The Homework Paradox

This week, in honor of #FYCchat, and the fact that I’m working on my syllabi for the upcoming semester all week, I’m posting all about some of the decisions we face as instructors, trying to come up with a plan for our students for the semester. First up, homework!

I have a love-hate relationship with homework. When I was a student, in the dark ages, before computers and word processing programs, I used to be reduced to tears, writing and rewriting my essays and other assignments because I am a terrible speller. “Good copies” could only be written in pen, and we were only allowed three White-Out marks to correct mistakes. I used to sit at the kitchen table as my mom proofread my work, dreading the inevitable: the fourth spelling mistake which meant I would have to start all over again. 

I was lucky, because I had parents who were very involved with my school work and education. I always had help with math, French, or whatever else I was tasked to do. But, my parents also never over-stepped their role as tutor and coach, much to my dismay. Every piece of writing, every problem solved, every verb conjugated, it was all done by me, but if I got stuck, I would sit with my mom she would guide me as to how to figure out my problem. When I had trouble with biology and she couldn’t figure out how to help me, she hired one of my swimming teammates who was older and studying biology to tutor me. The idea was always to help me become self-sufficient in my learning and studying.

(A quasi-relevant aside: my friend who tutored me in biology figured out that I needed a narrative in order to learn; biology was hard for me because it was a lot of memorization. I always complained that I didn’t understand biology, when really, there was nothing to understand, only things to memorize, at least at the high school level. So we wrote stories about the cell and all of the parts and their functions, a tool I used to study for all of my biology tests from then on. I would start each biology test by writing down whatever story or stories I had come up with and then filling in the blanks. It worked, as I passed biology, and my friend went on to become an excellent university professor.)

As a professor, homework is essential if we, myself and my students, are to be able to accomplish our learning goals. I remember my mother’s lessons, and I try to help my students see how they can become self-sufficient learners. But it is nearly impossible to get my students to do their reading or take any active reading exercises I assign seriously. While they complain about how they are bored by lectures, they fail to see the connection between being able to have meaningful class discussions and exercises if they haven’t done their reading. One day, I really will stand in silence for an entire class period waiting for students to answer my discussion questions to show I am serious a) about students doing their readings and b) that I want to do more than just lecture.
But I also understand my role as a coach for my students in their learning (see the above parenthetical aside). For example, when we are working on editing and revising their essays, I have them do their peer reviews or self-assessments in class, so if they have any questions or need any help, I’m there to give some guidance. What do I hear from them? Do we have to do this right now, or can we just leave and do this at home? Really? I can’t get you to do homework because of a variety of excuses (no time, too much other work, etc) and now all of a sudden you have time to do this? It frustrates me, but I tell the students that they can take the time now or take the time later. 
I understand the argument that students (children especially) need free time to explore and play, and that homework often drills the love of learning from them. But in university, I don’t see my students every day, and the time we spend together is very limited. I don’t have the time in class to learn all about the students’ strengths and weaknesses, and how they learn best. Tasks assigned to them to be completed outside of class is also one of the ways I can gage what tools work best for certain students. And, because we don’t see each other every day, it forces them to practice and reinforce what we’ve been doing/reading/learning. 
Homework, especially in college, isn’t going anywhere. But I remember my 10-year-old self, and I work to make sure that every exercise we do, inside and outside of class, has a clear purpose. I just wish my students would actually do it.

What Can We Expect From Freshmen?

I asked, in a recent post, what do we expect from Freshmen? I was responding, in part, to the criticism, that I had expected too much of my students in their final assignment. And then, today, I came across (or rediscovered) the following essay by Alfie Kohn, explaining “How to Create Nonreaders.” In it, he radically proposes that we empower students and allow them to shape the curriculum in their language arts/reading and writing classes at the K-12 level. 

Now, imagine if we did that in our Freshmen Writing or Introduction to Literature classes. Based on the comments on my blog post about allowing students to propose a fictional course, I don’t think that it would go over very well. 
Here is the paradox that Kohn points out and that can be extrapolated even further into higher education: 

The sad irony is that as children grow older and become more capable of making decisions, they’re given less opportunity to do so in schools.  In some respects, teenagers actually have less to say about their learning – and about the particulars of how they’ll spend their time in school each day — than do kindergarteners.  Thus, the average American high school is excellent preparation for adult life. . . assuming that one lives in a totalitarian society.

