January 19, 2005

First day of class!

Sure, we had to walk through gale-force winds whipping snow through frigid air, but at least everyone was wide awake by the time we got to the classroom. It's always great to have students back on campus, all energized and chatting about what they did over break. Both classes I taught today were filled with students I've known since they were first years; many are seniors coming back to take one last class with me before they graduate. Both classes are electives; students take the course only if they want to take the course, and that is the absolute best kind of class to teach. Both classes are over-enrolled, mainly because I'm a wimp and I always say yes when students come begging to be added, so today I tried my hardest to be mean. I kept saying things like, "If you don't want to do the reading, drop the course." These are students who know me, though, and they found it funny. I'm not so good at the tough guy persona.

I'm an extrovert so after a couple of classes, I felt filled with all kinds of energy. I love teaching. Both classes went over time because we got into such intense discussions. Back in my office, I had a constant stream of students coming to say hello and tell me what they've been doing for the last month. It felt great to be back. I like the hugs, the smiles, the conversations, the enthusiasm of the first day. Later in the semester, everyone will be worn out and tired and whining about courses like organic chemistry, but today everyone was in a good mood. I wrote up a sign with my new office hours for the door, handed out manila folders to all my students, and announced to one and all that I was going to come up with new ways to use index cards in the classroom. A good day.

10 comments:

Dr. H said...

What are the manilla folders for? I'm laughing about the announcement for new ways to use index cards. :)

I think this is an awesome description of the first day. I get some of the same "highs" from teaching that you describe.

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

Excellent. I'm a paradoxical shy extrovert (very outgoing in dyads and small groups, but not so good in larger groups). On the first day of classes, though, I turn it up to eleven and try to release all the nervous energy through my love of teaching (and my topic). And I have 150 students (and 2 scared TAs who are actively participating in the instructional arts). I think that first impressions are very important, and the learning environment (and its potentiality) is pretty much set at the beginning of the semester. Believe it or not, I'm able to pull off discussion and small group work in an auditorium.

Unfortunately, my big class is a required course for the major, so I don't get a lot of repeat students there. But, my other class is usually upper division, and it really is wonderful to see familiar faces, and to have shared stories, and to have inside jokes, and to feel at home with these kids. Sometimes these feelings go a long way toward making this vocation feel the way I always dreamed it should feel.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Yay for index cards! :)

Be sure to post whatever you come up with.

jo(e) said...

Oh, the manila folders are so that they can keep a portfolio of all their writtten work. In my literature classes, my students typically write 20 reader response pieces, about 10 short pieces that I assign, about 10 in-class pieces, and then a couple of formal papers. The formal papers get graded but everything else just gets read by me and returned for them to stick into the manila folder. At mid-term and at the end of the semester, I collect the portfolios and grade them. This way the students get credit for all the work they've done instead of just the formal papers.

Some of my colleagues have moved to using course blogs instead of having students hand in so much work, but last semester I surfed several of these course blogs and I was very disappointed in the quality and quantity of student responses. I think they write more and in more depth when they have to print a response out and hand it in to the teacher. So I haven't gone to course blogs yet.

jo(e) said...

Dr. M: I've never taught 150 students in an auditorium before. I've done readings for groups that size, though, and it takes an awful lot of perfomance energy. My classes are capped at 20 students, but since I teach a 4/4 load that still translates into a lot of paper grading.

Profgrrrrl: Oh, I'll keep you up to date on my index card adventures. One whole pack that I bought turned out to be the blank ones, instead of the ruled ones, so now I'm thinking I should have some exercise where they draw instead of write .... I have a bunch of architect students in one class and they would love that.

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

When I had smaller classes, I used index cards to learn names (and to take roll, back when I used to take roll). On the first day, I would ask students to write their names, majors, contact info (if they want), and any comments, questions, or important info I should know. Then, I would ask them to draw a self-portrait or something they they saw as representing them. I promised not to (psycho)analyze the pictures (a lie, of course). But, I had so much fun looking for the funny, cute, and sometimes sad little pictures the kids would draw. My favorite thing was when they would add a little explanation with an arrow pointing to what they were trying to present (such as, "always smiling!!!"). My least favorite was when the self-representation was just a dollar sign or fraternity letters or a gun.

Anonymous said...

Each student writes 40 informal pieces altogether? In addition to formal papers? That seems like a lot of work for the teacher. My student write two exams and I can barely get them graded.

Rudbeckia Hirta said...

OK, I'm going to come out as a grading masochist. I teach 4/4, but unlike jo(e), my classes are capped (depending on the semester) at 35 or 40. I have 125 students this semester. I have assigned homeworks, papers, projects, tests, etc. that will lead to 4400 graded assignments crossing my desk this semester. (A significant majority get the 5-second yes/no evaluation.)

Dr.K said...

4400 seems killer, RH, but here's the question: How many of those are about abortion, legalizing marijuana, or raising the drinking age? The higher the percentage, the more I feel for you.

Rudbeckia Hirta said...

Fortunately for me a goodly number of those are instead on things like prime numbers and the Pythagorean Theorem. I have two types of homework: individual homework is graded based on whether you made a good faith effort (not correctness!), so I can grade those REALLY quickly (and that counts for nearly 3000 of the papers). The group homework is graded for correctness and presentation -- but since the students work in groups, there are fewer papers to grade. (I'll stop rambling in this comments thread now.)