So . . . I'm really enjoying my classes this semester. It feels good to be back teaching the same group of students over a period of a few months--I missed that in Norway when I'd have students for just a day. There's just so much more I can do with students when I get to know them and what they need.
I have two classes this semester. I'm teaching a Popular Fiction class for the first time. This is only the second G.E. class I've taught in a regular semester--and because I've never taught the class before, I'm still figuring out what I want my students to leave the class with. I know I want them to enjoy reading, to be willing to make forays into unfamiliar genres, to make competent and informed analyses of literature. I think we're doing that so far, but it also seems like I should be giving them a deeper understanding of genre and the history of literary production. I'm still working on these. So far, we've read a detective novel, In the Woods by Tana French, and we're in the midst of reading a Western, Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage.
The students were really engaged with the French novel which has an unreliable narrator who is also a detective. We had great discussions about whether we could trust anything this narrator told us. And the ending of the novel lent itself to discussing the expectations of the detective novel genre and the ways that French subverted those expectations. It totally worked--and I'd love to teach this novel again.
The students aren't quite as excited about Zane Grey--but they are willing to explore and analyze the novel. They've asked good questions and excelled at character analysis. I think this novel will work all right--and it's a great example of an early novel which set the path for future Westerns. I'm loving these students and their willingness to participate and try out new genres.
The second class I'm teaching is one I've taught for years: English Teaching Methods and Materials. The majority of the students in this class are doing the first part of their student teaching, so they are motivated to learn how to teach English/Language Arts. The class this semester is enthusiastic, funny, a little whiny (students in this class always are, so that's okay), and intelligent. I love teaching this class. Today, I switched gears in the middle of class because a student said that she wasn't really getting the chance to try out the ideas she was learning in this class. Because we were discussing an article by Marty Nystrand on dialogic discussion, I was planning to do a Stop and React activity with a chapter from Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street--and I realized that I could have some of my students lead the discussion. I explained the activity to them, then asked for volunteers. With the first two students I had to intervene frequently to help them frame appropriate questions (they wanted to be much more directive than they should in this activity), but students quickly got the hang of how to use more open ended questions. I had to bite my tongue a lot because there were things I would have asked or ways I would have responded--still, I liked that this activity gave my students an opportunity to practice how to create a more dialogic classroom. And afterwards, a student waited quite awhile (lots of students asking questions) to tell me how much he had learned from the class and expressed the hope that we'd do this type of thing again.
Today, it felt so good to be a teacher. I love my job.