We expect even less of students in college classes. Part of it is the institutional tradition: students come to higher education (and pay a lot of money) in order to benefit from our (the professor’s) expertise. If they wanted to direct their own learning, they are free to do so, for free. You get what you pay for, and they are paying for my wisdom, experience, and knowledge. But why does it have to be that way? As Kohn points out, the instructor is not removed from the equation; they are important guides in the process of shaping the educational experience. Why does our experience have to be shared with students in a top-down approach?

When I ask the question, however, what can we expect from freshmen, I don’t just mean what could we reasonable expect a freshman to do in a class. I don’t think that it would be entirely unreasonable to immediately ask a freshman to take control and ownership of their education in order to prepare them for not only the next four years, but their professional lives beyond their degree. No, I am also asking what are we allowed to ask of our freshmen.

Kohn talks about how it’s important that students are given “voice and choice.” Why? Two reasons:

The first is that deeper learning and enthusiasm require us to let students generate possibilities rather than just choosing items from our menu; construction is more important than selection.  The second is that what we really need to offer is “autonomy support,” an idea that’s psychological, not just pedagogical.  It’s derived from a branch of psychology called self-determination theory, founded by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, among others.  To support students’ autonomy is to meet their need to be in control of their own lives, to offer opportunities to decide along with the necessary guidance and encouragement, to “minimiz[e] the salience of evaluative pressure and any sense of coercion in the classroom” and “maximiz[e] students’ perceptions of having a voice and choice.”[10]

 How can we allow students to generate possibilities when the instructors themselves aren’t allowed to generate possibilities, allowed our own autonomy? Instead, we are limited to a selection of pre-approved texts, mandated assignments, and set learning outcomes? My fellow University of Venus colleague Afshan Jafar has written quite eloquently on the McDonaldization of higher education and why it is taking place, but I am interested here in examining the effects on the teaching and course development process. For Mary Churchill, the assembly-line teaching mentality caused her to choose administration over academia. For me, it means that I can’t at least try to empower and challenge my freshmen writers.

This next semester, I am teaching Freshman Writing at my institution for the first time. I’ve taught the course elsewhere, but of course, I have to re-learn a new textbook, fit in all of the mandated assignments, and this semester, the added pressure of being one of the courses whose papers will be evaluated for accreditation and evaluation purposes. Could I, would I, come to class on the first day with the long pre-formatted syllabus with all of the requirements, course goals, learning outcomes, and assignments already in place and pre-selected textbook, and say to the class, here are our guidelines, now we make the class together? I do have the flexibility to assign specific readings, come up with homework/in-class exercises, and a small number of major assignments, as well as the specific schedule for the semester. Could I, would I, hand over the small amount of choice and freedom I do have as an instructor to my students?

I worry about my job. I worry about the perception of me as an instructor. I worry about my students learning. I worry (in my most optimistic moments) that I will upset the expectations of other professors who later have my students, students who now expect a degree of autonomy that they will not receive in other classes. I worry about our accreditation; I have now been at two schools that have completely overhauled their Freshman Writing because of the demands of the same accreditation board. Of course, the accreditation board didn’t demand specifically that Freshman Writing change, but they did demand that there be put in place a program that would impact all students. Freshman Writing it is.

I have about three weeks to decide. I’m not going to lie; I’ll probably take the “easy” and safe way out, developing my syllabus myself, mostly dictating the readings and assignments, according to the limitations that have already been placed on me. But like I did in my 200-level class this past semester, I’ll push the envelope; blogs, self-directed reading and research, and at least one assignment that upsets everyone’s assumptions, students’ and professors’, as to what a freshman can do. It might not be much, but it’s a start. It is, literally, the least and most I can do.

Here’s to 2011

Over on the University of Venus Facebook page, the questions was asked, “What’s your word for 2011?” Most came up with words like adventure, change, whatever. For me, my word for is “stability.” 2010, the last five years in fact, have had enough change to last me for a little while. 

