Meditations on Teaching

This fall marks my 20th year of teaching a college course. I began teaching in the fall of 2001 with a Introduction to College Course entitled SFA 101 and I have been teaching ever since. I have taught courses on college preparedness, policy in higher education, organization and administration in higher education, leadership studies, and a number more. As mentioned in a previous post I am adding a course on college athletics and higher education this fall.

I love teaching. It is likely my favorite thing about working in higher education. I love the performance of teaching, I love engaging students, I love reading and interacting with their work. I am not a fan of grading, that is not my favorite. And over time I have developed a list of things that we should expect from each other in the classroom. Meditations so to speak. Ways that I manage my classroom. But I didn’t want it to be just any set of meditations so I rewrote the lyrics to Baz Luhrmann. You can remind yourself of this song(?) here.

Ladies and gentlemen of my class . . .
Read A lot

If I could offer you only one tip for success in my course, reading would be it
The educational benefits of reading have been confirmed by educators
Whereas the rest of my advice will no more help you in class
but may enhance your own educational journey, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the time you have to indulge in learning now, oh, never mind
You will not understand how much time you had for intellectual exploration
Until you’ve graduated, but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll think back
At how many opportunities you had for a deep dive into a subject and remember
How much time you spent on trivial things and how much impactful that course could have been,
You are not as busy as you think you are

Don’t worry about graduation
Or worry, but know that worrying
will not help you get to graduation any sooner.
The real obstacles to your academic success
Are apt to be things that you brushed over or ignored on the syllabus
The kind of thing like forgetting to complete that assignment that is due tomorrow
Do one thing every day that advances your scholarship and this course

Don’t take for granted those group assignments
Don’t allow your classmates to take your contributions for granted either

Think

Don’t waste your time on shortcuts
Sometimes you’re ahead in class, sometimes you’re behind
This course is long and in the end, it’s really up to you
Remember when you performed well in class, forget the times you failed.
If you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old research papers, throw away your old tests

Research

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t understand the subject matter for the class
The best students I know
Didn’t know the subject matter at first and struggled
Some of the most interesting scholars I know still struggle
That’s the peril of metacognition
Just when you think you’ve figured it out
New questions arise that you have to consider

Maybe you’ll become a dean, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll get an A, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll decide higher ed is not for you, maybe you will change your dissertation topic
at the last minute because you were inspired
Whatever you do, don’t get too full of yourself
Or feel you have failed
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy learning, try to do it in every class.
Don’t be afraid of asking questions or how your peers feel about it
Questions are the greatest vehicles for learning we have
Present, even if you are presenting to your stuffed animals on your bed
Read the assignment directions, even if you think you know them
Do not compare your grades with other students that will only make you feel insufficient.

Get to know your professors, you never know when they’ll be there to help you
Be nice to your classmates, they’re your best supporters when you need it
And the people you will befriend for the rest of your career

Understand that classes come and go
But a precious few will change your life

Work hard to bridge the gaps in concept and application
For as the further you get in your career
The more you need those concepts and theories to do your job
Take a class outside of your area of study once but not too hard as to distract you
Take that second course on research and evaluation, you will need that later

Write

Accept certain inalienable truths
Your first draft will stink, professors will be disappointed, and you will figure it out
And when you do, you’ll understand that
Professors are proud of your resilience, and the paper is much better now
And the writing center is there for a reason

Go to the Writing Center

Don’t expect anyone else to do the work for you
Maybe you have some prior knowledge, maybe you’ll have a skill others don’t
But you never know when either one can be applied in this course

Don’t mess too much with your first answer on a test
Or by the time you’re done that 85 will be a 65

Be careful whose notes you borrow but be grateful for the student who provides it
Class notes are a form of interpretation, reading another’s notes is like taking class as them
Read the notes, get the essence, and then rewrite them as you would have
And never cheat, its just dumb

But trust me on the reading

Published by mprest13

I am a professional at the University of Central Florida who likes entertainment, politics and sports.

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