Fall 2017 Reflection

I am writing about my fall semester today. I am trying to reflect on the fall before moving ahead towards finishing preparations for the spring and before reading my SPOT evaluations. So, these are my reflections, with little outside influence. I am a little nervous to open my SPOTs this fall, though I’m not sure why.

I taught Human Sexuality online this fall. Probably the last time I will teach this course at Virginia Tech, as I am teaching a different majors-only class in-person this spring. I have taught human sexuality multiple times during my years at VT, online and in-person and both for a regular semester and for the short Winter Session. It is one of my favorite classes to teach partly because it is within my area, it is what I have taught the most, and a course I have helped keep up-to-date for the department. I have used a variety of assignments over the years and knew going into this semester being online and a full semester I needed to update my assignments.

I decided to sort of merge some of my regular assignments into a larger semester long project. Instead of every student focusing on certain topics, I gave them an option of five topics to dive deeply into. I also decided that there would be multiple pieces to the assignment to match as closely as I could to the learning objectives, which had just been revised. Overall, this project went wonderfully. I saw so much growth and excitement in the work this semester in a way I don’t remember seeing in any written work I have assigned before. And part of what made it gratifying was due to the fact that I didn’t write some of the questions to guide their assignment until I had read other pieces of the overall project. That helped me tailor the project to the class. I loved this project and hope to keep iterations of it around for a while.

One thing that I have thought about a bit this fall is how I have grown as an instructor over the last few years. I have always been quite strict when it came to due dates, especially for online classes. It is hard to get to know your students’ true lives and styles when the class is online unless they come to office hours. Thus, for the most part I held firm to due dates. However, over the last year I have tried a new thing of discussing “when life happens” in my syllabus. It is a short paragraph about discussing what is going on in your life as it is happening rather than at the end of the semester or long after something is due. My goal for both holding firm to due dates and being flexible is to help with professionalism. Life happens and it affects our work, whether in college or in a professional position. We have deadlines that we must meet and sometimes when life happens, those deadlines go by the wayside. But it is always easier to work with and around those deadlines when honest with those we are working with. So far, this added piece in my syllabus and understanding of what I am doing and why has helped make fore more pleasant semesters.

Those are two of the big things I have been thinking about this semester. I always worry that I am not fulfilling my own teaching philosophy of being feminist enough. And worry that I could be doing so much more for the online classes. Yet, when I see where I have come from to where I am now, I see the growth and development. I see the changes I have made over the years and the changes I will make in the years to come. And that is when I know that I can worry all I want, but it takes time, and I have the time to make the changes in the future. That is part of the wonderful thing about teaching—it is never boring and you are always adapting.

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