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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Advice for New Teachers: Changes Are Always Coming

I've been teaching the same class for over ten years now.  The students are getting pretty darn tired of being left back, I tell you what!

Ba-dum bump.

But seriously, folks, I've taught this basic writing course at least once a semester, every semester, including summers, since the fall of 2002.  Over thirty times!  And I'm pleased to say that the last ten times or so, I've done it right.

Not that I was doing it "wrong" the first twenty times.  I delivered my curriculum and provided my students with thorough, professional instruction in the basics of academic writing.  But it took several semesters before I really put everything together, finding the right balance, for example, between instruction in grammar and instruction in content.  It took time for me to "reverse engineer" finished products I wanted students to create, and then--after examining the components--devising instructional strategies to help students grasp the "how to" beneath the "what."  By semester 21 or so, I had not only figured out a set of "best practices," I had also devised a manageable, logical, and, if I do say so myself, comprehensible schedule of instruction.  Everything that needed to be covered was covered, and I felt confident that my students were prepared for their exams and subsequent classes.

And now, everything is changing.

The latest buzzword in higher-education is "acceleration": moving students more swiftly through their basic requirements and, ultimately, their degree courses.  And so, in my department, we, too, must accelerate.  This semester, we have begun to revamp the curriculum, to make the content more demanding, more comprehensive.  In the long run, this should prepare our students better for the work ahead.  In the meantime, though, I'm back to square one.

One of the joys of a teaching career is the fact that every term--every day--brings something different.  One of the challenges, though, is that every term CAN bring something different.  Even when you've "got it," you've never got it completely.  You're never really done.

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