Monday, August 24, 2009

Short time left

Speaking of shorts, the days are shortening. Summer's just about over. There are mere days until adjuncts leave the lazy hazy crazy days of summer for the classroom.

Semester-opening convocation took place today, along with a long meeting of the Communication Design Department, including us adjuncts. Although this coming semester I'm not teaching Visual Process—a class concerning about symbols and communication without words—I spent time this summer trying to deepen my understanding of symbols by reading Rudolf Arnheim's Visual Thinking and gobbling up
Natalia Ilyin's witty Blonde Like Me, which is also about symbols. You guessed it; a blonde is a big symbol—and even though I'm a sincere brunette, I loved Ilyin's (pronounced "Ill-een") mix of semiotics and sassy stories.

With the benefit of some experience and the afore-mentioned research, I see many many ways I could improve my Visual Process class (86-ing some of the projects, becoming a good enough actress to make anything I say more exciting, more group projects, encouraging students to do their projects as movies etc), I felt I had a better grasp of the subject matter than I did in earlier forays in the same course. So, when the department meeting ended with a perhaps-inevitable hearty discussion of Student Evaluations (including a comment from one instructor that summarized our collective dilemma and cracked me up: "Of course you hate me; you're eighteen."), I listened intently but didn't get fearful about my own evaluation. I'd been diligently applying what I'd learned about teaching. I'd been taking advantage of the seminars offered by the most excellent Center for Excellence in Teaching. I'd been improving my evaluation scores so that they were above the required median.

After the meeting, I went to check my department mail. So much for the comfort of improvement. My Student Evaluations were pretty unimpressive. I may be improving teaching skills, but the scores for my most recent class are ripe for another improvement marathon. I feel the same sort of betrayal-by-self that I felt in high school when I aced American History and won the class prize but then garnered miserable scores on the Achievement Test. The category "Respect for Students" showed high scores, but everything else puts me back in strivers row. The good thing is that I'm learning to learn as I learn to be a better teacher. I just hope my students are learning as much as I am.

BTW, the image has absolutely nothing to do with the post; it's just a gorgeous shadow.

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