I fear I've opened a can of worms, and I better brace myself to take the heat. Today, in my English 110 class, I assigned a journal entry to my students: constructive criticism for your teacher. I asked them to tell me what I'm doing right, wrong, etc., and to be honest with me. I've gotten one back, and it was honest--in a good way. Still, some of the criticism stung, though it's not her fault. Really, it's mine because everything she said was true. At times, I didn't know how to improve those things because I had just received the information myself, and I was still trying to work it out in my own mind. Thank goodness I'll know what's coming next semester when I teach this class! I can have everything figured out beforehand, instead of trying to come up with examples and explanations the week I assigned the stupid thing.
Another good criticism I received: I apologize too much. "I know this probably isn't your favorite class..." I have a reason for that--I do know it's one of the dreaded classes. I mean, at times, learning to write a critical analysis is like pulling teeth--hard and painful. Explaining it is just as rough! But I do need to be more confident.
One issue that makes this first semester so difficult is that we get most of our good advice on certain assignments either at the last minute or a week after we really needed it! Why couldn't someone have suggested that we start out the critical analysis assignment with a summary, progress to an opinion, and then progress to an intellectual judgment based on the text--BEFORE the last week of the assignment? I know my students were frustrated, and so was I. My understanding of textual analysis was pretty much limited to the fact that I know how to do one--I didn't know how to spell it out to someone who has never had to do one before.
I really wish we could have taken these teaching practicums and composition theory classes the summer before we started teaching. It would have made a world of difference, and I know I would have felt more prepared. Right now, the feeling I have is comparable to being swept down a raging river, just barely keeping my head afloat. I better hope there are no rocky rapids ahead!
I'm serious about wanting to be a good teacher. That's why I asked my students to give me this feedback. It's hard to take, because like many new teachers, I labor under the deluded dreams of being the perfect teacher the first time out. However, I need to shake off that craziness and accept a healthy slice of humble pie. I'm not completely screwing up, on the one hand, but on the other hand, I'm far from getting it perfectly right.
That verse from scripture, the one about how He'll refine us as fine silver through fire, makes more and more sense. While the end result will be worth the trial by fire, it's a painful process in the meantime--really painful. Frankly, I like to get things right the first time, but life does not operate that way, especially not the further along in life I get.
Growing pains, anyone?