We have reached the end of the first week of classes. Normally, I don't even have work due on Friday in my classes, but because of the Martin Luther King Day holiday on Monday, there are some assignments that students are turning in today. Still, for me it definitely feels like I have reached the finish line in this week's crazy race - I dropped two students for non-attendance last night before going to bed, so all the folks who are on the roster today (91 total) are going to stay in the class, and I'm confident they'll get today's assignments turned in if they haven't already.
What I thought I would on Fridays in this blog is just to take a few minutes to look back on the week and figure out what things went well and what things I could improve the next time around! If I can reflect like that every week, I should be able to take away something useful for next semester.
Overall, I am VERY happy with the week - all the changes I made are good ones, and they made the week considerably smoother than last semester.
: I don't have any assignments due on Monday, but I was extra-vigilant this semester about contacting students to make sure they understood that they had assignments due on Tuesday. Although some people still had troubles on Tuesday, I don't think that for any of them it was a failure to communicate which was the cause of those problems.
: In creating their Bloglines accounts, a lot of students had trouble because the OU email system blocked the confirmation email from Bloglines. Very annoying - and unexpected, too. That did not happen last semester. I need to revise the instructions telling students what to do if they are having problems like that - I am actually tempted to require every student to open a Gmail account, exactly because of all the problems we have with our school email system (I already recommend Gmail as an extra credit tip
). Meanwhile, the Image Information quiz I used this semester was a huge success: it dramatically improved the quality of the Image Information citations in people's blog posts this week. I give myself an A+ for that innovation this semester! :-)
: I had only about 5 people on the "trouble" list for failing to do their Tuesday assignments (of those people, 1 got caught up by Friday, 2 dropped voluntarily, and I dropped 2 of them involuntarily on Friday). The Wednesday assignments themselves went super well. There was a big change here because in all three classes I had people explore the Storybooks from previous semesters to pick their favorites very early in the week - this was a GREAT thing to do. There is nothing like seeing past student projects to help people start imagining what their own project will be.
: Thursday evening was a real tussle with the two people I ended up dropping involuntarily. Ugh. But I don't have any regrets about that - there are just some people who register for class without any intention of doing work the first week of class. Maybe that is fine in a lecture class where you don't have to really engage your brain until the midterm, but that's not how my classes work. By dropping them Thursday night, they still have Friday to find another class to enroll in - and there are indeed plenty of classes where it really doesn't matter if you miss the first week or not (to me, that is a very sad indictment of college education in general... but that's a separate story, ha ha). One change I think I will make next semester to the Thursday blog post is to require an image with the story retelling - right now including an image is optional, but the stories with images are just inherently more fun than the stories without images. So, I'll put that change on the agenda for next semester!
: On Friday, everything slows down because people don't have to post in their blogs today so any possible technical difficulties disappear (although there were MANY fewer technical difficulties with the blogs this year because of changes I made to the instructions - I am happy with that, too!). I am very happy with the way the "Strategies for Success' assignment works today, but I am not entirely happy with the goal-setting. It's pretty clear that for almost all the students in the class, their only real goal is to get an A, and they are just kind of embarrassed to say that this is their only goal... I'm really not sure how to change that assignment, though, to get them to set goals beyond the grade. So I might just dispense with the goals part - the Strategies for Success is good and thought-provoking - I don't think the goal-setting is useful really, because who am I to break a 16-year pattern (these are college seniors) of having the grade and the goal be one and the same...? Still - I will put that on the list to ponder for next semester!
Anyway, I'm exhausted by the first week... but satisfied overall. The exhaustion comes from one simple fact: huge numbers of students don't read the instructions. I would guess about half of the students experienced at least one serious failure to read the instructions - especially at the beginning of the week. Some of them consistently failed to read the instructions, and I'm guessing at least one or two of those folks are going to fail the class. We'll see if that predication comes true... At the same time, there are students who sail through the week effortlessly - not because they are smarter than the other students or have any special virtues, except for that virtue of reading the instructions. I don't really know what to do about that; my main job during the first week of class is begging and pleading with the students to read the instructions, and praising them lavishly when they do so.
Luckily, once they realize the instructions really ARE worth reading, the second week is hunky-dory! And what luxury: a three-day weekend before the next week begins. I do like spring semester for exactly that reason. Whoo-hoo! :-)