Thursday, February 7, 2013

Not on my A Game

I'm a pretty good teacher. I am not spellbinding or mindblowing, but I'm pretty good.

But so far this semester, I feel like I'm sucking in the classroom. I don't know what's going on. I feel disconnected. I'm prepping a lot and excited about the work, but things in class seem to be falling flat.

I want to turn it around, but since I'm not sure what's wrong, it's hard to figure out what to do.


Amstr said...

That's never a good feeling. Sorry the semester's been like that.

Sometimes it's just the make-up of the class that makes all the difference. I had one really hard semester (a long time ago now), and I didn't know what was wrong. It turned out I had one really hard student, and that meant that class was a mess every time he was there, and the stress from managing that class/student spread into all the other classes. All that to say, it might not be you.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I really think that sometimes group dynamics bring a class way up or way down. If you have a flat group of students, then that's going to affect you. I usually have a worse spring semester than I have in the fall. This semester is unusual in that it sucks much less than last semester. It's still really busy, though.

Comfort. You have a lot on your plate.

Elizabeth Sheppard said...

I agree about the makeup of the class, but you have to work with it anyhow. Have you considered asking the class what they would like to do? I am definitely NOT an expert. OR if you have a good friend who also is a teacher that can be in class with you, perhaps that might help. I read this and immediately sympathized with you. Let us know if there is any way we can help too.

C. Troubadour said...

Aww, GEW :(. {{{You}}}

I am a lot less seasoned in college instruction than you are, but I definitely agree that class make-up makes a huge difference. What works for one group of students can tank horribly with another. When I had the luxury of handling just one section, I could craft my lessons specifically to their needs. Once I had more than that, making one lesson plan fit all of the groups and their naturally differing learning dynamics got complicated, even though the level of the course was supposed to be the same from one section to another.

On a completely different topic -- I must thank you for the heads up about worms. Because you mentioned that your kitty had them, I knew to be on the lookout with ours after the flea discovery. Indeed, three weeks later, she's got 'em, and we're treating her. Le sigh.

Contingent Cassandra said...

FLike the others, I agree that class make-up (and, sometimes, time of day and/or location) make a big difference. Sometimes the combination of personalities, time, room, etc. just falls flat.

I'd also second amstr on the power of the single difficult student. I had one like that last term (someone on the autism spectrum, so not entirely the student's fault), and I only realized, when a colleague contacted me early this semester to ask if I had any insights into dealing with the student, and I found myself writing a long email that ended "good luck," just how much energy dealing with hir had taken.

Or maybe you're just tired after all you've been dealing with the last few semesters, and suffering something of a "hangover"? If so, maybe it's a semester to resolve to do a "good enough" (hah!) job of teaching, and concentrate on other things that revitalize you (of course, if having really good classes revitalizes you, then that might be worth putting more energy into).

QueSera said...

Are these courses you have taught before? Are you comparing yourself to other years? You have seemed incredibly busy, so maybe you are just a bit burnt out. Perhaps do a quick survey to get a sense of what the students like or might want to change so far?

Good luck!

Good Enough Woman said...

You are all SO smart. Between you all, I think you've nailed it. In my Brit Lit class, I have one student who is difficult to read. He sits right in the middle of the room, and no one sits in front of him, so he's in my immediate line of sight. He makes all kinds of facial expressions that look like smirks. I know that he is well-read, and I also know that he thinks he is really smart. He might be as smart as he thinks he is, but we're only in week three, and he has missed both quizzes (coming in late), so I'm not sure about his actually ability yet. I spoke to a colleague about the student, and my colleague said that his facial expressions and "smiles" are probably not really smirks, and that's reassuring, but, so far, it's really affecting the dynamic. And then, on Thursday, two of my talkative students were absent, so it was all weird.

(In my comp class, I might be a bit checked out b/c none of the material is new--which is unusual for me--so I think I've been trying to coast a bit when it comes to prep.)

Also, I think Contingent Cassandra and QueSera hit on something I hadn't really been thinking about. I've noticed that I've felt "lazy" this semester, and I've felt resentful of a lot of the service work that, technically, I am paid to do through reassigned time. I'm resentful of having to do so much service stuff during the day that I'm up until midnight to grade and prep. I am craving the ability to have time for myself, my family, and my dissertation. I told a colleague, "I want to work 35-40 hours a week. Not 50. Not 60." So, yes, I think you've nailed it! I'm burned out. I'm "hungover" from the college crisis. I had been calling it "feeling lazy," but that wasn't helping me really figure out why I felt as a did.

You are all so smart. Now I've got the diagnoses, so I just have to figure out the treatment.