Friday, December 12, 2008


It's hard to believe that today was the last day of classes and that I have a month off (seriously, what am I going to do with all my free time? And without Neil getting the house running in the mornings?!)

I really like the end of semester grading. It sounds a little odd, but I love it because my two favorite projects are at the end. The first is a service-learning project, where the students find a group in the community for whom they can do some form of technical writing, be it writing a project manual, new website content, a marketing campaign with flyers and brochures, Powerpoint presentation for sponsors, etc. I LOVE this project because it gets the students out of the classroom into a place where they're working with a real-world client and actually seeing the impacts of their work.

It's a great experience not just because it's "real work" rather than "busy work" that's only seen by me, but also because most of them work for non-profit organizations and really see their work making a tremendous difference for the organization. It's always amazing to read their evaluations of the experience and see changes not just in their skill set but also in their worldview. For instance, one student wrote about how he did a lot of community events as part of the football team, but he just showed up wearing a jersey and stood around signing autographs. He talked about how much he liked interacting with the kids served by the organization he was working with, and how he'd wanted to do more "real" community stuff, and he just didn't know where to start. And how excited he was now to be able to really make a difference and feel like he was spending his free time in a worthwhile way.

My second favorite thing about the end of the semester is the way I run the final assessments. They first work in small groups writing memos on key principles of effective oral presentations. Then for the rest of the time they write individually about the three most important things they learned that semester, and they have to demonstrate that particular thing throughout the essay. So, for instance, if they're writing about the importance of clear organization and headings, that would be a key component of the essay itself.

I really like reading these essays because it gives me a feel for what the class as a whole felt was most useful during the semester. It helps me to focus future classes, and I'll admit it--it's a wonderful self-esteem boost, since most people are mentioning how much certain aspects of the course have helped them already, whether it was a revised resume that landed them their dream internship, or conquering a fear of public speaking, or--my personal favorite--a dsylexic student talking about how this class was the first time he'd ever gotten any decent grades on writing assignments, and how the confidence he'd gained this semester made him less afraid to write for other classes, so he was starting things earlier and getting better grades as a result. Or the student who confided to me after class, "You're the only professor I have who even gives a **** about the students. This is the only class I looked forward to all semester, because you really care" (gotta love the expletive-laden thank-yous, right?).

This, my friends, is why I love teaching. Love it love it love it. It's feeling like I've really made a difference. And not just that I've taught people basic principles in a general ed course, but like I've really given them a set of skills for life--confidence in themselves as writers, presenters, and most importantly, as a valuable person who really has something to contribute.


Meghan said...

Sounds like a future seminary teacher to me (except don't expect as many "thank you's")

Anonymous said...

And the ones you get are not as colorful.

A single good teacher can change the world...just like a mom.

love you,

Elise Decker said...

will you please update?!?!?! i've missed reading this for days!

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