I intended to post this weekend, but with social and family obligations, it didn’t happen. my birthday was Saturday, and dinner and hanging out lasted longer than I planned—though I have no regrets!
on Saturday, I submitted final grades for this semester, closing out the third and final semester of my teaching requirement for my mfa program. I still have one more mfa semester to go, but i’m finished teaching for now.
oh my goodness the drive. I actually wrote an essay about my commute this semester—and this was my third semester of commuting to and from New Hampshire.
the increased oil changes per year were a testament to my road warrior status. so were the number of trips I made to the pump. I feel like I might need to plant some trees to make up for the hideous carbon footprint I must have had these last three semesters, except I have a black thumb. maybe I can sponsor someone else planting the trees.
but, the work was worth the drive.
here’s what I learned this semester: planning ahead is great, but be prepared to dump plans and come up with new ones on the fly. I did this a lot. it turned out my students benefited more from workshop time with brainstorming sessions with groups and me.
so we did a lot of workshopping. this was a learn-through-doing class this semester, and from my students’ feedback, this worked well for them.
this isn’t to say that other approaches wouldn’t work better with different groups. my class was less into discussing and taking notes. so rather than fight them on that, I adjusted and we used our assignments to learn the writing process and active reading skills.
this required that I be ready to shift plans on my feet though. most of the time my students weren’t aware of these pivots, but sometimes I brought them in on the decision, for example, by asking if they’d rather discuss something in groups or workshop their essays.
I’m still mixed on rubrics. I think they’re helpful for students in understanding assignment expectations—so long as the students view them multiple times—but I find them restrictive. there were times when I felt a student received a higher grade overall because their writing was particularly strong, but since the grade was split into rubric items, I felt I didn’t have the flexibility to grade certain aspects the way i’d have liked to.
maybe this means I need to redesign my rubrics. but I didn’t really love them going into this semester; I feel the same now.
what I did think worked really well was grading rough drafts with illustrative grades as though they were final drafts. these grades didn’t affect my students’ overall grades, but rather showed them the range of available improvement between drafts.
what did I learn?
I believe that teaching should provide the teacher opportunities to learn just as much as it provides the students with opportunities to learn. I learned that I should choose a different theme if I use a course theme in the future. I used identity this semester, which wasn’t bad, but it was too generic and too much of an overlap with the students’ intro to college class—which I didn’t know until the semester started.
I think this made it difficult for them to attach to the theme and work with it. they probably felt they were being hit over the head with it coming at them in two courses.