My failure to replace Google Reader with another kind of reader has meant that sometimes I forget to keep up with a blog I enjoy. I was catching up with Undine at Not of General Interest and followed her link to the Chronicle article “It’s the Little Things That Count.” This article was interesting to read as a former college instructor turned high-school teacher because some of the suggestions are about making college instructors more like high-school teachers, particularly the ones about exercising some control over the class environment and getting there early to greet students or staying late to chat afterwards. (Undine’s objection that college classroom thermostats appear “purely decorative” certainly jibes with my own experience at several different institutions.) There were a certain number of “well, duh” items (act focused and enthusiastic even if you don’t feel that way? How can I expect them to act focused and enthusiastic if I can’t be bothered even to fake it?), but I loved the image of this passage:
Entering the classroom is sometimes like entering a dark room with a lit candle. At first the room appears very dark and you cannot see much. But gradually the shadowy room fills with candlelight and objects become increasingly visible and identifiable. When you enter the classroom or start a new activity, give students a chance to warm up. Let the candlelight do its job.
One of my more hippie-ish SA colleagues had a practice of a moment of silent centering before class. It was very effective for her. I don’t do it all the time, but sometimes I do take the temperature of the room and have my students take a minute to take a few deep breaths and refocus on what’s in front of us. Or, as I have mentioned, sometimes I will give them a couple of minutes to finish up conversations.
It occurs to me that I don’t always end as thoughtfully as I begin. Sometimes I end a couple of minutes early, sometimes in a rush, and I have a terrible habit of forgetting to hand back graded assignments–a real annoyance when I have worked hard to finish grading so that I can hand them back! It’s usually effective, though, to reflect on what we’ve done, to think about what comes next, and (of course) to remind them about the homework. I know that as class ends, they’re thinking about what comes next–maybe I could occasionally try ending a minute early and giving them a minute to center themselves then? Something to think about.