In 2005, I got married and moved to California. In 2006, I had my first experience teaching developmental writing and got pregnant. In 2007, I had my daughter and defended my dissertation. In 2008, we moved again to Florida for a tenure-track job for me, but not before moving into a bigger place in CA and finding out I was pregnant again. In 2009, I had my son, and we moved to Kentucky for a tenure-track job for my husband. 2010 saw me not teaching for the first time since I taught ESL in a summer program back in Canada. So I started my own business, started blogging, and got in Twitter. And then, I got a full-time job and we bought our first house. 
I’m exhausted just writing about it. 
To extend on my metaphor about trees, I want 2011 to be about putting down roots, providing a stable base or foundation for myself and my family. I want to grow what I have started, instead of continually uprooting and starting over. I want to give myself a chance to explore who I have become over these past five years. I want things to be a little (ok, a lot) more stable than previous years. All of the change has been a blessing, but I’m ready for a year where I can take a breathe and focus on what’s in front of me because I have a better idea of what that is. 
My adventure is ongoing. But I hope 2011 is about the lull that sometimes comes in the middle. Now that I’ve written that, something is going to come along and completely change it. Stability is my hope; as I have learned, I have little control over what the year has in store for me.

What 2010 Taught Me

1) I love to teach; it is as much a part of my identity as any other aspect of my personality or role (mother, wife, sister, daughter, etc). Not being in front of the classroom (or on the pool deck) is like I am missing a part of myself. When I am teaching/coaching, I feel like I have come home, come to the place where I was meant to be.

2) I need to write. My husband, as much as I love him and as encouraging and supportive as he has been, sometimes doesn’t get my blogging, especially when I choose to blog over, say, sleep. Don’t worry about it, he tells me, it doesn’t matter. But it matters to me, insofar as I am a writer as much as I am a teacher. Writing initially was a way to make up for the fact that I wasn’t teaching. It’s become so much more. I used to write almost daily in journals before going to sleep, during classes when I was supposed to be paying attention (take that, texting haters!), and in long, unsent letters. Now, I write and I have an audience, which leads me to lesson number three…
3) I love social media. And by this, I mean blogging, tweeting, and just basically sharing stuff and being a part of a community even though I live out in the middle of nowhere (which, ironically, is where most people claim there is still a strong sense of community). I have made more friends, learned more things about everything, and felt more welcome and accepted than I have in a very long time. We can debate the merits of “real” friends over “virtual” friends until we’re all blue in the face, but my extended community has helped get me through this very challenging year.
4) I am thankful that I was essentially unemployed for most of 2010. If I had been teaching, I wouldn’t have tried to start my own business, which lead me to start my own blog and get on Twitter. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and I reinvented myself (at least, my academic self) this year because of the necessity of unemployment, that loss of a large piece of how I understood who I was, who I still am. Unemployment forced me to let go and finally be myself. 
5) I still have a ways to go. I talk a big talk about reinventing and reimagining higher education and how we teach and learn. I want to help change how instructors who are off the tenure-track are treated in higher education. I am continually frustrated by how most professors and administrators have basically given up on positively changing the university for the better and accepted the “new normal” because they have that luxury as their own jobs are protected. But at the end of the day, I struggle with how I can not just talk about change, but actually be the change. I’ve written extensively about fear and, although not explicitly, about failure, and what that means to my career, to my husband’s career, to my family, and to me personally. The University of Venus gave me a new audience to share my views; now I just have to figure out how to use it more proactively, rather than just being one more voice screaming into the wind. 
Happy New Year, everyone. Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for commenting, thank you for caring. May 2011 bring you joy, and if not, may you find the strength to emerge from whatever the year throws at you wiser and stronger. 

What Do We Expect From Freshmen?

I’m not breaking my Christmas vow to focus on engaging with the comments on my blog/writing; this post, in fact, is a long response to my recent University of Venus post, “What is a Course in Higher Ed?” One particularly negative comment focused on how I live in a fairy-land and should never be allowed to teach again. Never mind that the course focused on education and its role in our society, and that the assignment was warmly and enthusiastically received by my students. And while some of my students didn’t do as well as I had hoped, when do they ever? 

But that isn’t what this blog post is about. No, my fellow University of Venus blogger Mary Churchill dealt quite well with the issue of instructors and professors being openly discouraged from trying (and potentially failing) in the classroom here.

I want to focus on the critique that I expected too much from my Freshmen in the class (never mind that most of my students were, in fact, Sophomores or higher). One of the comments read:

Freshman are not educators; most of them do not even know how to do critical thinking, much less create a course that develops it. Freshmen are supposed to be somewhat self-centered with a limited worldview. Changing that is the purpose of higher ed. While, along the way, imparting skills and knowledge.

