There are two weeks left of classes at TCC. My Monday/hybrid students begin delivering their final speeches today and have their take-home final due next Monday; my Tuesday/Thursday kids are halfway through their presentations and their final is due on Thursday.
I’m starting to reflect a little on what I’ve learned this semester because, really – while I may be the teacher, there are times when I recognize that I’m learning FAR more than my students are.
This semester reignited my love of analysis. When I’m able to draw out connections between two (or more) distinct and separate things (speeches, pieces of writing, movies, books, comedy routines, whatever), I feel a little like how I imagine an archaeologist feels when she uncovers a bit of something that she wasn’t expecting to find at her dig. The expansion of my thinking beyond that which is right in front of me into other works thrills me, not only because it reinforces in me that I’m capable of thinking in ways that allow for that, but also because comparing and contrasting discrete things makes my understanding of those things richer and more meaningful.
I also had reinforced for me my love of this job. Last semester was hard. I found myself with a larger proportion of unmotivated students last term, and I found their apathy and, at times, their bald-faced disdain difficult to overcome. While I certainly have my slackers this term, too, their numbers are smaller in relation to the students who are at least making a stab at what I have to offer them. I’ve got about seven students total – in both my classes – who are “on” and engaged almost 100% of the time, and while those are the students who keep me excited, it’s those kids who started the semester as lumps but who have lately begun to sit up and take notice who have reminded me that I’m actually good at what I do.
Like good doctors and lawyers, good teachers practice their trade. I’ve been paying close attention this term to what has worked, what could have worked better under different conditions, and what outright tanked. I’m pleased to say that there were fewer bombs this semester than last, even though I took some risks this term by bringing in exercises and materials that I hadn’t tried yet. I’ve been keeping an eye out for new material that I can bring into my practice, and have been compiling a folder of speeches, worksheets, and activities that I’ll be able to use the next time I teach this class – things that you, Dear Readers, have helped a lot with (and for which I am profoundly grateful – keep it comin’). I’m scheduled to teach another section of public speaking this summer, and am already thinking about what I’ll do differently – and what I’m looking forward to revisiting from this semester.
If I were to give myself a grade for this term, even recognizing that I’m my own worst critic, I’d show a definite improvement over last semester. Last term, I feel I earned a high C: I let my frustration and pride get in the way of my teaching, and while I rightly put the responsibility for the learning on the students, I didn’t try my best to reach some of them. I let their apathy rub off on me, and I didn’t like the stink it left. This term, though, is closer to the high B range. I worked harder to engage the lazy kids, to inspire the ones who “didn’t get it,” and to challenge the engaged ones. I tested the edges of my own comfort zones and found that I have a greater creative, intellectual, and pedagogical range than I thought.
It’s been a good semester.