Today is Monday and the beginning of my fourth week of teaching. It’s my first time teaching–I’ve led workshops and covered other people’s classes before, but it’s my first time actually running a class for a semester. It’s… different than I thought it would be. It’s harder to figure out how to make opportunities to build rapport. It’s easier to talk in front of a class. It’s harder to remember names and which class has said what. It’s easier to make assignments and rubrics and such.
The biggest thing is the attendance and reading assignments. I’m going to be giving my first quiz over reading next week because students weren’t doing the reading, and that makes me feel like an asshole (based on my old perspective as a student). The thing is, though, as the teacher of a class everyone has to take, especially one with primarily students in their first semester, there’s just not really an alternative. If I just grade them on the handful of essays and not on the day-to-day stuff, I’m not really teaching anything. It’s extremely frustrating to prepare ideas for a discussion and then literally 80% of the class not doing the reading and us be unable to have a conversation about it.
Of course, I’m not saying anything that teachers don’t already know. I’m not saying anything that teachers haven’t already said to me.
I just never believed them. And yes, maybe it’s true that if my bits of lecturing or classroom presence was a little bit more amazing that the students would be inspired to do the reading without coercion, but apparently I’m not at that level, so what’s the alternative?
I’m sure there’s a lot of motivational quotes out there for this situation, but I’ll close with TC Boyle reading Barthelme’s “The School.”