Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Back to the Onground Classroom

Last night, for a variety of reasons, I returned to teaching in a traditional onground classroom.  But since the class only has 2 students, it's not likely to be traditional in every sense of that word.

I still don't have a clear vision for this class, since I only found out that I would be teaching it on Monday.  I thought the two students might have a vision, but when I suggested that we had many options for how the class could operate, I got blank stares.

I forget what a strange student I was.  I spent years as a student thinking about what I would do differently, especially in terms of my English classes.  It's probably no surprise that I ended up teaching English classes for so many years.

In a way, it's good that my students don't have a similar experience--they might have requested that the class be run in a way that I couldn't deliver.  Now I have flexibility.

I thought I might be teaching it as 2 independent studies.  But I think it might work better to keep meeting each week, with some weeks as conference weeks, with conferences that can be scheduled at the students' convenience.  It will be a different kind of blended class:  independent study mixed with a classroom.

My students don't have much online presence, so we won't be having a blended class in the way that EducationWorld usually uses that term.

I do wonder if my students will be losing an essential element of an English class by having such a small class.  There won't be as much opportunity for peer-to-peer teaching and learning.

I first learned about the concepts of peer editing and removing the teacher-as-expert dynamic back in grad school.  The idea seemed so cool and important to me then.

Now that I am older, I am more skeptical.  Many of my students through the years have come from deeply impoverished backgrounds.  Many of them only have a minimal grasp of English as a means of communication, and I don't mean that to sound as critical as it likely does.  Many of my students are very new to English, both as a language and a discipline--does that sound better?  They're eager learners, but they have difficulty teaching each other.

We now have decades of teachers who have tried to be more enthusiastic and encouraging about student work, so I haven't seen the damaged students that shaped the work of the early Comp-Rhet theorists that so influenced my grad school days.

Although those theorists influenced me deeply, I can't remember their names right now.  I wonder if I still have those books on my shelf at school?

Last night reminded me of the importance of having a book to take to the classroom.  My students started writing, and I tried to get onto the Internet--the slow connection made me abandon that attempt.  Maybe I will use this classroom time as motivation to do more reading and writing of the old-fashioned kind:  on paper.

As the weeks go on, I will report here on the progress of my latest teaching experiment.  Stay tuned!

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