Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Cycle of the Semesters

I couldn't imagine having a job that didn't have semesters; a job that continued endlessly week after week, year after year, without an end in sight.

The end of each semester provides a time for renewal, a chance to take a deep breath and reflect, an opportunity to bring a close and consider another beginning, to say goodbye to some and anticipate saying hello to others.

At the end of every semester I think deeply about the courses I have taught and the students I have met. No  course is ever the same from one semester to the next. This is partly because things in the world of education change quickly these days one has to change to keep up; things such as the Core Curriculum that needs to be included in my Math/Science Ed course in the future. My courses also change in response to the student feedback I receive both informally throughout the semester and formally through the course evaluations at the end of the semester. This has been particularly true this semester when the college changed to a 4 x 4 curriculum (four 4-credit course each semester instead of five 3-credit courses).

Courses also change because one thinks of better ways of doing things based on how they went the last time. For example, the Learning Communities I set up in Schools and Society based on the five tables in the room seem to really work well. Perhaps I'll establish Learning Communities in my other courses next semester.

Then there are the students who change from one semester to the next. Each class is unique in that it is made up of unique individuals with their unique forms of interaction. This is just the same as the classes of students one finds in  public schools classrooms. Sometimes, teaching strategies that work with one group need to be modified for another group so that learning is optimized. This is why I have always felt that teaching is primarily an art form as opposed to a science.

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