Well, thank goodness from my Wednesday Sophomores. They totally dug the exercise and got really into it. In fact, one of the students who is doing least well in the class actually pulled out his textbook to look something up while analyzing the cartoons so that his group could better understand what was going on in the image. He used the texbook as a resource! I almost cried. They talked to each other and to me for 85 minutes about these materials and had some really interesting interpretations and a lot of ideas. It made me very happy.
So, this leaves me with a serious problem. I think I’ve lost control of the MWF class. (Which was reinforced yesterday by the students’ behavior in the library tour and computer lab exercise yesterday. I had to tell one kid TWICE to stop checking his email DURING the reference librarian’s presentation, and I had to walk around and poke and prod MANY of the other students into actually doing the activity the librarian had developed — which was a good one for finding secondary sources on the web.) I was completely frustrated. If I had wanted to monitor the behavior of my students, I wouldn’t have spent the last decade of my life attempting to get this freaking degree. I would have gotten an education degree, (the M.uchlesshard A.ctually degree) been in and out in a couple of years and gone on to teach junior high. I did not take this route because I do not want to teach children. I want to teach adults. But, here I am, having to teach children.
In addition to this unruly library tour behavior, the number of stupid disruptive things that happen in the classroom have increased in the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure I can really articulate it, but I have this strong sense that the MWF class isn’t engaged, and that they have just decided to write the class off and ride it out for the last half of the semester. I feel like they don’t respect my authority, nor do they feel challenged or stimulated. But I don’t know and/or can’t tell if it is that they are too challenged — that the material is too difficult for where they’re at. I’m suffering all sorts of existential angst about this. And am not really all that surprised to discover that it really matters to me that this group of young men and women seem disengaged from the materials and from the course.
So, I’ve got a couple of questions that I would love some advice on:
1. What do you do when you think you’ve lost a class? I’ve got 7 more weeks to go — I clearly have to do something. But what?
2. Should I scold the whole group for the behavior of a few students during the library tour and tell them that I was embarassed and really unhappy about the disrespect they showed to the librarian? (In the students’ defense, there were a lot of computer problems with the library links, so this made things awkward and kind of disjointed in his presentation and in their ability to work through the exercises.) The last time I scolded a class, it was bad — it turned them against me and led to mutiny. Seriously. It was that first horrible class and after I scolded them for not doing the work a few weeks into the semester, a group of them got together and went to the head of the program to complain about how much reading I had assigned. Which, FYI, was WELL BELOW the parameters set by the program for weekly reading assignments. To my eternal gratitude, the program director told the mutinous ones to get the hell out of her office and to be grateful that they had a good teacher. But, regardless — this experience left me skittish about public expressions of dissatisfaction with the students. Plus, as a good midwesterner, I avoid conflict and confrontation at all costs. So, my question is, what do you guys do when a class has misbehaved? (And I still can’t believe that I am having to ask this or deal with it. It is so bloody stupid.)
3. I’ve never been a big fan of mid-semester evaluations, but I’m thinking about doing one to get some feedback from them about what they think is going on. Do you have a format that you like that elicits constructive feedback and not just griping? I have the sense that these kids would love the opportunity to complain about the quantity of reading and workload, but I don’t want to give them that chance. I’m well aware that they feel pushed by the amount of work. (The same amount that the WF students seem well able to manage.) But, I do want to know why they seem to have checked out recently. Can I include that on the form? (Question 1: What is working well in the class so far? Question 2: What do you want to see more of for the remainder of the semester? Question 3: Why are you all turning into petulant children?)
I really don’t know what the best approach is going to be here. I just have to hold my nose, close my eyes, and dive in. But, man, right now I’d really love to get my hands on that “Here’s How To Teach Correctly” manual that I was looking for way back in August as I worried about, ironically, what to teach on Friday, October 21. I must have had some kind of prophetic sense that I’d be in trouble on this day.
Anyway, anybody out there who has that manual, look up Unruly Classroom for me in the index, and send me what it says.
Spellcheck is down — sorry for any stupid mistakes.
technorati tag: teaching-carnival