about their experiences-particularly how they made the transition from graduate student to faculty member
- Examine various methodological approaches to research,
- Create professional networks that will last a lifetime, and
- Make important connections that create a community of new scholars.
The preconference organizers are established scholars who will discuss ways to thrive in your career. Our division is committed to supporting new faculty! Last year we had a many more people who were interested than we could accept. We only have 30 spaces and those who register early will be given priority. The pre conference starts on Thursday, April 7 at 4:00. We meet again on Friday, April 8 from 9:00 – 12:00.
The deadline for Applications for the Division K New Faculty Preconference is Friday, December 18, 2015!
To apply for the pre-conference submit a two-page letter of application that includes a description of: (a) applicant’s background; (b) the applicant’s current position and years of service; (c) research interested and methodological approaches to research; and (d) one or two problems of issues in transitioning from being a graduate student to the role of faculty member. Please send it as a Word document (not PDF) and name it with your last name and NFPC – e.g., KosnikNFPC. Apply early, last year we filled all of the slots well before the deadline. If you applied last year but did not get a spot please state that in the opening paragraph of your letter.
Send your application and questions to Clare Kosnik at email@example.com
The Pre-conference Facilitators are:
Renée T. Clift, University of Arizona
Tom Dana, University of Florida
Clare Kosnik, University of Toronto/Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Rich Milner, University of Pittsburgh,
Roland Sintos Coloma, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
I (Clare) know that many of the readers of our blog are teachers — whether in primary/secondary schools or in higher education. October 5th is World Teachers’ Day. I found the articles below which I thought I would share with you.
Happy Teachers’ Day!
October 5 is World Teachers’ Day, a global opportunity to show appreciation for the meaningful roles teachers play in our education and lives. Celebrate World Teachers’ Day by finding an event near you (or creating your own!), sending an e-card to an inspirational teacher in your life, or sharing pictures, stories, or links with the hashtag #worldteachersday on social media. Thanks to all the educators who have inspired us and who continue to enrich the world by sparking their students’ passion for learning. For more celebratory stories, read on!
I found this inspirational letter to a teacher which I want to share with you. http://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2013/12/04/a-love-letter-to-teachers?utm_source=TW-09292015&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ThisWeek&utm_content=Story-1
To Those Who Give It Their All on a Daily Basis:
Let me start by saying thank you. Thank you for showing up each and every day, not just on holidays, and giving it your all. You are magnificent and deserve a moment to celebrate YOU.
Being a teacher, particularly a teacher of reading, means sharing so much of yourself in addition to your knowledge of strategies, letter sounds, and authors. As teachers of reading, you help breathe life and joy into books during a time in education when learning can too often and too quickly become rote and lifeless. You celebrate student success and embrace their frustrations, pushing them gently to overcome obstacles that feel insurmountable in the moment. You constantly doubt yourself, wondering if you are doing enough, planning enough, reaching your students enough. But it is that doubt and self-reflection that makes you a better and stronger teacher who is able to give it your all.
You give it your all in terms of your instruction, and you also consistently give of yourself. You share your reading life and preferences with your students. You share your students’ favorite authors and books as well as their struggles when encountering an unfamiliar and challenging text. Being a teacher of reading does not just mean giving students access to instructional best practices, it means giving students some insight into who you are as a reader, a teacher, and a person.
All too often, I hear “rigorous practice” separated from discussions of “fun” activities. Yet so many of you strive every day to reconnect “fun” with “rigor” by coming up with new ways to engage your students with difficult concepts and texts. This type of instructional savvy doesn’t just happen, nor is it inherent in every curriculum. It comes from teachers who give it their all, just like our friend Pete the Cat.
So know that at least one person out there knows how hard your job is and how much of yourself you give to your students every day.
Mrs. Mimi is a pseudonymous teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She’s the author of IT’S NOT ALL FLOWERS AND SAUSAGES: MY ADVENTURES IN SECOND GRADE, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
For more info on World Teachers’ Day check out the UNESCO site: UNESCO http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-teachersday-2015#.VgqU1M4XqHl