Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Here are some thoughts about teaching at the college level.

This is where I teach now. Provided for context. 
Some days are good, some days are bad, but all days have been rewarding.

Except that one day (we've all had that one day). No one listened to me and no one understood the assignment. They didn't listen to what I was saying because they didn't think anything I said was worth listening to (I assume). I felt like I was the teaching assistant that day and the real teacher would be there any minute. That day was not rewarding.

But most days, they are rewarding.

Like when they do understand the assignment. When a student nods, just nods, like they understand, that is rewarding. Who knew a nod could make or break a day?

And who knew that the professor could see everything? Every. Single. Thing. I can see every expression, every eye roll, every frustrated grunt, every smile, every whisper. I see everything up there and I am aware of everything (nearly). All this time that I thought professors didn't know I was texting, they knew. Every time I shook my head in frustration, they saw and knew that I was frustrated.

We know that you're not listening. We know. 
You see everything (teachers) because you are hyper aware standing in front of so many people. Now that I know this, it seems silly to think that professors couldn't see. But when you're a student, you're not aware of this.

I think my students think I'm eccentric.

I'm certainly a mess up there, sometimes. I slur words and even mumble and sometimes go off topic. I use Powerpoint all the time because I'm afraid I'll forget something essential.

God bless you, Powerpoint

Hearing so many students gossip about their professors, I worried that my students would be asking me about my personal life. No one's asked a single thing. They just don't care. Which is good, but a little offensive. "Why wouldn't they want to know about me?" the basest part of me asks. Because when it comes down to it, I'm still a person that wants everyone to like me. That's just me.

But I'm not teaching to be liked. (I do make sure I'm likable, though)

I wear nice buttoned ups and tuck them in, always. Often, I'll roll up my sleeves. Because I am professional, but approachable. I am serious, but I'll make jokes, and when a student makes a joke I'll try to steer that joke into the lesson.

I feel like every class I teach is on the edge of collapse.

The first day, a group of my students started calling me Dr. Macklmore. I didn't understand why, but now I've found out that he's this rapper? Is he a rapper? Is he good? Am I good?


Needless to say, my students can be strange. 

They have so much personality and promise that I want every single one to do well. I harass them more than I should when they don't do an assignment. I take it personally; I email and prod and am nosy because I forget that this is college and it's their responsibility to turn in their assignments, not mine. 

I forget sometimes too that most students are taking this class because they have to. That they are not writers and would never want to be. I assigned a 2,000 word paper and many had panic attacks over the workload. 2,000 words never seemed like a lot for me. Hell, it's practically a flash piece. 

I dream in letters.
I never knew how much my life would revolve around grading. I'm always grading now. I even dream about grading. Or are they nightmares? I always want to leave as many notes as possible. So they understand. I need them to understand. 

After my worst day, when my students didn't listen to me, I didn't know how I would rebound from there. It was very possible that every day would become something like this, and I would dread seeing their faces. 

I had fantasies of punishing them. Make them write until their hands bled. Or making them feel ashamed of themselves. Reminding them, earnestly, "This is college." 

But when I came to class the next day, I stayed calm. I told them that we couldn't continue like we were. I told them that I wanted them to learn as much as they could and if they didn't listen, this couldn't happen.  

They listened. There were sufficient nods. 

And we moved on.