As a teacher, I cherish that special bundle of emotions that comes with the start of a new semester: a mix of nervousness and excitement, tempered by the calm that descends when I step onto campus, because I’m home.
As a student, I’m also excited, also nervous, also at home, but add to the bundle a certain sense of distress that comes from knowing I have very little control. I have to rely on, and trust, other people – professors, classmates, administrators – and that trust is sometimes tested. One advantage to being a player on either side is that I’ve come to understand that very few people are actively working against you, no matter how frustrating things may sometimes feel. I try to remind myself of this fact when I encounter those bureaucratic roadblocks that are inevitable, but ultimately surmountable.
My newest adventure as a student is about to begin, or rather is in its initial stages. After just over a year of the aforementioned roadblocks, this morning I registered for my first PhD courses at McGill.
This blog is part of this adventure. I want to spend the next few years looking into the communication between teachers and students, and how both sides of that dialogue can get more out of the discussion. This focus comes from work I did for my M.Ed., in which I looked at teacher feedback on student work, and discovered that no two teachers give the same feedback – some write lots of comments, some write nothing; some use codes and graphics to express themselves, some use only words; some question, some correct; and no two use the same complete package. These results led me to wonder just how much students can get from this feedback , since they cannot rely on consistency. Even if they manage to figure out one teacher’s comments, they have to start at square one the following semester. Both sides end up frustrated – teachers spend hours on student work, only to witness students glance at their mark and ignore the comments; student don’t understand the comments or how to use them to improve their work.
I’ve been teaching in the CEGEP system for over a decade, and I love my job, my colleagues, and my students. I’ve also been a student for pretty much my entire life. In recent years, as well as completing my M.Ed., I studied as a fitness instructor, and am now a certified yoga instructor. One of the interesting aspects of my training in the fitness field is that what makes me a good teacher in the classroom makes me a good teacher in the gym or yoga studio – and vice versa. As a yoga teacher, I can see much more tangibly the idea that different students respond to different kinds of feedback and instruction. Some need to see me move, so they can mirror my physical placement. Some need to hear my instructions, because they want me to tell them what to do. Some need me to adjust their bodies, because they need my correction to get the right alignment. Some need me to leave them alone, so they can figure it out on their own!
The purpose of this blog, at least for now, is to document my adventure. I want to use this space to explore some of the ideas that emerge, to engage in discussions of practice and of theory, and to do what one does with any adventure: record my progress, share some souvenirs, and have something to reflect on when it’s all over.
Your feedback is welcome.