Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Staying Fresh

Years ago, my father commented about how one of his friends who taught school said years “Students no longer have a sense of humor. Years ago they used to laugh at my jokes, now they no longer laugh”. The instructor was obviously poking fun at himself for telling the same jokes year after year.

The truth is, it is easy to fall into this trap and it is important to keep material fresh. When I first started teaching, I used to use videotape from old Odd Couple television shows and clips from various movies to make certain points. Years later, when I tried showing the same clips to students, I did not get the same reaction. I realized that times change, that what was funny at one time may no longer be funny today and that people may not be familiar with shows from the past.

What I do now is give the students a survey at the beginning of the semester. The survey, in parts asks which shows (TV, movie, plays, etc) they are familiar with (I put a list of them together) and for the ones they are familiar with, how much they like or dislike them. I fine this to be extremely helpful.

There are certain things I showed in the past, such as a clip from the movie Network (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore) that I have dropped altogether. Other clips, I now know I have to set up so students understand what they are seeing and the point I am making. Usually with the proper setup, students enjoy the clip. I also learn which clips stand the test of time and do not need any kind of setup. For instance, The Lion King is one that every semester, despite having been out for over ten years, the overwhelming majority know.

I have found that the survey is a wonderful tool. Some of the questions are open ended while others are closed. Still, it gives me a snapshot of who is in the class and each individual’s likes and dislikes. My survey does change slightly from semester to semester, but for the most part it has stayed the same. I encourage others who are not doing this to try it and see if it helps. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.