Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Second Day of Classes

Began at 8 a.m. in a room with an air blower so loud that it felt like I was teaching from inside an airplane engine. By the end of class, I was coughing from having had to boom my voice at students. Fortunately, I was able to get the room changed, so we'll have a quieter, gentler semester.

Today (and yesterday) I tried something new with my students. Since working on retention has been one of my goals this year, I've been looking for ways to make my students feel comfortable with me from the start. So, instead of taking roll by standing in the front of the room, I went from student to student and asked what her or his name was. In a class of 22-24 students, of course, this kind of thing is doable.
Another tact I tried was to talk about the rhythms of the semester and how missing class or not doing the work assigned can throw a person off course. I encouraged them to come to me if they were starting to miss classes and were afraid to come back because they were embarrassed or ashamed--I don't think I said it quite that way, but I did talk about not letting things snowball.

If these were credit-level courses, I wouldn't be doing this, but with developmental classes, the students' confidence and academic literacy is sometimes shaky, and I want them to get off to a good start. Having done a stunning turn of flunking out as a college student, I can, as they said in the 80's, "relate" to the nervous, the shy, the negative students in my class--the trick is to help them figure out a way out of the failure cycle without stepping over one's boundaries as an instructor.

If I have time tomorrow, I'll post about how I open up the writing course in week one.


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