A Year in Review: The Best of 2010-11

Philly Teacher wrote Ending the Year on a Positive Note which inspired me and reminded me that I wanted to do a review of the last year. Since I am leaving a non-tt position, which I expected to be in for decades, and going to a tt position at the school from which I resigned from a similar position to follow my husband’s job and raise my children, I think that this year is a particularly good one to be introspective about.

Great Things about Non-tt School:
1. The department is incredibly active in publishing and conferences, particularly in a school where such is neither expected nor rewarded. I found that very encouraging.
2. The chair is very good about insulating the faculty from the drama of administration. Having been in places without that, I was particularly grateful.
3. Scheduling is based on preference. I had a great schedule this year and was supposed to have a wonderful one next year as well. Unfortunately for me, someone else will get that great schedule.
4. The department (particularly the chair and secretary) encourage the stretching of wings. I took a late-start class a week before the classes started. This was a course I had never taught before and didn’t really know anything about. Turns out it dovetailed all my interests into a single course. What a blessing!
5. Overall the department is very good about praise. I like praise. It helps me to keep going.
That may be something I need to remember/think about more in terms of my own teaching.

Great Things about My Teaching this Year:
1. I was not wedded to my syllabus, so that when something was more challenging than expected, I was willing to stick on that topic and skip or move around others.

  • a. That did add a bit of a problem, since the syllabus changed.
  • b. It meant we did one less paper this semester than last semester, but we worked on higher level papers.

2. I had several students thank me for teaching them, even though they didn’t like having to do all the work. Comments included:

  • a. “I did not have any idea how to write a paper. Now I do. This is going to help a lot next year.”
  • b. “No other teacher has ever taken the time you have to make sure I ‘got’ it. Thank you.”
  • c. “I still don’t really like you, but you sure did make sure we knew our stuff and how to write. I think that’s going to be really important as I keep going in school.”

3. I had a student from a previous semester come back in and ask to take me for freshman comp. Unfortunately, it’s summer and I had bowed out of teaching the summer due to my writing schedule–even before I knew for sure I was moving. Now my summer is even crazier!
4. I got to teach a class I’ve never taught before and I enjoyed it immensely. I found ways to use information I already had/knew in an engaging way to get the students involved.
5. I had the best final ever in that new class.

Great Things about My Students:
1. I had students working 48-hour shifts and then coming to class and making As because their education was a priority. Kudos!
2. I had a student getting up early in the morning, taking the train to the hospital, visiting his daughter in ICU, getting back on the train, and coming to school. That is perseverance in the face of adversity.
3. I had several students coming back to school after being stay-at-home moms. It was a challenge for them to get back into the education for themselves mindset, but they all persevered as well.
4. I had a student who was laid off and is going back to school in order to get a better job. He is my age and doesn’t have the fundamental reading and writing skills he needs, but he is determined to develop them.
5. I had many students who were the only stable person in their extended families who took care of their parents, their own children, their grandparents, and sometimes even their cousins, all while working and attending school.
6. Even though I am an exceptionally hard teacher, who requires a lot of writing and revision, I had over 130 students who passed my classes.
7. I had a student re-take my class who had done very poorly the first semester. She earned a B through her commitment to improvement, without recycling a single one of last semester’s papers (which I would have allowed for the first drafts).
8. For the first time in my teaching history (which is longer than most of my students have been alive) I had six students in the developmental writing course make a 95% before the final and thus be exempt. Whoo hoo!

Things I Will Miss Most:
1. My wonderful colleagues.
2. Seeing my students in the hallway and having them tell me they are doing well in the next class.
3. The humanities class, with its emphasis on almost everything I am interested in all at once.

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