Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Politics, is it a good thing anywhere?

Recently I have been learning a lot from the comments of Dr. Pion who is graciously reading my sometimes rambling posts and giving much wanted feedback. A comment by Dr. Pion has gotten me thinking about politics in teaching.

When I was in undergrad I wanted to teach 6Th grade, boy was I wrong. First day in the teacher's lounge taught me that I was not cut out for squabbles over who used the paper room and left a mess and why teacher X is getting new stuff in their classroom......

Did I trade one kind of politics for another?

At my CC there is little discussion of paper rooms but there is always something going on. As an adjunct I was happily immune to it all. I just was not on campus enough to know what was going on. But now I am starting to see where there is tension and my first faculty association meeting was a wide eyed experience learning how to navigate the sometimes clique-ish faculty.

I am brand new to the full time gig and am currently working on tenure. Tenure in this setting is heavily based on teaching but I also have to be involved in the goings on of the CC and community.

Recently in reworking our Gen Ed goals I have been able to get my foot in the door and get involved in something I am excited about and something that will help with my tenure endeavours.

What I realize now was that I also threw myself into the political life of the college. I am now the newbie speaking out on things when maybe I shouldn't. I think I am good at sitting back and observing, it is part of my teaching pedagogy, but I also like to be active and involved. My MA work was all about stuff like gen ed goals and course alignments, etc. I really can contribute but at the same time I am running the big risk of stepping on toes and am quickly learning what it means to be in the camp that agrees with the division chair and then all those who do not.

It is such a strange situation to be in, wanting to be your best and really shine so they want to keep you and then being sure to not play it up in front of some to avoid awkward and angry situations.

Monday, August 06, 2007

getting started (Again) for the second time

I cannot believe I let and entire semester go by without reflecting on anything I had done all semester. Along with blogging again about all this I have made a number of changes that I think are pedagogically informed, yet I am still worried about them...

1. I noticed on my reviews by students that very few of them refer to the syllabus. When I was a student I hardly ever refered to my syllabus either but then harder classes sprung up and I was behind the learning curve. I realized if I wanted students to use the syllabus more I needed to make it work their while. Now the syllabus contains a detailed schedule of what will happen each week along with outlining assignments and when they are due. ( I have to admit I think this change comes from time spent. I never could have done this my first two semesters teaching. I want to remain flexible and reflective, continuing to make the class form around students needs and interests but I also need to provide some structure so they feel comfortable and confident)

2. "They seem to be missing so many skills"
each semester grading papers seems to get more and more disappointing. So many students have great ideas but struggle to express them. Organization is rarely there and most seem rushed. I have noticed as well that often there is no intended point to be made in their papers. they will write forever about how a work of art looks and never actually discuss why they are talking about it. This is true in group discussion as well. So I have created and intro packet and made some room for a week of building up some key skills. We are going to walk through observation skills, note taking skills, discussion practice and writing tips. I am sure that I cannot fix essay writing for my students in one week but it seems like it is a good idea to get the ball rolling early. Maybe this will get them comfortable in asking for help and in general getting a good picture of what is expected of them.

3. course mapping for the students?
Our school is heavily engaged at the moment in course mapping and aligning my course assignments and activities to the course objectives and outcomes to the institutional goals and objectives. I create actual paper maps of this process (ah I am such a visual learner) to show how all these pieces connect. I think it is time for the students to see these. I am working on a more friendly student version so that they can see where we are going with different activities. these have been time consuming and I will be posting drafts of them soon.

I am unsure of the outcomes from these changes but I am eager to see what will happen.