How Teaching is much like a Relationship
Yes, I think about my students at 3 a.m. in the morning. There are times when I wake up and can’t sleep because I either a) went to McDonalds after my evening Composition class and devoured two McChickens, drenched in buffalo sauce, from the dollar menu, b) had way too much coffee that day, or c) because I just hand an epiphany about a new group activity that I want to try out in class the next day.
Just like when I come up with a line of poetry, an idea for a short story, or a great title for some nonfiction, I can’t sleep until I jot that idea down because no way are my students going to miss out on an experience. One late night thought was, the first day of class, having my Creative Writing students pretend they were their favorite animal and call out to their children to come home in the front of the whole class. I wanted to make them feel uncomfortable so that they felt “ok” with being uncomfortable. If they could do that, then they could share the most intimate of work.
Teaching is not a monarchy where the teacher rules the space between the four walls. That kind of rule just lends students to try and sit closer to the door. Teaching is a relationship. And, like all relationships, without clear communication a break up is usually the end result. Great teachers don’t just listen to concerns—they make changes.
Right now, with a three-week break, I’m making changes. Courses have to grow with students. It is not enough to change the date on your syllabus and call it a quarter. During the final day of a course, I have my students write a self and course evaluation where they evaluate their performance in the course and then tell me what worked and what didn’t. “What should I keep and what should I tweak or toss?” I ask them. Of course, I always get one students that says, “NO MORE ESSSAYS!” (That is never going to happen.) But, since I have been teaching at Globe, my courses are drastically different from when I taught them two years ago. The in-class journals are shorter after students pointed out that it took too much class time and everyone wrote at a drastically different pace. One quarter I gave a couple work days in the computer lab to my writing students, and they loved it because I had the opportunity to walk around the lab and give them immediate feedback on grammar, structure, citing, or even basic computer skill tips. They wanted more, so why not give them more if I could afford it?
I get excited to create and redo classes based on student feedback. It becomes an art where the more you think beyond the box, beyond the warehouse that holds the box, all the way past the highway the warehouse is built next to, to the middle of nowhere are the classes students remember and appreciate because the teacher went beyond their job and put some care and, at times, spice into the course.
When students have a voice, even if it is a mother peacock calling for her little ones to come back home, they attain more knowledge because they have a say. They can get a soft-serve twist cone instead of a McChicken covered in hot sauce.
This upcoming quarter, I look forward to my time in the classroom with my students, as well as my very early-morning wakeup calls.