January 19th, 2007

Vanitas desk

The Thrills of Teaching

I've had a wonderful day. I've been marking all day, and the joy isn't just because I'm finally done marking all of the final essays from last term's classes. It's because of how much so many of my students have improved. Indeed, several of them turned in essays that were really good. And that goodness was in part because of the copious editing I did on their drafts last month. I wasn't just editing for how closely their work corresponded with the rules of the assignment, but for quality writing in general. I was fairly thorough with most of them. Thus their improvements make me happy with my own editing competencies, with just how much they learned over the course of the past term and with how much they improved by spending some time editing their own work. I'm proud of them.

I'm also happy because it's so rewarding to be teaching a history class again. I'd hesitate to call it easy, since it requires more prep work every week than did teaching essay writing, but it's certainly more comfortable, since I've had so much more experience at doing it. For the first time, I also understand why some lecturers are so much more attached to teaching upper year students than first year undergraduates. They each have their virtues: with first year undergraduates, it's far easier to see them progress and improve noticeably over the course of only one term. With the upper year students, they're already experienced at being university students, with how to operate within their discipline of choice, with the language and modes of discourse.

From the students I taught in the fall term, I've learned a great deal. I learned about Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham, and Jade Goody. I also gained a much greater intellectual appreciation of the role of tabloids. And I've also come to appreciate how much I've learned in the past years about teaching history. I realized this by teaching another subject, a subject I knew a great deal about, but had never taught before. It's a real challenge, teaching in a new discipline, but a good challenge. I'd do it better next time, but I've also still a great deal to learn about how to teach essay writing, I think.

So it's been a good day - bright students, improved students, good essays, good comments. It doesn't hurt that my order from the OUP sale arrived yesterday either, or that I'm still thrilled about having won lunch in France.