As I’m sure is true at most colleges and universities, the faculty at Yale are fiercely independent. Many of them chose their careers specifically so that they could have complete intellectual freedom and maximum control over what they do. Departments have to be very careful when they poke around in a professor’s classroom, but the fact is that every once in a while, things can go very wrong. Usually departments hear whispers from students during the semester but wait until the end to see the vitriol in the student evaluations. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Doug Robertson teaches third grade in Southern Oregon. He’s also known as “the weird teacher,” a name given to him by some kindergarteners in his school when they thought he wasn’t listening. Doug wears this title with pride on his web site, in his book, on his videos, on Twitter, and whenever he’s talking about what he does. The other day as I listened to Sam Rangel interview the weird teacher on the amazing Amazing Teacher podcast I was struck by just how much a great third grade classroom has in common with a great undergraduate seminar.
About an hour ago I attended a talk by Marco Molinaro that was so inspiring I had to share about it right away. Dr. Molinaro is the director of an organization at UC Davis (the iAMSTEM Hub) that uses research and analytics to improve the quality of undergraduate education at the university. You might have read the recent New York Times article on innovation in STEM teaching at Davis–Dr. Molinaro’s shop had a lot to do with that innovation.
Between my daughters’ school cancellations, their getting sick, and spending the weekend sick as a dog myself, it’s been a tough last couple weeks. Work has suffered, but not by as much as it could have. Three things have been getting me through the rough patches: technology, fun, and most of all, my students.
I often listen to podcasts after my kids go to bed as I putter around the house washing dishes or doing laundry. Some are about technology (ATP and The Talk Show) or sports (The BS Report) or science (Star Talk) and some cut across categories (The Nerdist). Over time, you build a “relationship” with hosts of a good show and look forward to hearing them say interesting things and talk with interesting guests.
I take great pride in being able to synchronize the different pieces of a long class, adjust on the fly, and come into the finish line exactly on time. Last year I failed more often than I succeeded when teaching my advanced economics seminar on human capital in Latin America, and this semester was (is) going to be different. My plan was to reduce the amount of material students present and replace my mini-lectures on advanced statistical methods with videos the students watch outside class. And yet my time management in class today was still a train wreck.