Counting the minutes until the first day of classes. 12 hours and counting. For me, as a teacher, the first day of the semester is both thrilling and stressful. I love to walk across the FSU campus on that first day. The energy in the air is thick with the nervousness of Freshman amid the excitement of returning students. After the quiet, slow moving pace of Summer, I’m ready for the sidewalks and thoroughfares to be packed with bustling students, embracing old friends, and searching for their classrooms.
First lecture is always a rush. Even after ten years of lecturing, I still get butterflies when I bring the 240 students in lecture hall to attention. I fully enjoy 100% attendance, and how quickly the class comes to attention, knowing that this command I hold over them will be short lived. By midterm, attendance will be at around 75% (if I’m lucky), and I’ll be hushing conversations in the balcony in mid-lecture.
The stress associated with the beginning of the semester has to do with dealing with situations beyond my control. For example, I’m given 30 teaching assistants who help me teach my 2,000 students. I meet them for the first time THREE days before they start teaching. In that time, I need to train them in their duties, and schedule their teaching times. I’ve organized my TAs into various duty assignments to help with both classroom and Web-based teaching: fourteen recitation instructors, three Web-based mentors, eight graders, two testers, and a lecturer. If that doesn’t add up to 30, it’s no wonder as a few TAs never showed up and we are scrambling to find others to cover all my sections. So there it is, the stress factor. The day before classes start, and I still have some sections without teachers.
Well, as with all the Fall semesters in the past, it will all work out somehow.
In addition to my usual sermon on the importance of digital technologies, I am planning something new for my first lecture this semester. I will be taking attendance via a student survey. The purpose of the survey will be for me to learn what my students think they know about the skills and concepts taught in the class, and how important they think these skills and concepts are. For example, I’ll ask them to rate their knowledge of Microsoft Excel on a scale of one to five (bubble sheets only have five bubble per question). Then I’ll ask them how important they feel Microsoft Excel is (again on a 1-5 scale) for college-educated professionals. I’ll do this for each application and each of the chapters in Succeeding with Technology. I’ll share the questions and results with you over the next couple of weeks.