This Chronicle article has me thinking more about effective teaching, especially as I continue to struggle with my current class. Its primary claim is that technology works best in the classroom when it fosters stronger connections between teacher and student. This has been the idea that I've been circling around in the past week, that key to a productive classroom is one in which there is a strong connection between teacher and students. In my current classroom, because the students came in with such strong connections already among themselves, it's been difficult to get their attention focused elsewhere.
I've spent the past week meeting with students about their first papers--part of my intention in doing so has been to try to forge stronger connections individually with students, in an effort to improve the classroom. I want them to engage with the class material during class time, rather than be chatting and passing notes about their social lives. Friday, they workshopped their rough drafts in class, and I had them pair up with a random partner, in order to cut down on extraneous "underlife."
I noticed an interesting change Monday. In general, the students were a bit more focused and participated in class discussion more (partly after realizing that they wouldn't get 10s for participation just for showing up). However, my overachiever student had the student newspaper out and read for part of class instead of participating. I wonder if he's protesting my not letting him write the treatise on the effect of commercialism on marriages he wanted to write, instead of the assigned rhetorical analysis of a print ad? Or perhaps I'm reading too much into it.
Either way, I realize that for the first time I'm missing that sense of "wonder" in the material. This is definitely a sign I need to shake something up. I really wish that the department would go ahead and announce fall teaching assignments; knowing what I'm working toward in the fall might be helpful in facing the rest of the semester, too. I think I'm more generally missing a sense of "wonder" right now--even though my reading for class/comps is right down my alley right now, I don't want to read. The part of my brain that translates words into meaning is tired. It's not too terribly bad--when I feel this terribly, I get up and work out, or do something crafty (I haven't been too musical lately--that might help). Still, when I come back to the book, it's still feeling like work.
As I write this, I realize that (with a few exceptions), I have been enjoying the writing side of things more lately. I'm quite happy with the pedagogy conference paper I'm giving this week (ironically, I suppose--though it's about group projects, which I really enjoyed last semester), and once I get through this new round of revisions for the <expletive omitted> Transatlantic paper I received two days ago, I'm looking forward to the writing projects I have going which I actually am excited about. Hmmm. Perhaps I should keep my focus on writing--I've got a really good writing partner right now, and our commitment to meet once a week has kept me working diligently on writing.
And here's why writing is important--it allows me realizations such as this.