January 31, 2014

Feeling Good

It's Friday! I am just amazed at how quickly the days are flying by now. I know that there is no difference in the actual time, and how quickly each 24 hour period comes and goes -- but for some reason -- it does feel like my days are whirlwinds since I started a career as a teacher.

I am only on campus MWF of each week. My TTR are reserved for school (Regent) studies and prep work (lesson planning for GCU). My weekends are reserved for grading (GCU) and major assignments (Regent).

This combination is nice. I like the fact that I can rest on alternate days, and that I can have so much downtime each week. I am well-rested, just I still feel tired most days. I am not sure why this is, but I know that without these days off in between the work days, I would be living in chronic exhaustion again.

I have lived with Chronic Fatigue for so many years now. It has been better over the last five or six, however. I have had a couple nasty flare-ups (one at the UOPX), but nothing like the earlier years where I could not get out of bed for days on end. I have worked hard to stave off the fatigue by making sure I don't overdo nor do I let myself become so stressed over the details of my life. It is about balance -- healthwise and stresswise. God is good. He knows what I can and cannot take. I love the fact that my life, all of my life, is under His watchful care. He is the Great Physician, and I love the fact that I can trust His diagnosis and His prescription of rest for my life. Amen, so be it, thy will be done!

Today marks the end of four weeks of teaching at GCU. I have 11 weeks left in this semester. So far, I think I am doing well. Last night, I took some time to Google for teaching strategies to engage students in discussion and to encourage motivation in class. I was surprised to find that most of what is recommended, I am already doing each week. I have felt pretty overwhelmed at times, and I have thought I was not doing a good enough job for my students. Yet, when it comes to assessment technique, adding in technology, using creative classroom technique, I have been quite good at incorporating all these things -- naturally -- without even thinking about them.

I came away from my research last night feeling buoyed by the thought that I have done a good job thus far without really knowing what I needed to do. I have made some errors, some mistakes, but according to Cornell University, the mistakes I have made are simply out-workings of classroom dynamics (ex. trusting your students - they have done the work, they may just be having an off-day). I have been very hard on myself and I have been critical of my style, my tone, and my preparation. In truth, I have applied myself and I have devoted a lot of time to this class. The overall effect of the class, I feel, is good. I will find out what my students think when I conduct a survey next week (my idea to test how well they understood and liked the first two modules).

I came up with a good format for the rest of our class time last night as well as reaffirming that I am doing what I need to be doing each day. I know that I have been lecturing too long. The maximum attention span of an adult is now 15-20 minutes. I need to keep my lecture short. I probably do this, but I weave it in and out of the presentation, so it feels like it is longer than 20 minutes. I am changing my program due to the fact that we will have 2-3 short stories to review each lesson period. This precludes long lectures.

I also want to make sure that I am assessing my students every day. I have been assessing them in a low-key way, but now I want to assess them in a more strategic manner. This is my layout, which I think will work well for our textual-laden course content the next 11 weeks.

Classroom Strategy

Prewriting exercise (5-10 minutes; students turn in)
  • Reader response to the assignment (before discussion)
 Lecture (15-20 minutes)
  • New topic - KWL Assessment; find out what they know and what they need to learn; wrap will be to find out what they actually did learn
  • Content - each day (1-6) focus on one: foundations, history, social, political, cultural, criticism
  • Biography - short bio on each author
Group Discussion (20-30 minutes)
  • Close reading - assigning a section of the text to each group for close reading
  • Discussion questions - assigning one DQ to each group
Wrap-up (5 minutes)
  • Exit writing - describe one thing you learned today; identify two elements of (X) from the reading; write one question you would like answered (turn in for credit)
  • Homework (5 minutes)
  • Close of unit (every two weeks) - what idea or concept was most important to your understanding of the topic (X) (ex. realism, naturalism, feminism, etc.)
In addition to this format, I will be assessing my students learning in the following ways:
  • Pre and post writing exercises
  • Class and group discussion
  • Survey (every four weeks) assessment
  • Quizzes and essays
I know it seems like I am assessing my students often, but I am actually doing it with a purpose. The survey is something I read about at Cornell and I thought it was a great idea. I already use Qualtrics for survey matrix/data collection so I thought I could collect data for classroom interest and motivation and then use this research as mini-exercises for my doctoral work. The data will be biased because of the sample population, but I am only planning on using it for my use. I want to get comfortable creating surveys, and then I want to learn how to analyze and interpret the data for formal research. I like the idea, and I think it will be a good way to cover a couple bases: student assessment for learning; teacher preparedness; student motivation; student outcomes.

I am so jazzed today because I can finally see how the class format, my teaching style, and the outcomes merge together. I will admit that these first couple weeks, I felt like I was flying blind. I didn't know what would work, what wouldn't work, how much was too much, etc. I feel far more confident now and I believe that I can teach just about any topic in Literature with this approach (whoohoo!)

Dear Lord,

Thank you for your provision of Grace today. You have provided everything I needed to learn how to teach, and you have helped me gain confidence and experience in the classroom. I am blessed, so blessed by your mercy and your understanding of my frailty. You know how I stress, and how I struggle to be approved (2 Tim 2:15), yet you calmly cover me, and hold me as I work through each and every experience, learning that it is OK to rest, to trust you, and to let go of my need for approval. I am approved because you approve of me (PTL!) I don't need student approval, teaching approval, mentor approval. I only need your approval. I thank you today for your guidance and I ask you to continue to bless me as I develop my skill as a presenter/facilitator. You are good, all the time. I love you, Lord, and I thank you now. I ask this in Jesus' Name, AMEN!

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