Day 478, July 8, 2021

More Personality

Tonight's soundtrack: A Night at the Vanguard, Kenny Burrell (1959)

My wife talks about my teaching persona as Leo... with more personality. After class tonight I realized my cheeks were sore from making exaggerated expressions into my laptop screen and my throat was a little dry from talking so excitedly. Apparently, Leo with more personality is louder and more expressive.

A bear I saw in Middlebury over the weekend.

I'm not sure if this is a conscious thing that I have nurtured in my teaching persona, but I always try hard to maintain a high energy level in the class with the idea that if I have high energy, hopefully the students will also respond with high energy. Part of transmitting energy is working to connect with every student on an individual basis, while simultaneously keeping the class engaged. When we are in a classroom it is fun to actively walk around the classroom and be emotive with my body when I am excited or impressed with something someone shares. On Zoom it is so much harder convey energy and excitement, so instead I think I am contorting my face in funny ways. I feel like I need a face massage.

Yesterday, I had office hours and two students met with me to go over their rough drafts, and today in peer feedback, I met with another students who was without a partner. Every one of these students have incredible life stories. I want to make expressions of awe and appreciation, to exclaim exuberant cries at their successes, and clap my hands together in marvel at the challenges they've overcome. 

All the students in my class are transfer students coming from one of our state's community colleges. The thing I've tried to instill from the start of the class is that they are success stories, they have made it into the flagship university of the state system. They are people we can learn from. In every interaction I've had and everything I learn about my students only reinforces that notion. These are amazing people.

As I am teaching this class, I am simultaneously thinking about the other part of my job, which is thinking about the broader system the students are entering into. How will we continue to foster their unique strengths and experiences for continued success in the large lecture classes? How do we make sure they retain this sense of hope and possibility even when faced with challenges?

The student I met with today talked about stability, support, and passion as the keys to her finding success. She wrote about times in her life when she lacked one, or all three of those things, and how much it took a toll on her educational experience, and yet, over time she has been able to rebuild and regain each of those things in a way that has allowed her to be tremendously successful.

It is amazing when a student is able to articulate something so clearly. Yes, I wanted to say. You have it right there. The three things you need for success.

The challenging thing about my teaching persona, is that after teaching I am tired. I was weary before class, still not sleeping well, I think we had some storms blow through last night. I was feeling so tired I wondered if I was feeling sick. But there is something about being in front of a class of students, even on Zoom, that is energizing. As soon as I opened the class, I felt energized as if I had taken a nap or chugged an energy drink.

For this class, I borrowed something I learned from Amanda Hyde, a professor at GCC, and started class with a compilation of videos I made of the chickens. So while I waited for students to arrive we got to watch the chickens drinking water out of puddles and eating their morning feed. It was calming and it seemed to draw students out. I saw more cameras turn on, and it was fun to see their faces watching the screen. While I took attendance I narrated a little of the video explaining that every morning I go out and feed the chickens, and through the pandemic I've found it calming to go out and watch the chickens and how I've grown to know their personalities. I talked about how they have a prehistoric walk and how one can see the connections to dinosaurs in their gait. The video worked wonderfully as transition into class. I think I'll have to adopt that from now on.

Well, week one is done. This weekend I'll have my first grading come in. Hopefully, the scaffolded assignments will work well for the instructor as well as the students (more assignments, but smaller)!

Take care and be well,


From Our Friends:

From UMass Amherst:

An ocean wave crashes along a sandy beach

The shape of the seashore

New research sheds light on the makeup of New England beaches

A red, purple, black, and white visualization of the center of the Milky Way galaxy

Looking into the heart of the Milky Way

Daniel Wang shows the ‘energetic ecosystem in our galaxy’s downtown’



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