Saturday, October 01, 2011

Some teaching stuff

I've been fairly quiet on the teaching-discussion front this fall. I've been crazy busy (new preps are a lot of work, and the stats class I teach can be intellectually exhausting), but things have been pretty good. Dare I say it, lest I jinx myself? But I seem to be having a special-snowflake-free semester.

And a couple good things have happened. I got an e-mail from a former student who is now in grad school. He was thanking me for the background I gave him in the stats class, because "A lot of my friends from other schools are struggling with the intro-level graduate course in stats and I'm not." Now, granted, he was a good student - and I'm sure that helped. But it made me smile because I remember him bitching about some of the things I required them to do in that class. (I've had that experience myself as a student: had a "hard" teacher that I bitched about and even didn't like that much, and then later on, when I got to a higher-level class, I was all "WHOA. They were a really good teacher, they taught me so much.")

I also have an ecology student who is in the "capstone" senior class. (This is a catchall type class on things like Appropriate Interview Behavior and where they do assessment testing). They've been doing the assessment testing right now, and she has the class right before she has been coming into lab and saying, "You know that thing you talked about in class? It was on the test we took today!" (In fact, this last week, she commented: "That stuff about the competition in the barnacles you talked about this morning? It was ON THE TEST! So I know I got that right!" The thing is - I've never seen these assessment tests. They are the carefully-guarded "nationally normed" tests that are given with Fort-Knox-like security. So I cannot be accused of "teaching to the test." But it makes me feel good that the things I have decided are significant to teach the students are also things the ETS and other groups have decided are significant.

And finally, I am teaching an intro majors class. This is the first time - usually I get the non-majors survey class for that slot. Oh, my gosh, is there a difference in dedication between majors and non-majors. Oh, my gosh, is there a difference in the level of POLITENESS. I suppose for the majors they realize, "I'm going to see this prof again, I better show them some respect" and for the non-majors it's all "Pah, I'm never going to have this person for a class again, so what does it matter?"

I also teach a section of the lab for the majors intro class and you know? It's a joy to see the students progressing. We've gone in a few weeks from students who were afraid of graphing, who needed to be reminded what the independent and dependent variables were and which axis you used, to those same students looking at their data and going, "Oh, I need to graph this, okay, this thing is the independent variable and this other thing is the dependent variable" and doing the graph like it's no big deal. (Oh, granted, there are still some students who struggle with stuff - but in general, people's confidence level has really increased, their comfort with the material has really increased, and it's cheering to see that.)

So it's turning out to be a busy but good semester.

1 comment:

Jill said...

That's womderful Ricki! Engaged students make all the difference.