Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Post-First Semester Syndrome (PFSS)

I can certainly relate to Mike's recent blog on finishing his semester. I have now, myself, come up from grading and submitting grades. I had about 140 students this semester over four courses. This has been a great semester of teaching and I have learned a lot of lessons. I believe that lecturing is one of my strengths and the reason I wanted to get into academics in the first place. But there is much to learn when beginning to teach even in the best of circumstances. I want to share some of the most important lessons I learned.

(1) Assignment rebound: I learned that whatever you assign you have to grade. If you assign three papers in a course that has over 100 students that means you will be grading 300 papers. Now that seems obvious, but when I was idealistially creating the course I was teaching, it actually did not factor into my thinking.

(2) Freshman by and large do not write very good papers. This is certainly a generalization, and I had some exceptional students, but the papers that freshman write are hard to grade. Unless the course is focused on learning to write good papers--which is not a learning objective of Intro to the Bible. Next semester I am not requiring papers in my Intro course.

(3) Students who have to take Intro to the Bible courses as a general education requirement are not that motivated to work hard and won't expect to have to give their best to a course like this. While at first this might be a bit offensive, I have come to repsect this fact and I now think I need to keep this in mind when developing an intro course. While a Bible course will be rigorous for most students, especially one that covers the whole Bible in one semester, I learned that I need to develop the course with minimal requirements.

(4) While content preparation is time consuming, I never appreciated the amount of time and effort a professor devotes to the managing of their courses. Keeping up with 140 students takes a lot of energy.

(5) Personal research time in your first semester is non-existent.

(6) As hard as you might try, not all your students will like or connect with you.

(7) God works in the lives of students when they approach the Bible with open minds employing a hermeneutic of trust rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion.

1 comment:

Michael F. Bird said...

Welcome to being a full-time college professor! The first semester is always the hardest, it gets better from here on it.