Adapt, revise, adapt and revise again.

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The first thing you learn about a new class after you have watched someone else teach it for a semester is that you are not the teacher you observed. For observing and learning how to teach English 320 Business and Professional Communication  I observed Josh, who teaches Business and Technical writing at my university. While we have some similarities  such as we do not deal with with BS and are very direct in our ways of communicating with students, we also have many differences. While the similarities helped me in observing and learning strategies in how to teach business and professional writing, such as how we are both direct in our instructions and feedback, the differences have led to some stumbling blocks for me as a teacher of English 320.

The most memorable example of this occurred in class during the very start of the semester. In fact, I think we were in the first or second week of class. Josh has an activity where he has students analyze him as an audience in preparation for the professional email assignment. I also tried this, but it didn’t work as well. This is partly because I do not have the same presence in the classroom that Josh does. I do not inspire the same reactions in students that Josh inspires. Students tend to immediately respect, and perhaps feel a little intimidated by Josh pretty quickly. I do not have that ability.  What I have noticed, is that students think I might be fun to grab a cup of coffee with or share personal problems they are having. In fact, I tend to hear a lot of sob stories, which I ironically dislike hearing. I must look comforting, I guess, which is deceptive considering my true personality, which Josh totally knows about and probably could tell you some good stories about.

But the activity also failed because I have done some work to revise the assignment has a whole. The clues I gave to how to read me as an audience in the assignment sheet were almost all I needed. Thus, the activity fell flat. It fell so flat that I simply abandoned it and I moved the class onto something else.  And, as mentioned before, I don’t have the persona to carry it through. For example, when I told Josh I had tried his audience-reading activity, he did laugh a bit. I just don’t have the Josh persona or presence to carry it through, or at least not in the way he carries it through. I like the idea, so I think I just need to revise it so that it fits me a little more.

And of course, while I did some work to revise each assignment, I know there will be other revisions made in this course. I still haven’t got to the Marketing portion of the class, which I am the most curious about since A. While I have taught parts of marketing before, I have never had an entire Marketing unit and B. All my prep for this has been my own readings and observing Josh, who teaches Marketing juxtaposed with the other assignments. I chose to teach Marketing on its own, in the latter half of the semester. I felt I would not be as adept as Josh, nor have the time, to teach marketing alongside everything else. Taking classes and doing research kind of eats up a lot of time that could be spent prepping (and actually sometimes vice versa happens. I tend to spend a lot of time prepping for what I teach and TA for, which means maybe prepping more than I actually need to prep, but that is another story.)

While I enjoy English 320, I know I will feel I won’t have this class “down” like I feel I have english 358 down until my third or fourth time teaching it, or a class similar to it. That is the bad part of teaching a lot of classes at this level: it is difficult to develop that strong expertise and ethos a teacher develops after teaching the same or similar class 4 or 5 times in a row. What a professor who has taught this class for ten semesters knows, versus me in my one semester apprenticeship, is vastly different.  So I suppose that is something that while it is good to acknowledge, is also good to think about in terms of making this the best learning experience possible for everyone. And it is a hard lesson to learn when you are taught a class through observing and working alongside someone else, only to turn around and teach that class on your own. You realize you are not that other person and so you adapt, revise, adapt, and revise again.


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