This morning I got an email from a student telling me he is on vacation and will have to miss the first day of class. He asked if we were going to do anything important in class today. I thought the following poem by Tom Wayman says it all.
DID I MISS ANYTHING? Question frequently asked by students after missing a class
Nothing. When we realized you weren't here we sat with our hands folded on our desks in silence, for the full two hours
Everything. I gave an exam worth 40 percent of the grade for this term and assigned some reading due today on which I'm about to hand out a quiz worth 50 per cent
Nothing. None of the content of this course has value or meaning Take as many days off as you like: any activities we undertake as a class I assure you will not matter either to you or me and are without purpose
Everything. A few minutes after we began last time a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel or other heavenly being appeared and revealed to us what each woman or man must do to attain divine wisdom in this life and the hereafter This is the last time the class will meet before we disperse to bring the good news to all people on earth
Nothing. When you are not present how could something significant occur?
Everything. Contained in this classroom is a microcosm of human experience assembled for you to query and examine and ponder This is not the only place such an opportunity has been gathered
This may be the last fun reading I'll get to do for a while with the new semester starting up. This week's book was The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The author uses an interesting approach that seems to be popular lately and that is to take real characters and write a novel about their lives. This one is about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, and gives insight as to how he got his start as a writer but told from Hadley's point of view. I really enjoyed it.
Today I will be facilitating a faculty development workshop at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha. We will be discussing how to set class expectations on the first day of class, how to "sell your class to the students," and how to handle challenging students.
One thing I have learned after 30 years of teaching is that it is very important to learn your students' names. After all, we expect them to learn the concepts, theories, etc, we're teaching so it makes sense that we should take the time to learn their names. Here are some tips on how to do this.
A lot of classroom management is just common sense. Professor Joe Hoyle (University of Richmond)agrees and shares the following tips:
The teacher should know what he or she wants to accomplish. How do you decide what you need to do each day if you don’t know where you and your class are going? How do you evaluate whether you are making the progress you want if you are not sure what you want to see happen? Seems like common sense to me. So, as an exercise, write down in (let’s say) 20 words or less what you want to see your students gain from your classes in the fall. I think this is a great way to start every semester.
I never expect students to do work unless they will eventually (sooner rather than later) see the reason for that assignment. If I ask my students to read a 5 page article for Monday, then on Monday I will question them about that assignment. “In the article you read for today, what did WorldCom do wrong, why do you think they did it that way, and how should they have operated differently?” If an assignment is given but not mentioned later by the teacher, students have every reason to believe they wasted their time.
If a student is given an assignment and it is not done properly, there should be consequences. Students are gamblers. They are constantly weighing out what might happen if they don’t do a certain amount of work. If you ask students to read Chapter One and they don’t and you do nothing about it, then you can certainly expect them NOT to read Chapter Two. That will follow as night follows day. They have now been conditioned (by you) to ignore what you ask them to do.
Research shows that people make assumptions about our credibility, professionalism, and sincerity within a few seconds of meeting us for the first time. The way we present ourselves--dress, body language, attitude, behavior—all impact on how others perceive us.
This emphasis on first impressions translates to the classroom as well. Dr. Frank Bernieri (Oregon State University) conducted an experiment where he discussed his syllabus the first day of class and then had the students filled out a teaching evaluation form. At the end of the semester, they completed the same form. He found the rating the students gave him at the end of the semester was essentially the same as that given the first day. According to Bernieri, if your students think the class will be interesting and useful and that you are a credible professor on the first day, they will tend to think that throughout the semester. In fact, Bernieri states that people will make excuses and manipulate the data in order to reinforce their first impressions.
Professor Nalini Ambady (Tufts University) concurs with Bernieri. She conducted a study where she showed students a ten second video of professors they had never met. Their ratings of the professors in the videos were the same as those given by students who had had the professors in class for several months. In addition, the students’ first impression of whether the professor was an effective teacher predicted how well the students themselves performed on tests.
Think impression management when preparing for that first day of class...
This week I read a book that I started to read years ago but didn't get past the first few pages. I'm not sure why. The book is One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus. The premise of the story is that a Cheyenne Indian Chief proposed to President Grant in the mid 1800s that white women be sent to marry within the tribe. The children of these marriages would then help assimilate the Cheyennes, teaching them what it would take to live peacefully within the White culture. One of the women, May Dodd, writes about the experiences of the women in a series of journals. The book is fiction but written in such a way as to seem feasible.
One of the challenges we're finding in the classroom is the difference between digital natives and digital immigrants. This article by Marc Prensky discusses some of the issues. However, I find that age itself cannot be used as a determinant as to which students will be comfortable with technology and which ones are not.
Recently an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the fact that we are seeing the same issues with faculty. New Ph.D.s coming out of their programs have been exposed to educational technology as a tool in the classroom. However, faculty who have been teaching for many years may not have the expertise or desire to use wikis, blogs, Skype, etc. You can read the Chronicle article here.
Last weekend I went with a friend to St Pete Beach so I chose a beach book to read, Smoking Seventeen by Janet Evanovich. If you've never read one of her Stephanie Plum novels, these are the type of books you want to read just to be entertained. The best part is the wacky characters, starting with Stephanie who is a bounty hunter. If you haven't read any of these books, I would suggest starting with the first one in the series, One for the Money.