Monday, May 09, 2011

That quiet class, addendum

I blogged about my 16th and in some ways final Chaucer class (final in the sense that I will completely reinvent the thing when I return from my teaching hiatus). I observed that I've never had so much trouble keeping a lively conversation flowing, no matter how many pedagogical tricks I pulled from my increasingly theadbare sleeve. (And here let me note my gratitude to all those who left suggestions for future tricks to attempt: great, inspirational stuff.)

So here is the odd thing about the course. As unhappy as I was with its general feel, especially compared to its past incarnations (versions of which I bonded so closely with my students that I still remain in touch with them) ... Well, despite my dissatisfaction, the students who took the course loved it. The evaluations they turned in rated the class as highly as one can. In the comments sections students spoke with enthusiasm about their love of the material and how it was taught. Several slipped thank you cards into their final exams. A few others left beautiful notes at the end, or shook my hand as they left the classroom and told me how much they'd enjoyed themselves. In the past few days, many have sent me an email note of gratitude; they even waited until I'd turned in the grades so as not to seem like flatterers.

Clearly what I wanted and what the students desired were worlds apart this semester. Has this ever happened to you?


Emily K said...

Thank you for the post. This gives me such hope for the semester. I had a rather silent class,too, and a few of the students have mentioned that they really loved it.

holly said...

I've had one class react similarly to this. I waited for months to read the evaluations because I was certain they would be terrible. But they all spoke with genuine fondness about the subject matter and with appreciation for my enthusiasm. Color me surprised. Every attempt at creating dialoge or discussion failed, no one asked questions or made comments. They performed very well on exams and wrote thoughtful essays. They were just very introspective. Every now and then, someone from that class will email me to let me know they are in Europe looking at some structure we discussed (or tried to) in class. I print those emails out.

Oh, and once I had a young woman sitting in the front row directly in front of my podium who stared and scowled at me the entire semester without ever cracking a smile or making a comment. Her work was good, but her expression and lack of participation. She approached me at the end of our last day of class, still scowling, and said, "I just want you to know that this has been one of the best classes I've ever taken." Sometimes we just can't fathom what goes on inside our students' minds.