Training 2.0: Professional Conversations through Social Media

Hotel Sindoor was the venue for the first-ever teacher training event that I attended, some time in 1994. I had just started teaching, right out of high school in conventional terms (after Intermediate college in Nepal).

Among other things, the trainers covered “how to use the blackboard effectively”: 1) make sure that students can see what you are writing while you are writing, 2) speak the words as you write, 3) pause and teach instead of continuing for long stretches, 4) ….

That training made me think for the first time that teachers are not people who have completed learning! The fact that a seemingly straightforward act like writing on the chalk board had so much to learn about inspired me to go to more and more training events in the years to come. I have since tried not to miss actual training sessions, orientations, norming sessions, guest lectures, brown bag discussions, emergency meetings, reviews, etc. Indeed, since the training at Hotel Sindoor in 1994, I have always considered any part of department meetings, hallway conversations, email exchanges, difficult class periods, students facing or posing special challenges . . . lunch/dinner or party conversation that bring up issues of teaching as a “teaching training,” for continued professional development. I take the “consider as training” view because the explicitly “training” events are few and far between when I consider how much more I have to know than just writing on the chalkboard, when I consider how dramatically the variety of students and variety of courses have expanded in my teaching career.  read full post…

Good Writers, Bad Grades

For quite some time, I’ve seen an interesting pattern among students who said that they were “good writers,” but unfortunately they don’t receive a good grade at the end of the semester, which I wish they did. As a writing teacher, I don’t want these confident writers to change their self-perception in any of my writing courses. But I have to grade all students on the basis of the assignment’s instructions and objectives as they are specified in advance.

The case of a self-described “good writer,” Brian (not his real name), has been the most memorable one among those of students who somehow couldn’t write well in spite of their claims and, presumably, backgrounds as good writers. read full post…

Butterfly Moment in the Classroom

I don’t have a better way to describe this highly satisfying situation in teaching than to call it the “butterfly moment.”

No, that’s not an established English idiom– I just made up one for describing moments like the one below. Moments when teaching turns into learning, as it were. Moments when students’ sense of ownership of their learning breaks out of the larvae of all the things that I’ve been demanding of them and takes flight like butterflies. Butterflies of what they want to learn, how they want to conduct their learning, why they want it. read full post…

“Here’s Why I Am in College”

Almost every semester, I have a student whose behavior or activity in class throws my teaching off its balance, more or less significantly. Some of these students dominate class discussion, others fall asleep during class, and yet others are consistently late to class. As a teacher, I like the “challenging” situations that these students create because, at least in hindsight, I realize that they create the opportunity for me to become a better teacher: when faced with those situations, I have to come up with new/better ways to address the issue, and the solutions often add significant benefits for the class as a whole. read full post…

Maybe the box doesn’t exist

I just had another student today who used a common trope that many, many students have used for describing themselves over the years: “I am not the academic type.”

This student had served in the navy for six or seven years before returning to the university. He said that he wanted to get a degree in electrical engineering, but he was worried that he may have lost his academic footing while he was away. A non-native speaker of English, at times it seemed as if he ascribed his anxiety to his language proficiency/identity but he said that he was not worried about his language per se when I asked him. This gentleman was, clearly, academically brilliant in my view. The problem: he somehow didn’t think he was even capable of catching up with the rest of his (regular, younger) peers. read full post…

International Students: Surprising Numbers

It’s not surprising that the US is a leading competitor in international student enrollment, but if you start looking into the figures, some things are quite surprising. Here are some.

In 2010/11, the number of international students in the U.S. reached a record high of 723,277, with a 32% increase since 2000/01. (IIE, Open Doors Report, 2011). In 1955, this number was about 48,000! Currently, the tiny nation of Nepal, which is No. 11 on the world list for international students to the U.S.—plus, okay, my home country—sends about a fourth of that number of students every year; China alone sends almost three times as many students today. read full post…