I’m currently listening to Jessye Norman sing Habanera, because my friend reminded me that I do like opera. And I especially enjoy sopranos, her voice texture in particular, because of all the things I wish I could do with my voice. Oh, and I’m grading papers again.
*We now take a break from our regularly scheduled librarianship to talk about teaching as an adjunct.* It’s almost halfway through the semester. As a matter of fact, midterm grades are due this week, a fact that escaped my notice until fairly recently. So I figured now would be a good time to look back and think about all the things I’ve learned so far.
When I initially said I would teach this class, I thought it would be a breeze to teach in the evenings and grade papers occasionally on the weekends. What I failed to realize is that I can’t teach from other people’s course outlines without making it my own. As a result, I actually spend my weekends lesson planning and sorting out course content and teaching strategies, not as much grading as I should/when I should, and trying to figure out how to better present course content in a way that is meaningful to my students. Also, how to know when I’ve been successful at this (assessment). I do a lot of checking to see how other people teach and introduce content. Yes, I do credit other instructors when I borrow from their course materials. 🙂 There have been many times when I wished I had more time to plan. Maybe that’s just a perpetual teacher’s wish?
Am I doing this right? Are my students getting out of my instruction what they could or should? How can I improve to be a better teacher?
These are all the questions I am constantly asking myself. Yes, I do get frustrated sometimes, as any teacher does. But I also realize that students teach me a lot about myself and about how to approach learning content. For example, I’m planning a workshop style class soon, before I introduce the semester project, because I’m not satisfied that they’ve gotten enough hands on experience to apply concepts in a research project.
Recently, I posted an online assignment that didn’t go too great. I assumed that my students had skill sets and ways of understanding that they didn’t have, or at least not in the way I expected them to have. From that experience, I learned that you have to know your students. But more than that, you have to take yourself away from the equation.
I was able to clarify/revise the assignment and it went better the second time around, so all was not lost. Failure (or perceived failure) isn’t a period. It can be a comma that provides for an even better experience the second time around. See self-assessment.
I don’t like failing. I don’t suppose anyone does. Sometimes, though, success comes disguised as failure. As James Baldwin said, “…nothing can be changed until it is faced.” He was actually talking about literature, with a side portion of race in America, but it’s also apt in this context.
Respect, all the respect
When I was in undergrad and grad school, I had a certain perception of what teaching in academia meant. Those perceptions have now changed and I have a greater understanding of faculty workloads and expectations. Teaching has also given me insight into working with faculty as a librarian. For example, when instructors say they can’t have you come work with their class more than once this semester (or at all this semester), it’s not because they don’t want you to share all the wonderful things you have to share, it’s because they actually do have a semester’s worth of content to get through on a shortened schedule. I’ve also learned first hand how, as much as snow days make for unscheduled time off, they really mess with a class schedule.
Often, adjunct faculty kind of land in teaching jobs and have to learn about everything in “hit the ground running” style. I’ve learned that it can be hard to hit the ground running. It can be hard to find your balance. It can be hard to learn an institution when you don’t have an orientation and are only on campus one day a week. It can be hard to learn a new learning management system (LMS) while also keeping up with grades, answering questions from students, planning lessons, and managing a 9-5 job. And all at minimal pay. I say all of this not to complain, but to acknowledge the realities most adjuncts deal with. And I want to extend a special fist bump to adjuncts who balance multiple course loads at multiple institutions at one time. You are truly amazing people! I wish you had better perks. And more money.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned, or rather been reminded of, while teaching this course is that I really love teaching. I’ve missed it and I’m happy I had the chance to work with a course this semester. I’d love to be able to teach this course again in the future, now that I have a better idea of how it could possibly flow.
My goals for the remainder of the semester are: try some of the strategies I gleaned from The Collective, incorporate more active learning opportunities in the classroom (flipped instruction), and provide opportunities for students to connect coursework with their other classes.