What does your syllabus say?

Like everyone else I am trying to get all my last minute class preparations done, including my syllabus, while at the same time trying to come up with a CTE blog post that would be interesting, timely and relevant.  And quick.  Then, I saw this  blog post from Maryellen Weimer’s Teaching Professor Blog. Those of you who attended Faculty Convocation may recall that Weimer has written extensively about learner-centered classrooms. Anyway, I debated whether it would be “cheating” to just repost it, but it meets ALL my criteria AND it reminds me to remind you that we have an institutional subscription to The Teaching Professor newsletter, also edited by Weimer.  So, please check out the post, titled “What does your syllabus say about you and your course” and consider subscribing to The Teaching Professor newsletter for a continuing source of interesting and thoughtful information about teaching and learning.

Instructions for how to subscribe to the newsletter are on the CTE Blackboard community site.  If you are not enrolled in the site,  click on “Community” and search for the organization Center for Teaching Excellence and join.  Or, just email us at teaching@marymount.edu.

Welcome back!

Resolved: A New Year

They’re back. So, whether you’re ready or not, it’s time to hoist those notes and markers and consider what we’re trying to accomplish here. This isn’t strictly a teaching “tip” but it’s where my mind is heading off to this week, so I thought I would share it with you. Next week, I promise it’s back to the tips.

When you think about it, what we are trying to do with our students is pretty heroic. At least I think it is. We’re dealing with (mostly) young people who are often not convinced that they need what we offer, who live in a popular culture that does not seem to value intellectual life, and whose brains are not yet mature and self-regulating. And we’re trying to teach them to think critically and logically, to develop sound values, to appreciate beauty, to live thoughtful and ethical lives – to improve themselves.

At this point perhaps your response is — What was I thinking? This is an impossible job! But I hope not. I hope you are asking yourself: How can I get better at this work? Not just because I want you all to come over to the CTE and talk about teaching, borrow books, attend writing workshops and brown bags and just generally make my life more pleasant, but because it’s the same question we ask our students every semester. We want them to be better in some way, to learn and to grow. What about us?

This is our New Year, and I’m a believer in New Year’s resolutions. Not because all of mine work out so well, but because there’s always room for improvement. If I at least think about what I’d like to do better, something good is more likely to happen than if I don’t. So, how about some resolutions for improving our teaching? Now, maybe you think to yourself, I’m already a good teacher, and I’m busy with a lot of other things. I don’t need to improve my teaching and I don’t have time. To that, I respectfully disagree. I think we all need to be learners when it comes to teaching. Why? The willingness to be a “work in progress” as a teacher sends several powerful messages to students. Some of them include — I am a lifelong learner even when it comes to something I already do well; my work with you is so important to me that I am always looking for ways to do it better; what we are trying to do here is not easy – it takes everything we both can give; I am not perfect and finished – and I don’t expect you to be either; I know what it’s like to struggle to improve myself and finally, most importantly, I CARE. I’m sure there are others I’ve overlooked. But I do know that students sense who is really trying, and who is on the sidelines. Do you really not have time for an activity with so many benefits?

So, if you’re still with me here, how will you improve your teaching this year? Maybe you want to try some active learning or a collaborative project. Maybe you want to figure out how to use clickers or Blackboard or create podcasts. Or how to shape a discussion that really gets students involved. Or maybe (like me) it’s your attitude that you want to adjust. This semester, I’m going to try to be more “present” with my students. Sometimes I know I get distracted with all my other projects and going to class can feel a little too much like “getting it over with”. I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to do that yet, or how I will know if I did it, but that’s my goal. What’s yours? How can we help each other? Because that’s the other great thing about working on improving our teaching — it’s best and most fun when we do it together.

Thank you all for taking on this wonderful, frustrating, crazy, never-done job and Happy New Year!

“Action expresses priorities” Mahatma Gandhi

Back to school checklist

Here are some more back to school planning tips from one of my favorite blogs, Profhacker

Back to School Tools: A Shopping List for Faculty

Back to School Tools: A Shopping List for Faculty.  Check out some fun and practical ideas for your classroom.  What are you doing to get ready?