Begin Again 

School officially starts of Monday, but I have already gone to a week long conference for graduate teachers of composition, something which was a little intimidating at first, but also a bit exciting. I'm not sure how teaching my first class will go, but I have already made up a syllabus that I think might work. Of course, it is a bit heavy on course work (reading responses), but I'm sure I could make it work. Actually, having a lot of work for students to do is comforting for me as teacher because I know that even if I screw up all the lectures, I can fall back on what they've read. It might mean more grading for me, but as a first time teacher, it is something that I can have a little control over, so I say: bad for them, good for me. Really, I'm pretty sure it won't really hurt them. If the work does happen to be too much, I can always ease up later.

The Creek

During the conference, I have been a little surprised at some of the advice that the other, more experienced graduate students have given the prospective teachers. Having been myself a student for the last several years, it is fascinating to have another peek behind the curtain and see the kinds of things that instructors do when teaching, the tricks they use. For example, when students get upset with certain policies, like your late policy, instructors blame it on the syllabus rather than themselves. Even though they wrote the policy, if they say, "well, it's on the syllabus," most students will sigh, relent, and eventually accept that the piece of paper said so. Somehow, the paper carries more weight and authority. The other thing that surprises me if how often SOME instructors are willing to lie. (I emphasize some because it is clear that not all of them do it.) Just one example: if instructors allow students to choose which essays they want to read for the term by having them write their top three choices on a piece of paper, and later that night while reading their choices the instructors discover they're not comfortable with the student choices, they will lie in the next class and say, "well, it turns out this article was the most popular," even though it wasn't. I have to say that I have heard both of these things from professors, about the syllabus and had to do the choosing articles thing, and it never really ocurred to me that instructors would use these tricks. Man, I was naive. Today, I meet with the Composition Director to discuss my own syllabus and get advice on it. I hope all goes well because I spent a long time working on it.

24 September 2004
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