September 17, 2009

What the?!? (Don't worry. It's good.)

Last Wednesday evening I had a class from 5:30 pm until 8:20 pm. Trust me, teachers loathe this time block as much as students do. Sitting still and paying attention for extended periods of time doesn't get much more enjoyable with age, experience, or a change of role in the classroom.

We manage.

But what was profoundly weird to me was that about six of us remained in the classroom talking excitedly for another half an hour after class.

Star alignment? Random confluence of events? If memory serves, we were a bit high off two things. (And by high I mean really excited, revved up, or energized. Take your pick.)

One, we had success helping a few of us find our theses** amid a chaotic herd of ideas corralled by a general topic area. Sounds really simple and not particularly noteworthy, yet there is something very satisfying about figuring things out as a group and each one of us having an important perspective and feedback for one another. Something about getting people to just talk out loud about their ideas... even if they don't know which part of the tangle is their thesis we (the listeners) hear it loud and clear.

The second thing that got us going collectively was a student sharing some ideas for improving our program. One of the students made quite a few swoop-arounds to preface her feedback before she finally said that our program needs to require student to practice their public speaking skills more. That our school's public speaking course is important, and it is equally as important that we follow up by having students practice in other courses. ...All that prefacing to blunt that impact of a really good idea that was masquerading as horrific criticism. I'm being sarcastic of course. It wasn't horrific. In fact it was feedback that is important for improving our program... I hate to think we have created a school culture in which students need to pad around and be indirect with helpful (and critical) feedback. Makes me wonder...

You know, from the teacher side (at least from my perspective) I can never tell what a class meeting will bring... my expectations and plans, the amount of preparing I've done, the weather, the quality and tone of our last class meeting - none of these are especially predictive of how a class meeting with turn out. But believe me, feeling energized after a 3 hour evening course (developmental psychology!) was a first for me. It was great and weird night. I hope for another one like it at some point. It is part of what makes teaching and learning fun (at least to me.)

** (Yes, rhymes with feces. Great fun! Note on link for definition of thesis -- If you are my student, please IGNORE definition 2 of dictionary.com entry. Ergh.)