Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teaching is Collaborative

It’s easy to forget because in the majority of the time I spend on my teaching work, I am physically alone. The preparation and the grading are solo pursuits, the solo-er the better when it comes to grading, since when I’m in the thick of a stack of essays and absorbed in the task, I’m in a kind of non-responsive void.

But a post last week discussing my grading method and philosophies drew a number of thoughtful and thought-provoking comments – many of which I agree with, a couple of which I find personally abhorrent – but all of which caused me to consider this aspect of my teaching practice more deeply.

I recognized the discussion as a kind of collaboration, at least it served that purpose for me. It allowed me to challenge and then clarify my own thinking, to put some of my unstated assumptions into explicit statements of personal pedagogical principle[1].

I realized something that should’ve been obvious, that whenever I am engaging in the duties of teaching, my actions are the byproducts of collaboration.

When I write an assignment, I am using the principles of design that Prof. Marlene Preston taught me during my time at Virginia Tech. When I am letting my enthusiasm for a subject loose on my students, I am collaborating with John Wood, the director of my graduate program who would shatter chalk on the board doing scansion and could move himself to tears reciting a poem out loud.

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