Friday, July 20, 2012

A refresher course for old fogeys

I worked freshman registration the other day and I was surprised by the rampant ignorance. Not theirs--mine!

I lost track of how many times I had to say "I don't know" to a student's question and then get up and walk across the room to find the answer. What's this class about? No idea; I've never seen it before, but here's the description. Who's this professor? Never heard of him. Must be a new hire. Why is there a minor in my field but no major? Um.....

At least I had a clue where to find answers for these questions. I don't know where to get help for the flaws that revealed themselves when I tried to explain our General Education requirements to a classroom full of "exploratory" students (code language for "I have no idea what I want to study so please just put me in classes that count for something"). I haven't stood in front of a room full of students since last December, so it's no surprise that my classroom management skills might be a bit rusty, but seriously: handing out papers? Any idiot can hand out papers! All I had to do was distribute to each student one copy of the purple handout, the dark green handout, the light green handout, and the white handout, but if my life had depended on my handing-out skills, you'd be attending my wake today. 

"Poor Bev," you'd say. "Just couldn't cope with two shades of green."

We have orientation sessions to help new faculty members adjust to teaching here, but maybe we need a midsummer refresher course to help experienced faculty brush up on essential skills. We could do paper-sorting sprints and practice carrying a pile of books, a laptop computer, and a full coffee mug up two flights of stairs without dropping anything. I could certainly use some practice in talking while walking around in front of a classroom in high heels without running short of either breath or ideas.

I'm eager to get back to teaching this fall, but I worry a little bit about my ability to handle four classes, two of them full of freshmen, many "exploratory." I haven't taught that kind of load in years. Can I hack it? Or will I end up curled up on the floor in a fetal position and blubbering incoherently about handouts in two shades of green?


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