Ten things I learned teaching English Composition this semester (with bonus entries):
1. It is a risky thing to be open and personal with students but, when done correctly, it’s worth it for the relationships it earns me.
2. A student thinking I’m a bitch doesn’t make me one.
3. Never take a class’s word for it that they “get grammar” or “know how to write a research paper.” Though they may moan and complain about the refresher lessons and exercises, they need them.
4. It’s very important to teach a class on email etiquette at the beginning of the term. Threatening to grade their emails could only help.
5. Sending detailed emails to follow up on assignments is a great way to cover my ass. Students will deny to the ends of the earth that I said something in class, but their excuses don’t hold water when I can produce written back-up.
6. Not all students read their email or, in some cases, the syllabus. This is not my problem.
7. Students who laugh with me are more likely to work for me. Silly writing prompts and questions about what kids think is funny are great ways to get them to start getting comfortable about writing.
8. I need to schedule more writing conference time into my curriculum. The students got a fair bit of peer-editing time, but not enough one-on-one with me.
9. Students can really tell when a teacher is passionate about her job and they know when a professor is just phoning it in. Almost all my students wrote that they really believed that I care about them, and it’s gratifying to know that gets through.
10. C.C.-ing bosses when students get out of hand isn’t such a bad idea. Neither is keeping copies of inappropriate work that students turn in; the evidence may come in handy if the situation escalates later.
11. Pointing out to students – especially recalcitrant students – how much their work has improved over the few short weeks we’ve been working together is a great motivator.
12. Being tough – but fair and reasonably flexible – earns respect. Respect is the cornerstone of a good teaching practice.