True enough, they are not educators, but they have all chosen to attend an institution of higher education, at great cost to themselves and/or their families. But is it also true that they are “supposed to be somewhat self-centered”? This goes back to the central question of my post, what is higher education? Is its purpose to produce well-rounded, critical thinking individuals? And is it the only place where this could and should happen?

In the West, most people still do not attend college, let alone complete a degree (note that I’ve said college and not community college or technical schools). We are a democracy, and we rely on a population that is capable of making informed decisions when they vote. Why, then, is critical thinking the sole responsibility of colleges and universities? Why has that role been taken away from or fallen away from the high schools? What about the significant numbers of the population who have not gone to college?

We spoke at length about education and its role in our society both with my more advanced 200-level writers, about whom I wrote, and with my developmental writers, who were all Freshmen. All of them agree that their college education, in fact, all of education, is motivated by economics. It was very difficult for them to even contemplate or imagine education serving any other purpose. Why then, I asked, was education historically reserved for the wealthy who didn’t need any sort of education in order to perpetuate their (mostly inherited) wealth? Why did the emerging merchant class insist that their children receive a classical education when their trade was, well, trade?

I don’t think any of us ever came up with a satisfactory answer. Is this a failure on my part as an instructor? Well, I could have told them or lectured them on their self-centered, capitalist worldview, which would have gone in one ear and out the other. Instead, we read, we wrote, and I let them create. And, really, at the end of 15 weeks, is it too much to ask of a student to apply what we have read, discussed, and learned, regardless of what level they are at, Freshmen or Seniors?

I think in our disgust with the level of K-12 education, our increasing course loads/student numbers, our push to standardize courses, and our general disdain for the motivation of our students (or lack thereof), we have severely underestimated their abilities. They don’t want to be challenged; they’re not ready to be challenged; I’m too busy to challenge them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Most Freshmen, heck most students, will rise to the challenge, if you are willing to go there with them.

Back when I was naive, I taught a developmental writing course in California, at one of the state schools.  The need for remediation was so strong that they created two levels of developmental writing, one that was one 10-week quarter and another that took place over two 10-week quarters. The only requirement was that the students had to study (read, write, and discuss) a non-fiction book, one that makes an argument. I, in my naiveté, chose Manliness by Harvey Mansfield. The students, I thought, would love it. And they did, eventually.

We spent the final 10 weeks on the book. I told them ahead of time that it would be the most challenging book they’d probably ever read, but if they trusted me, worked hard, we would get through it and they could be confident that they could get through anything college threw at them.  It was the hardest 10 weeks of my life and probably the students’ (intellectual) lives. But we did get through it and at the end of the semester, I was more proud of the results they produced than I ever have before or since. Why? One reason is because I never had the opportunity to teach the book again. But another reason is exactly because it was so hard for me as their instructor and thus a deterrent to ever teaching something that challenging to Freshmen or developmental writers ever again. Why should I be surprised at their uninspired writing and ideas when I give them (or am required to give them) uninspired things to read and write about?

My idea to have all of my students, regardless of their level read and write about education and education reform has produced the most satisfying results for me as an instructor since I taught Manliness. And, it was my most challenging teaching experience since then, too. Were all the essays stellar examples of critical thinking and college-level writing? No. But, they all showed evidence of at least an attempt at both critical thinking and college-level writing. It didn’t earn them an A, but it did reinforce my belief that much of the time we expect too little from our students, Freshmen or otherwise.

For Part II, I ask, what can we expect from Freshmen?

Taking a Break for Conversations

I’m good at blogging; I’m not so good at engaging in conversations with those readers who are kind enough to comment on my blog posts. I’m also moving, and heading back up to the Great White North for the holidays. So, for Christmas vacation, I am going to take a step back from writing blog posts (I have a pile on tap for the New Year and New Semester, so don’t worry) and go through the comments I have received here and on Twitter about my posts, and actually engage with them. In other words, respond.

Happy Holidays!

What’s the Point of Freshman Writing?

This post is in response to a question asked on the Phi Beta Cons blog.

