Sometimes, we become so entrenched in what we do that we overlook things. Ok…recently I realized that I had become so entrenched in what I do that I had overlooked something in my teaching. But I bet it happens to us all.
See, the classes that I teach can vary. There are some that I have taught many, many times, and others I have taught less than a handful. But by and large, these classes have had one thing in common: The students generally knew each other.
I often teach classes that are situated in programs that are cohort based. Because they are cohort based, the students tend to know each other and often I am the odd-man out trying to learn who everyone is. And it’s been that way for 9.5 years. So when I wandered into The Politics of Reading, to teach it for the first time I didn’t think anything different. I had students introduce themselves, say what their major was, and add a bit about what they hoped to learn in the class. Then I got on with it.
I made the assumption that they knew each other (for the most part).
What I forgot is that while this course is situated in our education minor program, students do not move through the minor as a cohort nor do they take a set of prescribed courses. I was reminded of this when a student asked me if I could provide some class time for them to share – in whatever manner I saw fit – their experiences in school with each other. Her rationale was that they really didn’t know each other at all but, based on what was coming up in class discussions, it seemed like people had very interesting experiences that were worth hearing about.
A couple of things on this:
- I love that this student did this. It does not bother me when students provide input into the direction of the class so long as it makes logical sense for the class. Class is malleable as far as I’m concerned. So yes, we can do this.
- It hit me right in the face that I had been carrying around this assumption that they would mostly know each other based on the fact that all my other classes did.
- It made me wonder what other assumptions I am holding on to that, while probably not terrible, are not serving my teaching or students very well.
I haven’t yet figured out what other assumptions I am holding and how they are playing out, but I am sure they are there. And I see this event as a call to open my eyes a bit more and try to find them, to analyze them, and to respond to them in a way that makes sense.