Wednesday, March 19, 2008

and then there were eleven

As a rule, the first two weeks of the semester are topsy-turvy in terms of student attendance: quite a few students switch classes, drop them entirely, or register late. I thought I was going to have thirteen people in my Current Events class, but the girl who had thought about registering apparently decided not to register, and one student already in the class just netted a job at Merrill Lynch Korea and won't be able to attend. She'd been rather spotty with her attendance last week, so it's actually something of a relief that I won't have to deal with her zigzagging anymore. On the bright side, she was kind enough to attend class today; everyone congratulated her on having gotten what we hope will be a sweet position (she's going into the human resources division).

What all this means is that my class is taking a net loss, not enjoying a net gain: we're down to eleven people, which is still a bit bigger than I'd like, especially for a class so focused on talking. But despite that minor complaint, I'm extremely pleased with how this class is running itself. That is, after all, the point of the student-centered approach: you, as the teacher, want the students to carry the ball, to play a role in each other's learning, and not to rely on the teacher except for the occasional question or two. Setting such a system up takes just a few days-- enough time to introduce the principles underlying the curriculum and class structure, to make clear what the students' specific obligations are, and to assure the students that you are there as a facilitator (which also means that you occasionally have to grab the reins for a few minutes if it's obvious that the student-planned lesson is headed toward a cliff).

I truly hope this class keeps its current momentum for the rest of the time I'm "teaching" it. It's already the class I enjoy most this semester.


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