I am sorry that you don’t see the point of courses like Freshman Writing. But you’ve never met my students. You’ve never met the students who come to the non-selective institutions of higher education in this country, in other words, the majority of them. And you most definitely have not gone through the K-12 system that currently values standardized test scores over real writing skills. Look at the statistics. The majority of students are not prepared for college work. They need remediation (look at California and New York’s numbers). Well then, give them remediation, you say. After one semester, have these students really overcome 12 years of educational deficiency?
And, really, even those who don’t need remediation. Are they really that far ahead of their peers in remedial or developmental courses? Are they ready to face the demands of a college degree, the level of writing that will be required of them? Not really, given the tyranny of the standardized test and the standardized essay. They do the five-paragraph essay over and over again. And then they are expected to succeed in a college humanities class?  
These are not students who have parents who have paid for academic coaches, SAT tutors, and admissions councilors. These are often students who are the first in their family to finish high school, let alone attend college. They are not the best and the brightest. They are often not the ambitious and highly motivated. But they are all motivated by the same goal: to build a better life for themselves. And the way to do that, they have been told repeatedly, is to go to college. 
It is the end of the semester, and I am saddened by the number of students who have written to me that I am the first teacher they have had who has given a crap about them, their writing, and their education. I am the first teacher who has tried to explain to them how to properly use a comma or what a sentence fragment is. That they learned more in my 15-week class than four years of high school. That they never believed that they could write until they came into my class. I have taught at three different public universities in three different states. I received the same kinds of comments from the majority of my students at all three.
As for the class refer to at UNC, I think you need to take any student’s description of a class with a grain of salt. It actually sounds like the instructor tried to engage with the students in a way that was relevant to where the future of humanities is going (whether we like it or not): the digital humanities. Also, instead of droning on and on and on in a boring lecture format, the instructor invited the students to step outside the classroom and explore educational events on campus. Freshmen especially need to know what resources are available to them on campus, whether they think they are going to be interested or not. To then ask students to work together and shape their own learning experience? The nerve, forcing the students to be active, independent learners. I hope she didn’t trip over her sense of superiority while she overlooked an opportunity to engage in some creative and critical thinking, something that is no longer valued in high school.
I am not absolving the instructor for not giving the course as advertised and failing to provide more guidance to the student in question (did she even ask, however?). But notice how I avoid talking about the instructor as a professor; that is because it was made clear that the instructor of the course was a PhD student. This is one of the biggest problems with how Freshman Writing is taught in many institutions, both selective and non-selective. Professors are too busy with their research, graduate students, and upper-level courses to teach Freshman Writing, so instead it is passed off to underprepared graduate students or over-worked adjuncts (often, but not always, they are one and the same). If professors aren’t willing to take the courses seriously enough to teach them (even though it was they who demanded that the courses be offered because, presumably, they noticed that students couldn’t write well enough), then how seriously will a graduate student take them, when their sole goal is to emulate their professors? 
Perhaps Freshman Writing is a waste of some students’ time, but for the majority, it is a necessity to make up for years of standardized testing and sub-standard teaching. As for poor teachers of Freshman Writing or poor course/assignment design, blame a system that doesn’t prioritize teaching. There are many, many of us out there who do try to teach it well, and most of us are off the tenure-track. Reading your post and the student’s post remind me of how thankless and disrespected a task I chose to take on. Reading many of my students’ thanks, I am reminded of why I love what I do.

End-of-Semester Advice for Writers

The semester is coming to an end. My developmental writers are getting ready to hand in their last essays. Most have shown great improvement and proven that they can write at a level that will mean success at the college level. They are more confident writers who are no longer intimidated by having to write “formal” essays for class. They are more critical and active readers who are more adapt at approaching their work, more aware of the need to adapt their skills depending on the task at hand. 

Which I know they will promptly forget how to do the moment they leave my class. Or they will become over-confident in their abilities. Or, they will let college life get the better of them, with teachers who (rightfully) don’t build in a lot of time for revision and feedback for assignments. 
One of my biggest pet-peeves is when a professor from another department learns that I teach developmental writing and tells me that we’d better start doing a better job because their students in nursing/engineering/history/whatever can’t write. My answer is now that they could write when they left my classroom. Whether or not they choose to write well in other classes is another issue all together.
My advice to students who are moving on from their developmental writing class or even the more traditional Freshman Writing course is to allow yourselves the opportunity to succeed. Don’t hand in your “first draft” that you wrote the morning before class. Proofread. Adjust your tone. Make sure you’re following directions. Don’t write the same paper for every class. Practice writing any and every chance you get. And remember that a professor can’t evaluate your ideas if they can’t understand them through your writing. 
I’ve taught my students methods and strategies to be successful college writers. We’ve practiced them and they have seen that they work. Keep using them in every class. Please. Your college success depends on them. 

