November 29th – Student Engagement

Today I opt-ed out of drinking coffee (I really only drink it for the taste anyway) which was not a good choice in retrospect as I was teaching all day – with the most draining class at the end of it all. Wonderful individual students, just draining overall (especially in the afternoon). This last class is a section of a course I do not fully control. That is hard. In an effort to keep all of the sections of this class on a level playing field (to allow all students to earn the coveted ‘best student in course’ award), we do all of the same things the other teacher does. And to me, it feels stale, and not true to myself as a teacher. I feel not as creative in the teaching process – where design is not totally in my hands (rather, prepared for me out of my hands). The reason I feel like this class is tough is mainly these three statements.

 

Student Engagement.

Feeling powerless

If I’m bored, they’re bored

 

The students feel powerless, and I feel powerless to help. I feel powerless to introduce and direct the information these students are learning, and I really do not like that it really is my class. I feel like a robot regurgitating this information, without much passion. Also, the amount of student choice here is pretty limited – they may feel powerless in their own learning. That, in itself, disengages the students. When students are disengaged, you can feel the dread in the room rise and the energy diminish. Sometimes I feel myself doing a lecture on the material, and I feel myself bored. I think my lack of confidence in the material (not the subject, but our material), carries itself into presentation – which results in less engagement and energy.  If I find myself bored, one who is passionate about the subject, how can I expect my students to not be bored? I feel small, not respected, by students who might be working on other homework when I should be empowering them to understand how the world works as the micro levels. Sensing engagement in this class is much different than my other course, which also proves to be a challenge – here students a much more serious, studious, and not willing to make as many mistakes as my other students are. Already, I have plans to introduce a much more interactive an exciting lab to explore anaerobic respiration with yeast and balloons. Should be rad. But, this is a band-aid to a larger issue. As a new teacher co-teaching with another talented, kind and respected teacher is intimidating. How can I tell ths teacher ‘Sorry, I’m not a fan of the way we’re teaching the material, or necessarily the scope of it. Mind if I change it without telling you exactly how I want to do this?’ Honestly, that would be pretty rude – and it takes confidence as a teacher to confront an experienced teacher like that. But I’ll get there.

 

But, I have hope.

Today’s victory: Most of my younger students turned in their mitosis flip-books, and overall they turned out very nice, some very cute! Also, they laughed at some of my jokes too.