Thursday, December 13, 2007

Show Me What You Got: My First Eval as an Adjunct

Evaluations are scarry. least they can be. Two weeks ago, Dr. Johnson sat in on my 11:30 class. Rare are the times when I'm nervous. But in the days leading up to the evaluation, I was jittery about Dr. Johnson's impressions, I was apprehensive about teaching material, and I was unsure about how my class would respond. My fears proved unfounded. In preparation for the work we'd be doing next semester (it's a 2 semester English course), I taught Aristotle' logic. The material went over well, the students were engaging, and Dr. Johnson enjoyed the period.

A few days later, she and I met to discuss her notes. She told me again how much she enjoyed the class and how she found it informative and interesting. She pointed out that I, at times, talked a little too fast, making it difficult to understand me. Evaluators have brought up my wordspeed before. I have a tendency to speak too rapidly, but I like that Dr. Johnson pointed out that my chatter corresponded with my excitement over the material, as opposed to a pure lack of speaking discipline.

Towards the end of our conversation, she said the words that mean so much to me: you're a good teacher. I remember the first time I heard it. At the end of the '06 fall semester, Dr. Jackson said it to me over the phone after reading the final essays from my developmental writing students. Some words make us glow. I like hearing students tell me they enjoy the class or that I teach well, but they're more likely to have a limited scope upon which to base their evaluations. Hearing colleagues say it warms me.

Evaluations have a nerve-racking quality to them; the sheer idea that someone is watching--judging you while you work makes you a little more self-conscious. I don't care if you're chopping wood, cleaning toilets, or teaching English classes, having someone loom over you and evaluate the quality and methods of your work has an NFL Combine feel to it (That's when college football players who are about to be drafted strip down to their underwear so that coaches, scouts, and team doctors can measure and poke virtually every inch of their bodies) Anyway, I'm glad this semester's eval went well. They usually do. I know that, most of the time, I do a good job. Of course, being good is not the same as being good enough.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sexual Language, Cleavage, and the Last Week of the Semester

Okay, so this is my first blog entry about my teaching experience. I'm an adjunct English professor at Middle Tennessee State University and Motlow Community College. This is my 3rd semester as an adjunct and my 5th overall with a class (I taught for 2 semesters as a TA when I was receiving my Masters). This is the final week of the semester, and I've done some sporadic journaling about my experiences, but nothing consistent. I hope to change this beginning--now.

I'm looking to blog on a weekly to bi-weekly basis, discussing anything story-worthy or helpful to myself or others.

Last week, classes became slightly relaxed, especially at Motlow. The semester will soon end, and the students have turned in their 4th set of essays. Since my writing classes center around those 4 papers, once we finish the last one, we don't have much to do. The students know this, and become lazy. I know it and become lazy as well. Even for the smartest, best educated students, a college semester can be grueling. And since I don't give finals in writing classes, most students curb both their work ethic and interest.

Last Tuesday's Eng 1020 class reflected this apathy. We had a revision workshop that day, and I told the students who did not have a draft to leave. They had no reason to stay. A stream of conscious class discussion took place where students (mostly non-traditional ones) began making a host of sexual jokes while discussing their essays. The class was half full, and had this outburst happened at any other time of the semester, I would've ended it immediately. But it was fun (and funny). I avoided adding my own comments, but when I did say something, I didn't actually discourage the conversations. I usually joked about the literal words and ignored the subtext. As the youngest person in class that day, it was up to me to be mature. That said, Tuesday's class convinced me that I needed to start back recording my teaching days.

Thursday's class was less haphazard. We had more students, so everyone who was here on Tuesday was more subdued. I divided the class into pairs and went to every group to discuss their essay. We still had a little giddiness from Tuesday carryover. But the interesting part of class was how I related to one student.

Michelle's an attractive girl who not only dresses up for class but often displays her cleavage. She draws further attention to herself by being flirty with me.

Well, when I got to her group, I went out of my way to not seem overly attentive to her. But the more non-chalant I tried to act, the more attention I drew to myself. I sat beside her, but the angle I was at gave me a clear sightline into her shirt. So I tried to quietly switch seats. That only caused her partner to have to move, which drew a great deal of attention. To top it off, she had less written than anyone else. So I spent more time with her than with everyone else (I know what you're thinking, and I will fail her if she doesn't get the paper done). While she sat there nodding attentively and running her fingers through her hair, I realized that the precarious position I was in needed recording. Further confirmation that I needed to write. Anyway, no one seems to mind if my eyes occasionally slip into her direction, but I am often embarrassed when I see a student's eyes follow my eyes into her direction, as if my quick glance were an astronomer's gaze. It's purely accidental. Purely.

Tomorrow's the last day. Stay tuned...