Summer Vacation

Every year I complain about summer coming to an end too quickly. Teaching highlighted the cause of my angst. Relying on the solstice was the problem. Summer starts when the spring semester ends.

Before I started teaching, my involvement with students has been limited to the occasional guest lecture. Whether classes were in session or not, my job was the same. Other than days the university closed for business, the academic calendar had no impact on my life.

Preparing to teach a real class for the first time since graduate school more than thirty years ago kept me busy last summer. After classes started, teaching my one little class was like running a marathon. The pace was grueling. Toward the end, I wasn’t sure I could make it to the finsih line.

But I did. Much of winter break was devoted to revamping class for spring. The going was easier the second time around, but still all-consuming. My final exam was May 7th. Grading took most of that day and the next. I still have to work, but my summer offically began on May 10.

The biggest challenge has been figuring out WHAT to teach. I stuck to the book the first go around with less than stellar results. For spring, I dropped less important topics, added a few I thought were missing, and devoted extra time to the most difficult content.

The changes made a difference. Grades were much better. Students were less likely to miss class too.

Having fingured out WHAT to teach, I’m going to work on HOW to teach. Instead of encouraging discussion, I’m all lecture. Like that’s not bad enougn, I talk fast because I’m afraid of running out of time. My poor students are too busy taking notes to ask questions.

I’ve got several ideas for class activities. Students would have fun doing blind comparisons of national brands, store brands, and generics. Products like Q-tips or toilet paper would be easy to do in class. If I can figiure out a cheap way to do it, I’d like to do consumables like cranberry juice, cereal, or fruit spreads.

Even with 50 students, the cost of the item isn’t much. It’s the materials needed for the blind tests: plastic bags, cups with lids, napkins, etc. I’ve got all summer to figure something out.