“…too busy to spit?” Yes! Then it’s time to breathe and Thank a Student

22 Nov

We often have a favorable impression of ourselves because of our hard work, reflection and dedication to improve our teaching.  That impression is also reinforced when we know that our work frequently changes our students’ lives since they now know or can do things that they could not do just several months ago.

A student recently enrolled in “Teaching in Higher Education,” a Preparing Future Faculty course, continues her reflection on the shaping of teacher self-perception with these prudent “However” and hopeful “yet perhaps” comments:

 However, such an impression is quickly dispelled when a student does not learn/change, appears to remain unmotivated and unaffected by our work.  Frustration and resentment can often set in, leading to corrosive self-doubt as we start to second-guessing ourselves. Yet perhaps instead we should feel humbled and, in some ways, amazed that those roughly 40 contact hours that we spend with students in a three credit course still manages change their lives.

And, in thinking about this reflection, I want to invite all of us who teach to frame these next couple of days before a long weekend as a perfect time for minimizing that second-guessing, and for stowing that feeling of “too busy to spit” by stepping into a mode of appreciative inquiry, stepping into a mindset that looks humbly at the current and recent semesters to find moments where we have learned from, because of, with – and yes, sometimes in spite of – our students.

To spark some of that thinking,  the blog post this week is composed of short “Thank a Student” pieces written by some Preparing Future Faculty instructors, each sharing an idea gained from his or her own students – those amazing future faculty who develop ideas and share possibilities on which we can all build.

From Bill Rozaitis, whose courses include the one-credit “Effective Lecturing: Theory, Practice, and Digital Pedagogy”

During a course on lecturing methodology, I asked students to research various technologies and participate in a jigsaw exercise in which they would share what they learned about their technology tool and its application to teaching.  Afterward, a student came to me and recommended a twist on the activity: why not ask students to create brief podcasts or vodcasts of their research and upload those to our Moodle site?  Students could access the material prior to class, leaving more in-class time to discuss the tools and their experience of using them.  Brilliant.  I plan to try this strategy during the upcoming semester, and can imagine that student-created podcasts would be an interesting and engaging way for students to co-create course material.

From Christina Petersen, whose PFF Teaching Practicum happens in the new Science Teaching & Student Services (STSS) building where students circle around tables for nine, with each table having a projection screen, white board, and access to computers & wireless connections.

This happened in GRAD 8102 – Fall 2012.  The suggestion came from a small-group brainstorming session following up our mid-semester course review/student feedback.  (I’ve included below the handout text that student groups had for generating their follow up suggestions.)

I teach in an STSS active learning classroom and one component of the course is student-led panels with invited faculty members who respond to a series of student-generated questions.  To make better use of the classroom in these sessions, a group of students suggested that we use the multiple computer screens in the room to provide a visual road map for panel discussions

Posting the questions on the screens has not only helped orient the students in the audience, but it also helped the panel members keep their answers focused as they glance at the questions.  This could be adapted in non-active classrooms by using an overhead projector or large post-it notes posted around the room during panel discussions.

8102 community problem-solving worksheet
Feedback Item 2. Too much unused technology – The Challenge:
Some people (8/24) feel that some of the technology in the room is wasted or not needed.  Comments generally fall into two camps:

  • Those who would like to see more of the technology used
  • Those who think the technology here is unnecessary and distracting

Given that:

  • 12 students stated that the small group discussion afforded by the table arrangement of the classroom was beneficial
  • We won’t switch classrooms

Come up with a potential solution(s) to the challenge above.  Your solution should address:
1. What Christina as course instructor could do to improve the situation?
2. What your classmates could do to improve the situation?
Designate a spokesperson for your group who will write the solution(s) on the team’s white board and present them to the rest of the class.  Be prepared for questions from all.

From Jane O’Brien, who writes as someone who “supervises” the PFF teaching team and guides CTL’s participatory media team – and who says of her own use of technology in teaching: “If I Can Do it…. “

As an instructor of maybe even more than a certain age, I’ve long expected my students to know more than I do about all things techno.  At first I’d merely marvel at their skill and stick to what I knew best – confident that I could wait for rock solid pedagogical justification before climbing any undoubtedly steep learning curves.  But of course, things have changed.

There’s too much out there to just admire from afar.  And a lot of it isn’t that hard.  Who’d have thought?

So now, I often try something out and then make my own decisions about its value for my students.  Here’s the latest thing I am learning from a colleague and am now looking to incorporate into my own teaching: Prezi.  As in slide prezi-ntation.

With Prezi you can zoom, and enlarge and decrease portions of what’s on your slide.  It’s a great tool for moving fluidly between the big picture and the details. Prezi provides a context for the “homeless knowledge” of powerpoint slides by nestling information and ideas into a big picture students can see.

Even at level one – where I’m at – Prezi is useful. Here’s the how-to video and cheat sheets are included: Why should you move beyond slides?

“Too busy to spit?”

This was my grandmother’s question to me from high school through the PhD school years I shared with her.  My initial and now life long response?

“And too tired to care if I’m drooling.”

Yes, it’s that season. My grandmother’s query served as a reminder to slow down enough to come home to think with gratitude and talk with passion.  And maybe to rest enough to let wonder replace worry.  So, this long weekend I’ll be wondering what my students have taught me this term – what I have learned from, with – and yes, sometimes in spite of – my students.  May you also find time to think with gratitude, talk with passion, and wonder with attention to learning.  And if the thinking moves you to writing, please do share with us via comments to this post.

More Thank a Student next week.


One Response to ““…too busy to spit?” Yes! Then it’s time to breathe and Thank a Student”


  1. Thanking Our Students « Techniques in Learning & Teaching - 19 November 2012

    […] were teaching us all about learning and teaching in higher education. You can see those posts here and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: