Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Teaching Update: The Speech Class and the Ungraded English Essays

Yesterday, I discovered a batch of papers that I hadn't graded yet.  I've had them since Oct. 22--yikes.  And to make matters worse, I thought I was caught up with my grading in that online class.  The one student who did write me about missing grades wasn't in that class, and I wasn't behind in grading for her class.  Of course, now I doubt myself, and I will spend a spot of time today making sure I am as caught up as I think I am.

I wrote my class an apology note.  I did not tell them that I don't know what happened.  Let them imagine me spending the last 3 weeks reading their papers and savoring them.  Sigh.

Today, to counter the spiral of bad feelings that yesterday's discovery triggered, let me remember some kind things that my in-person Speech class students have offered me.  I was the Speech teacher of last resort.  I had a Speech teacher lined up, our in-house expert, but once the COVID Delta variant arrived, she decided she didn't feel safe teaching in person, and I wasn't allowed to let her teach remotely.  I had another teacher lined up who would have been a great alternative to the expert, but she got a full-time job a few days before the class started.  The back up to the back up had a conflict with a class that he was already teaching.

I had some conflicts too, primarily a standing 11:00 a.m. standing meeting/teleconference every Wednesday with fellow campus directors and our boss.  But since I was on site anyway, I could figure out a work-around.  We would meet when the class started at 9:00 a.m.  There would be an opportunity to give speeches.  Then we would talk about a specific type of speech (introduction, evaluation, narration, argument, etc).  I would go to my meeting, and they would work on their speeches.  We would reassemble near the end of the class time to have another opportunity to give speeches.

I decided that since public speaking is such a source of anxiety for people, I would grade them on the process, not the product.  They would get a grade for both their work as speech giver and as audience member.  I had a rubric that told them how much they had to do of each.  For example, to be eligible for an A, they had to give 5 speeches and to be an attentive audience member for 5 speeches.  The semester would give them plenty of time to do that.

Although I will still be willing to meet with them today, they are done with their speeches.  I feel a bit bad about that, like if I was a better teacher I would have filled the course with so much content that they couldn't possibly be done early.  I am certain that my students are not spending much time pondering how they haven't gotten their money's worth.

I am teaching this class at a small, private school with very high tuition.  There is nothing I could teach that I feel is worth the amount of money that they are paying for this class.

Happily, my students are much more appreciative than I am. I had one student tell me that she really liked the flexible approach to the class, that at first she thought she wouldn't, but she had really come to appreciate it, especially since the Program classes she's taking are much harder and not flexible at all.  She said, "Your class makes me look forward to Wednesdays."

At the end of last week's class, after the last students gave their last speeches that would qualify them for an A, I told them that I was surprised that they had seemed to have none of the fear of public speaking that I had heard that the students would have and that they didn't need the weeks of additional practice that I would have expected because they were so at ease.

One of my students said, "That's because of you.  You make it low stress."

I'm taking that as a compliment.  Students have enough to provoke fear and anxiety in their lives. If I can be a source of flexibility and helping them get through the week, that's all the praise I need.

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