Thursday 13: The loves and hates of teaching

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long while. The end of term is probably not the best time to write a teaching rant, but here goes.

The 13 things I love and hate about teaching:
1. Eureka! aka when they “get it.” My absolute favorite thing about being in the classroom is when students “get it,” when the light bulb turns on, when the locks click into place. I love seeing the moment when an idea suddenly becomes clear. It’s awesome when they figure it out themselves without me!
2. “I didn’t know.” Yes, yes you did. My number one pet peeve is when my students say they didn’t know about an assignment or a class policy. Dear students, that big-ass document I give you on the first day of class (and post online and talk about incessantly) is called a syllabus. It has EVERYTHING in it. Your type-A teacher plans out the entire semester in advance. Need to know what’s happening in 3 months? It’s there, I promise. Likewise, nothing vital has disappeared from that document. Read it, love it, own it. Thanks.
3. Laughter. There is something satisfying about getting 30 tired and stressed out students to laugh. Better yet is when the whole class laughs together… classroom in-jokes like “save the babies!” and shared experiences like spaghetti towers make this job worth doing.
4. Demanding e-mails. Somehow, typically toward the end of the semester or near a project or test, e-mails increase in frequency and decrease in politeness. Dear students, if you’re asking for a favor or suggesting your grade might be incorrectly reported online, how about a simple “please can you check this?” and “thank you for your time”? Politeness will get you a long way in life, just a heads up.
5. Endless creativity. My teaching style is heavy on activity and dialogue. Students sometimes complain about having to move around so much in class, but I think the disruption and activity spurs on the best ideas. To wit, I am often humbled and awed by the creativity I see among students.
6. 3 a.m. “emergency” e-mails. Related to number 3, I’m less enthused by “emergencies” that come up only around tests or speeches. Somehow students are never sicker, computers never break more and grandmas never die as frequently as when the semester ends. Dear relatives of college students: Take your vitamins and avoid the freeway, your (fake) number could be up as finals are in a couple weeks.
7. Compliments. Yeah, it’s a little self-centered, but the thrill of knowing I’ve done a good job kind of kicks ass. I especially like it when students take the time to let me know that they like an assignment or appreciated a lecture. Everyone likes a pat on the back, right??
8. Whining. “5 pages, are you serious?” “Our presentations are 15 minutes long??? Is that even possible?” “8 sources? You’re crazy!” Yep, yep, yep. Welcome to college friends. If it was easy, everyone would do it. As an old employer once told me (as I whined about my then-boyfriend)… “Do you have a safe place to sleep?” Yep. “Did you eat today?” Yep. “Has anyone shot at you recently?” Nope. “Then quit bitching. Your life isn’t that hard.”
9. Friendships. Ohhhh I just LOVE to hear about friendships that development in my classroom. If nothing else, I endeavor to make sure that everyone knows everyone’s name by the end of the semester. It’s gravy when they become actual friends. That’s what college is about right? Making new friendsies? 😉
10. Entitlement. Just because you got an A in your business class and an A in your math class and an A in your science class doesn’t mean you automatically get an A here. Guess what? Communication is hard, too. Just because it’s an elective for you or a course requirement doesn’t negate the exacting standards. We call it a discipline for a reason.
11. Making a difference. It’s cheeseball, but one of the best things about teaching is knowing that I’m making a small difference in the world. Whether it’s by helping facilitate better communication in relationships, talking to students in office hours about everything but school, or just getting them to THINK, I know that I’m helping and that’s pretty damn cool.
12. Giving up. The saddest thing I see every semester is when someone gives up on themselves. Whether they stop showing up or stop putting in effort, it breaks my heart when people honestly don’t believe in themselves.
13. Collaboration. Love, love, love seeing people come together and do things they would have never thought to do or thought was possible. Case in point: spaghetti towers. (Yeah, it’s a college level communication class, not third grade. Just roll with it.)


Wanna play? Try Thursday 13 today!

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