Semester Retrospective

I didn't cover myself in glory. But then I didn't crash & burn, either. At the moment, I don't have much time for retrospective self-analysis because I'm getting ready to teach an on-line version of my regular Understanding Vietnam course & that means wrestling with the Blackboard "learning system." That course goes live in about ten days & I still have a lot of gut work to do, though conceptually the course is done. This afternoon my departmental colleagues & I began a series of meetings to talk about where we've been & where we're going. There is a new general education curriculum & our mandate as a department has shifted from a service role to that of a department offering several different majors & programs. But that's all background & I've written about it before. So, this is what I want to remember:
  • I need to be more explicit about grades, grade scales, & all things evaluative. This pains me.
  • I'm good at improvising with discussions about texts. This is my strength as a teacher.
  • I must never again put myself in a position where I have 125 students in courses with substantial writing requirements. Not fair to the students, not fair to me.
  • Despite the fact that I'm good at it, I need to rely less on my skill as an improviser -- it leaves too many students behind. Play standards a bit more often. Less free jazz.
Those points, after twenty-five years of teaching, are not exactly news to me -- they come bubbling to the surface of my Teacher's Mind at the ends of most semesters; this term, though, the combination of teaching a new course & a course I hadn't taught in a decade, both with all that damn writing, made me feel as if I was constantly sliding down the face of a sand dune while trying to climb upward. For my usual techniques as a teacher -- improvisation -- to be effective, I have to have a clearer chart, both for myself & for my students.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.