Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just an average day: in praise of student interaction

Yesterday was just an average day, and yet it was a good day, too. It was our first day back after Thanksgiving, and there was some small talk before class about how odd it felt to be back.

I made a little joke as I handed out the course evals, and they smiled. You can't comfortably share a space with a group of people for 15 weeks without liking them, and the wrinkles we had early on have been worked out by now. "Well, you can come back in; we've finished shredding you," the student said when he came out to get me after the evals were done, but he smiled and was obviously kidding. Like Sally Field, I hope they "liked me, really liked me," but all I can say for sure is that we are more comfortable with each other.

This may be because they are more comfortable with assuming responsibility for their own learning. This semester I've encouraged more student responsibility than I've done before. Students have researched and presented on things I'd usually lecture on. They've led discussions and asked their classmates questions. They're more comfortable using the board, presenting, working in groups, and saying what they think.

Did we "cover" everything? Maybe yes and maybe no. But did their work take the class in other directions, and did they learn a lot from that? I learned things, and I hope they know that they did, too.

More of them are talking to me after class or in my office about their projects, about what they want to do, or about random things that relate to works we've studied that they'd like to share. Yes, it means a lot of grading, but I'm looking forward to seeing their final projects. (You can tell from this sanguine tone that I haven't been inundated yet.)

Soon it'll be grading time, and it'll be over with, and there'll be the post-semester letdown, which makes absolutely no sense logically but is there nonetheless. Then you get to do the whole thing all over again.

I feel as though I've complained and ranted so much that I just wanted to celebrate what we all take for granted sometimes: nice human interaction with students and a good day.

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