By Robert Zavala
When I am in class and the student who sits in the back is sleeping through the exam review after failing the last exam, I have to ask “Is it me?”. When a student comes to class late and leaves early, my thoughts start to wonder if there is something I could do to increase the success probability of that student. As students stop attending class I send emails, is that enough? Am I doing enough for my students and their education they are paying for?
I am in my tenth year of teaching and I am very passionate about doing the best job I can for the college and students. Whenever possible I arrive to class 10 minutes early, stay after class sometimes up to an hour if needed and make a personal commitment to know all the students by name. Avid strategies such as the 10-2 lecture, Cornell Notes, and group work/discussion is the norm in my class. There are several committees I am participate on, volunteer in the Math Lab and I am active in department re-designs as a student advocate. My office door is always open and I invite students to come in for academic help or just a visit.
As I reflect on my day, semester, and career I want to confirm I am doing all I can. The idea of the perfect student who comes to class on time, does all the assignments and wants to learn does not describe the majority of our student population. Sometimes during my reflections, I feel I am working harder then the students. My passion for their success is stronger then their motivation for passing the course or even completing a college program.
My teaching style has transformed dramatically since my first year teaching. When I first started teaching I tried to cram ALL the material from a section into one class period with the mentality of ” it was covered and now the student should know it”. I lectured for the entire class period and sometimes over. Thinking back, my intentions good: try to do more for the students.
Now my class is completely different (I feel bad for my first couple of classes). My lectures are concise and the students are doing most of the work. I do not cover every topic in a section, instead I cover the important topics and have the students ask questions about “sub-topics” that are not clear. My class is divided by students who can take a short lecture and complete an assignment and students who need more one on one. With this classroom model I am generally able help all students as needed.
Is doing less really doing more? I like to think yes. Allowing the students time in class to work on their assignments and ask for help as needed allows me to gauge students skill set and my lecture. Since my lectures are short and students are working on assignments I find myself walking around the class answering specific questions from students instead of asking the rhetorical question to the class: “Any questions about the material we just covered”?