Day 513, August 12, 2021

What the Mind Imagines

The last time we went to visit, my father uncovered a small crate of notebooks and files from college. I must have used them when I was teaching English full-time. I must have left them at the Goosepond house when I was living out there one semester. 

Today, I taught my last summer session class. This was my first return to the classroom since I was a visiting faculty at Mount Holyoke for a semester. My students were all transfer students from across the state and we met online in a synchronous simulation of an in-person class. 

I am proud of my students, they pulled through, they tolerated my scaffolded structure and prescribed focus on student success for transfer students. They even managed the condensed six week structure surprisingly well.

A large number of students were really engaged with their projects and went above and beyond my expectations with the depth of their research and the professionalism of their presentations. A couple of students struggled, but I am glad that they made it and pulled through all the way to the end. I don't think I lost anyone... as long as they all turn in their final projects tomorrow.

Here's what I learned, while I extracted the literature review assignment and visual representation analysis assignment, and that made it easier for students to accomplish those tasks, I didn't go into detail about how that gets integrated into a the results and discussion sections, and some students struggled with that.

I should have demonstrated the references and citations function in Word, and I need to research if there is a similar function in Google Docs. 

While the scaffolded step by step process helped some students, other students struggled with the highly prescribed assignments and probably would have benefited from the freedom of a more traditional full draft, mid-process, and final draft process. I'm not sure how to resolve that, but perhaps doing more generative writing exercises would help.

Finally, the initial topic selection is so important. Students who started with a strong and clearly defined topic, or refined their topic by the 3rd week had a much easier time than students who continued to struggle to narrow down their topic and those students would have benefited by more directive guidance from me. But, maybe they will surprise me with the final papers. 

The class was a good reminder that teaching is hard work. Trying to teach well is a full body experience, and building a class from scratch and teaching online for the first time is an exercise in precision and planning. I'm impressed with all the faculty who shifted their entire teaching loads online over the course of a week last spring. I'm impressed by the faculty who then taught a full year online.

It is hard to be enthusiastic and exuberant in a small Zoom rectangle, and for the students who did not turn on their cameras, it was even harder to gauge if anything was sinking in. There was one student I don't think I ever saw all semester. I started to imagine what he might look like. Maybe he had a cleft palate that he was embarrassed about, or maybe he struggles with early male pattern baldness and didn't want to share that. Or maybe he needs braces and that has made him self conscious. You cannot guess how a person looks by the way they write, but you can imagine how they look in relation to how they write.

There's a short lull ahead. Next week, once my grading is done, I'm on vacation. And then it is nearly the start of the semester.

The year to come is like that blank Zoom rectangle. We can only imagine what lies ahead. 

Take care and be well,

After the storm.


Popular posts from this blog

Day Two: March 18, 2020

Day 178, September 10, 2020

Day 312, January 21, 2021