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Monday, August 20, 2018

Butterflies

submitted by Peg Balachowski, Associate Dean of Teaching & Learning at EvCC
 
I love butterflies. This summer I have been watching butterflies in my garden, and am delighted when they flutter around, landing for just a moment on a flower before heading off to search for more nectar.

The kind of butterflies I don't like are those I get on the first day of class. Walking into a classroom with a group of new students, wondering what kind of impression I’ll make has always made me a bit nervous. When I share this with students, they can hardly believe it - What? they say...but you’re the expert! You’ve been teaching a long time! Why do you still get butterflies on the first day??

Delaney J. Kirk Ph.D. from University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (and who has 27 years teaching experience!) still gets a little nervous at the beginning of a class. In the most recent edition of the Faculty Focus blog she outlined 10 tips for getting ready for that first day:

Faculty Focus


  1. Develop your own routine before going to class. Take a short brisk walk beforehand. Twirl your wrists to gently shake the stress out of your arms. Relax your shoulders; people tend to “hunch up” their shoulders when tense. Do some deep breathing.
  2. Check out your classroom before the students get there. Walk around and get familiar with the room, podium, how the seats are arranged, etc. Make sure you know how to work any technology you’ll be using.
  3. The first few minutes are crucial. Your students are curious about you and the course. Everything (how you dress, walk, present yourself) are clues as to your personality and credibility. Walk briskly and with purpose into the classroom.
  4. Chat briefly with the students as they come into the room to make yourself (and the students) feel more comfortable.
  5. Act confident and enthusiastic about what you will be doing that first day. Don’t say that you are nervous as this makes the students uncomfortable and you will lose credibility with them.
  6. Also, it’s best not to tell your students that this is the first time (if it is) that you have taught this particular course. You should know more about the topic than they do so they’ll assume you’re an expert.
  7. Use notecards or form to gather information about your students (name, email address, past class experience with the topic, work experience, etc). This takes the focus off you and onto the task which gives you time to get comfortable.
  8. As you begin, make eye contact with two or three people in various parts of the room. Learn their names and use them several times. You are essentially beginning to build a relationship with your students.
  9. Be enthusiastic about being in the classroom so that they will be also. Don’t just stand behind the podium but move around and move toward them. Look happy to be sharing your knowledge with them.
  10. Start with something that is easy for you to talk about. Tell a story you’ve told often before, read something that is relevant to the class from the newspaper, share something from your days as a student or talk to them about why you went into teaching.

Are there some ways that you prepare for the first day? What do you do to help with that nervous feeling on Day 1 of the course?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Nudges

Submitted by Peg Balachowski, Associate Dean of Teaching & Learning at EvCC

It’s August, and that means the days are getting shorter (bit by bit). You are might be looking forward to a vacation or at least some time away from the classroom. Summer term, even though it’s shorter, sometimes seems like the longest of all! So given that you might still be teaching a summer class or are planning your getaway to relax and rejuvenate, have you started planning for your fall courses yet? Have you considered how you might “humanize yourself” in your classes, demonstrating to students that you are supportive, without adding to your workload? Here’s an intervention that could prove to improve student retention and possible improve their performance in your course. 

I recently read an article on the Evolllution website (yes, that’s how they spell it) called Small Changes, Large Rewards in which the author, Zoe Cohen, Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine Tucson, University of Arizona, says “By identifying struggling students and sending them personalized emails encouraging action and providing support, educators can make a significant difference to the success of their learners.”

Cohen provides sample emails. In one of the samples, she connects with students who have failed the first exam: “I was looking at the exam #1 scores for (Course name) and saw that you didn’t do as well as expected. Since it’s still early in the semester, now is the time to try and figure out what went wrong and how we can fix it. I have some quick questions for you that I’m hoping you’ll be willing to answer for me.” In this email she lists some questions that ask students to reflect on things like class participation and exam preparation. After sending this email for the first time she worried that there would be a “backlash” from students, blaming her instead of taking responsibility for their behavior. Instead, she got some amazing responses from students, thanking her for taking the time to care about them! And not only that, there has been an improvement in student average grades.

Read more about Dr. Cohen’s experience, and think about how you might nudge students to move them towards success in your course.