Hitting My Stride

I’ve devoted more than half of my life to developing consumer education resources and providing training to teachers, county extension agents, and community educators. I do the occasional presentation for the pubic, but my audience is primarily professional educators. Or was.

Last year, I agreed to teach a one-credit overview of Family and Consumer Sciences for freshmen and transfer students. Reagan was in the Whitehouse when I last taught in the classroom. In truth, very little teaching was involved. Mostly I arranged for guest speakers from across the college.

After that experience, my department head asked if I could teach a 3-credit basic consumer course. I said I would, but only if I could keep teaching it. Putting a class together is a lot of work for a one-time effort. She agreed.

The first semester was rough — for me and the students. They didn’t learn half as much as I did. The textbook was my guide, but giving every chapter equal time turned out to be a mistake.

Based on experience and feedback from students, I made a lot of changes for the second semester. I rearranged the topics, cut some, added others, and devoted more time to a few. Running out of time was my biggest fear, but more often I finished my lectures with time to spare.

I made only minor changes for the third (and current) semester. Getting students more engaged has been my goal. Most classes include a fun activity related to the day’s topic. Instead of lecturing from my PowerPoint, I throw out questions to get the discussion going and then use my slides to wrap up and make sure I haven’t left out anything.

It’s hard to say for sure, but the students appear to be enjoying the class. They seem to pay attention, but in a few cases — judging from exam scores — the lights are on but nobody’s home. You can lead a horse to water….

Insisting on teaching the class all the time was a good idea. Mastering a college-level course takes time. Lectures, assignments and exams get a bit better with each new semester. I’d give myself a C+ for the first semester, a B- for the second, and a solid A at almost the midpoint of the third.

My colleagues like what I’ve done with the course and are great about sharing ideas to make it even better. They’re happy to see me excited about something again. Me too.