Even after almost 40 years of teaching at Carroll, the first day of class is anxiety-arousing, pressured, critical, and rewarding. As a youth, I was so anxious about giving oral presentations that I fainted when I participated in my first school debate. I had a similar melt-down during the oral component of my graduate school general qualifying examinations in Social Psychology at Ohio State. With experience and a few set backs I’ve learned to over learn and to reframe (attribute) the performance anxiety I inevitably am experiencing into excitement for the task at hand. Sometimes I whistle a happy tune! Click that link and you’ll receive that sage advice from someone who sings better than I. 🙂
These academic first days of the semester pressures I feel are primarily situational nuisances : making sure that my syllabi and handouts are up-to-date, proof-read, and sufficient in number; visiting the classrooms ahead of time to better guarantee that there are enough seats and that the computer equipment works; thinking through how to handle disruptive classroom situations in particular classroom environments; and of course trying to respond in timely fashion to the myriad course-related emails. [Note the irony that I just now am posting this blog post due to first-semester busyness!].
For me the first class meetings are vital for relationship and credibility building—for getting to know my students, creating shared and appropriate expectations, and establishing standards for both students and for me.
This semester I am teaching two sections of PSY 205 “Statistics and Experimental Design” (and its two labs) and PSY492, a Research Seminar focusing on the topic of brain-training software.
Based on 1) student evaluations, 2) what my students demonstrate that they can do at semester’s end, 3) how I feel every time I teach it, and 4) feedback I get from alumni “Statistics and Experimental Design ” is without doubt my best taught course. Among the challenges in teaching such a class successfully are the attitudes that some students bring (“I hate math”; “I don’t do well in math”; “I’m afraid”), weaknesses in students’ fundamental computational skills, and their inexperience with my strongly believed outlook that statistics (and data analysis) is a tool, a language and a way of thinking. Here are some reflections I shared a few years ago about teaching the course. How amusing that even in that class, the one in which I am most confident and comfortable, I missed seeing the dog who was present!
Was my failure to notice canine Kia (whom I had met numerous times and who was even featured in a local newspaper story) an example of what Daniel Simons calls Inattentional blindness? Or was my attentional oversight/ blindness due to my being used to always having a canine companion near me, under me or underfoot?
I’m quite excited about teaching the Research Seminar PSY492. Every day we meet there will be opportunities for data analysis, critical reading, reflective writing, and discussion related to the course’s topic. Relationship building is easier here since I already know all 10 students.
Let Week Two Commence!!