Another semester is upon me, and I'm jumpy.
Those of you who followed this blog last semester know that I totally revamped my approach to my undergraduate courses. I added some more challenging assignments, but compensated by putting in a lot more scaffolding and a replaced a few of my lectures with one-on-one tutorials in the upper-division classes. And it had exactly the opposite effect from what I was aiming for: low performance and (more recently) the lowest evaluation scores I've ever gotten in over ten years of university teaching. To add injury to insult, one of my bread-and-butter classes was, for the first time ever, canceled, as a result of catastrophically low enrollment. The fact that students are staying away in droves may not have anything to do with my new approach. On the other hand, it might.
It has been, to say the least, demoralizing. This is made worse by a quirk of my own personality: I'm such a freak about personal accountability that when something like this happens, my first internal response is "What am I doing wrong?" Part of me simply refuses to consider that it might not be (entirely) my fault.**
But you know what? I've looked at it from every angle, and even consulted with other people in my department, and I've reached the conclusion that I did it right last semester, perhaps righter than I've ever done before. So what if I got handed the utterly-grueling-for-everyone-concerned boot camp course two days ago in order to replace the underenrolled course? You know what? I'm going to go into that course and kick some instructional ass. I will not listen to the one colleague who I know will tell me that I'm expecting too much, and ought to give up the research paper requirements, because I know that having my favorite courses fill is not the point: it's about what the students are learning, rather than the ego boost that comes with having popular courses. I'm going to be the best classroom teacher I know how to be, and if that's not enough, then fuck it. Because I can't do any more than that.
Watch out, semester: I'm going to take you down.
**This applies to areas of my life other than teaching, but that's a post for another day -- or more probably, never.