The Canadian university academic year–September to April–has come to a close. At this time 2 years ago, this closing inspired a reflection on myself as a teacher and colleague with regards to how I changed, how I stayed the same, and how I could improve. This time, my reflection simply includes my take-aways from this past year, issues I need to reflect more on for the upcoming year starting next September.
Takeaway #1: Splitting time between admin and teaching affects perspective on both.
This year with a new coordinator role, my classroom hours decreased by half (down to 6 hours/week) and administrative duties increased (the rest of the week). I love the balance of the two. I don’t get bored. There’s little danger of ruts developing. But I’ve still not completely figured out the best balance. Though I teach two 3-hour classes per week, the prep time and mental space needed still takes up those two full days. I can’t concentrate on much of anything on those days, moreso when there is marking and office hours to do. For this reason, managing admin responsibilities on top of this can be challenging. Furthermore, when you meet only one class twice a week and no others, it can be easy to feel disconnected from them, from the overall teaching experience.
Takeaway #2: The fact that you can transfer skills is not as obvious to students as you might think.
Yes, I wrote about this just yesterday, but it definitely was a major takeaway this year. It’s not that past students were stellar skill transferers either, but for one reason or other, this year it became blatantly obvious that the students did not connect the courses they took in terms of one supporting the other. Next year, I’ll ask students more regularly how they feel what we learn is useful elsewhere.
Takeaway #3: One on one conferencing with students is more effective.
I love large classes. I love medium-sized classes. I love the time they allow for me to look at my notes or write on the board while students do group or pair work. I love that focus can be moved away from me speaking. I love the noise that comes from students working together without the spotlight being on them. And let’s face it, I love the attention they give me. But I’ve also come to realise that the meetings I had with individual students during office hours were often more effective in improving their conceptual and detailed understanding. It’s then that I have time for their individual questions. It’s then that I can speak to them about what is difficult for them. It’s then that tailored guidance can be given.
Takeaway #4: Collaborating with invested teachers in a team is so rewarding.
Who doesn’t know this already, you ask. Until you truly have a team that gels and feeds off each other’s ideas, materials and advice, you don’t really get it. I like it when my colleagues saying they love what I’ve made for class. I equally like it when they challenge me too, because it helps me think more about why I’ve made something this way or articulate why my pedagogical reasoning is sound (or not). Great colleagues make work not work.
Takeaway #5: No matter how much you think you’ve figured it all out, there’s always inspiration for change.
Every year, my colleagues and I think of something new to do with students that will reach them better, prepare them better, engage them better. When we plan an assignment or a lesson, it’s always so exciting and we think this is it! But something happens in the process of implementing the idea. Students react in unexpected ways. Things fall flat where you feel they shouldn’t. You hear about a different lesson or assignment that you want to try out. I’m coming to terms with the fact that it’s inevitable that I’ll always want to try something new, another reason I never get into a rut.
These are the first five takeaways that came to mind. I’m positive there are others. What are yours?
**This blog post is part of 4C blogathon – 5 days. 5 blog posts. Willing to try it?
Exactly the kind of post I really enjoy reading. Thanks for sharing it, Tyson. I loved all of them, but 3 and 4 (which are sort of related) are my favourite. We talk a lot about classroom size but if you manage to connect with the students as individuals just once during a break or after a class, or just by writing a kind and personal note on one for their assignments and you have got many of them hooked. This is also true for teachers. If you bother to connect with them as persons, they will become fantastic colleagues.Thanks Tyson for starting this blogathlon. I love being part of it.
You’re right, Tamas. A personal touch, a person interest, and a personal investment in those around us makes a lot of difference.