If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fun With Students

Today the students in my doctoral class looked burned out.  Several were busy on their computers as I entered the class and no one was talking.  This is unusual for the group as they are a friendly and chatty bunch.  As more students arrived, each one brought in their own dour looks.  The day was rainy and chilly and that wasn't helping anyone's mood.

It was the second-to-last class of the semester; the class before Thanksgiving, and the last class where we had to discuss some serious reading.  I knew it was not going to go well.  Instead of starting off with questions on the reading, as was my original intention, I asked them all about their Thanksgiving plans.  I let them go on a while and then encouraged us to go wildly off-topic. Somehow we got onto run-ins with small critters.  One student told a hilarious family story about fat squirrels.  Some of us laughed ourselves to tears.  I let it go a little longer after that and then started the class half an hour late.

We ended up having a good discussion and a great class.

For my undergraduate class I had prepared an activity, a group discussion, and a lecture. Sometimes the group discussions bomb and sometimes they are helpful but rarely do they extend past 15-20 minutes.  We were still on the topic of childbirth and the discussion ended up taking the entire period.  It was the liveliest and most interactive discussion we've had to date and I let it go a little astray.  This became obvious when I realized we were talking about eating placentas and someone started googling how to cook them.  It was the first class where they didn't all get up to leave as soon as the period was over.  In fact several stayed after class to talk with me further.

Some days I really enjoy teaching.

2 comments:

Catherine said...

It's obvious you have the instincts of a great teacher. Teaching is in part performance art and you have to be able to read your audience.

Annie said...

I like Catherine's comment. It's great you were able to react authentically to what was happening, read your student's mood, and turn it all into a positive.