Today was my first teaching day at Tiny Community College. I started the day at 8:40 with the “Foundations of English,” which went extremely well considering that the entire class of nearly twenty couldn’t come up with the eight parts of speech on their own. We’ve got some serious work to do in there, but it’s going to be fine as long as the kids keep up.
Next was the “Effective Communications” – a.k.a. Public Speaking – class. It was TERRIFIC! I have about 15 students, only four of whom are girls. A bunch of them, about a third, had taken (and failed) the class in the summer and were back for a second crack at a passing grade. We covered a bunch of information in the nearly-two-hours we had together; we talked about why this class is important, even to business or cooking majors, I gave them a few vocabulary words (rhetoric, connotation, denotation, critical thinking, and extemporaneous, for those of you who might want to follow along) and we talked about some famous speeches and why we still study them today.
I was impressed with the students’ ability to recall important speeches – they came up not only with Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you,” Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and MLK’s “I have a dream,” but also “nothing to fear but fear itself,” “by any means necessary,” and “a day that will live in infamy” all on their own, AND they were able to correctly identify the speakers: not bad for a group of 18 to 20 year olds. I was a little disappointed, though, with their ability to articulate why those speeches are still considered noteworthy. They were trying hard to tell me that they think we still study those works because they happened in the context of a critical intersection between political and cultural enviornments and the speakers’ ability to tap into a common experience in order to get their messages across, but they weren’t able to put that idea into my head without my having to do most of the work. I really want them to get to a point where eloquence isn’t quite such a struggle.
It was a very rich and exciting class, and we covered a lot of material. As they filed out (ten minutes early – I could see them starting to lose steam), one of the repeating students walked up to me and said “that was great! I learned more in this class than I did during the whole course last semester.” Talk about validation and positive reinforcement!
I’m still pretty high on the day; it was great to be back in the classroom interacting with students.
I love this job.