By now, the fall 2011 semester is “long” over and everyone should be a few days into a (hopefully) relaxing holiday break. Therefore, I’ll keep this post short so you can get back to your holiday-related festivities like watching Elf (Come on. You know you watched it at least once this season.), drinking egg nog and eating way more cookies than you have consumed all year.
Whether you teach classes, work in student affairs or are involved with college life in some other capacity, the end of a semester–and now an entire year–is a time to reflect. If you’re like me, thoughts of what I did well, what I could improve upon and what I know I’ll never do again flood my mind. This semester, the one thing I think I did well while teaching my public speaking class was deviate from the curriculum and teach my students proper interview skills.
As part of their final exam, I made my students submit a resume, create a LinkedIn profile and conduct a faux job interview with me and one of my colleagues from my full-time job. At the end of the interview, I gave each student feedback on their resume and interview skills and told them why I would or would not hire them for the position I was applying for. When they were done interviewing and receiving my feedback, many of my students indicated that this was one of the most helpful things any of their teachers had done with them this semester.
For me, personally, I think it was the best assignment I’ve ever given my students. Why? It taught them a real-world skill that they will be able to use long after they leave my classroom. And for me, that was the biggest takeaway from this semester. Whether I’m giving a lecture, homework assignment or test or helping a student one on one, I need to be able to articulate to them how that particular thing will help them in the future. People, not just college students, are more engaged with just about anything when they understand how a specific thing will benefit them. And I don’t know about you, but I could use all the help with student engagement that I can get.
As for what I can improve upon for next semester, I think that I will make more of an effort to invest in the students who I think need some extra help or who I see potential in. (Oh please, don’t act like you’re shocked that I don’t see potential in all my students.) I teach at a small community college in a low income area and I am constantly surprised at the great lengths some of my students have gone to, to be taking college courses. Many of them didn’t have strong parental figures in their lives, let alone a mentor who they could rely on for career or even life advice. Next semester, I’m going to make more of any effort to seek out the students who might need that extra nudge from someone who truly cares about helping them succeed outside the classroom.
How I’m going to that while working a full time job in addition to teaching a few classes, I am not so sure. But I guess that’s one way I can spend my holiday break.
What about you? What did you like most or least about your semester? Are there things you will change or things you will do the same in the Spring? What are they?
Happy Holidays, Everyone!