Teaching Writing and Editing Writers

My students’ blog assignment has put in a strange position, caught somewhere between their teacher and their editor. My original “training” was as a professional writer, and part of that training was learning how to edit. I edited our program’s newspaper. I’ve worked as an editor before. I’ve edited a book. I can’t say I ever enjoyed that work, nor that I was any good at it. So it wasn’t with much heartbreak that I gave up heavily editing my students’ work when I became a teacher. 

But now that I am the administrator for the blog my students are contributing to, I have an old, familiar urge to edit. The missing (or extra) comma. The sentence fragment. The misused word. All of it. I just want to go in a fix it. Or, going further, fiddling with a sentence here or there to improve it. Or cut a word or sentence that doesn’t work or fit. I know better, and I have promised myself and my students that, outside of formatting, I wouldn’t change their work.
Before you get upset about my impulse to “improve” the students’ writings, know that that is the role of the editor. When I worked as a paid intern for an online newspaper, I was shocked and devastated when I got my first writing assignment back from the editor completely marked up and changed. This was the first time I had really had my writing critiqued in this way. I dutifully made the changes, recognized that the writing was better (but at that point, I also thought what I had written was fine, too), and tried to grow some thicker skin. 
The editor is a thankless job, because the byline always goes to the author. But what I try to make my students realize is that most works of writing they read are the result of a long process that often involves a lot of people. While we do peer review and revise drafts of our essays, I can’t get the students to really edit their own or even their peers’ work. Part of it has to do with the idea of plagiarism; these kids have been taught to only submit their own, original work, lest they face some very severe consequences. But why can’t or won’t they collaborate in order to make their writing better? Is it because I haven’t provided a model for them to follow?
And, what is my role in the collaboration? Where is the balance between coaching my students to improve and actually getting in there doing the dirty work of revising and improving a students’ writing. And would I be doing it for them or with them? This blogging assignment has forced me to think about how much work I still have to do in figuring out how to best help my students become better writers.

My fifty-foot paperclip made of foam rubber

My advanced-level writing students had one final assignment to do after their education reform blog posts; I asked them to design (or redesign) their own university-level course. The bulk of the assignment would be spent justifying their choices (How will it be taught? By whom? Where? How will students be evaluated? What assignments/work will students do? What are the learner outcomes?), but this assignment was an opportunity for the students to re-imagine the university course as they know it.

When we first started talking about education reform in class, I showed them Sir Ken Robinson’s animated video about changing the education paradigm. In it, he talks about divergent thinking and asks how many different uses we can think of for a paper clip. The idea is that if you can imagine the paper clip to be “fifty feet tall and made of foam rubber,” among other ways, then you are pretty good at divergent thinking (and thus are more likely to be creative). I told my students, this assignment is your opportunity to try imagine your own fifty-foot paper clip made of foam rubber and what could be done with it.
Like this class was for me.
Look, I know that for a lot of people, assigning students a blog post instead of an essay and having them read up on and write about current events isn’t groundbreaking. In fact, more often than not, my class resembled any other typical university writing class. Part of the reason is because the class is considered a general education course, and thus has to meet a whole list of university-imposed guidelines, standards, and learning outcomes. And, being a new, non-tenure-track instructor, there is only so much boat-rocking I am willing to do, just in case.

But, creating this class was still a challenge and an adventure for me. It was unlike any writing course I had taught before. I experiemented, and it seems to have paid off. Next semester, who knows what the course will look like? I’m learning as I go, and expanding what I am willing (and able) to do. I’m also hoping that my students will offer some ideas in their assignments.

Their ideas for courses sound great so far. One student thinks it would be a good idea to offer a cooking class for Freshmen. Another wants there to be a general education course in debating, to teach students how to argue and listen effectively and not just yell at each other. And yet another wants to bring students out into the field to do local sociological studies. I am eager to see how they imagine delivering the course; will it be the same-old lecture-essay-test format that so many of the class they have taken use, or will they try to move beyond that?

I told my students that I was going to miss them and this class when the semester ends next week. The course wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if they hadn’t been willing to come along with me for the ride. I had two sections, forty students, who have worked really hard and have been fantastically receptive to my crazy ideas. Part of my goal in this class was to show them what their education could be. I think that another small goal was to show myself, too.