Sunday, November 15, 2009

Midterm Letter

Dear FNED 346,

I have been meaning to write you back — collectively — in response to your thoughtful midterm letters. I am glad to hear that this course has been a generally positive experience for almost all of you. While you have individual issues, concerns and suggestions, for the most part, you are all finding FNED 346 to be a meaningful experience. You feel valued by me and by your peers; you feel comfortable speaking out (even though you don't like the "requirement" to talk once every class period!); and you feel like you are invested in our course. I am so glad.

Here are a few highlights from your letters:

COMMUNITY: There was a resounding sentiment of community that permeated your letters. "I feel like our class is a little family." Many of you mention the large circle and our frequent small group work as a factor in building that sense of comfort. "I have friends in this class" because we have had a chance to get to know each other. As one of you noted that we have learned this lesson in theory -- through reading and through my constant preaching (!) -- and through the example we practice together in the classroom.

Overwhelmingly, you report that your SL experience is the "best part" of this course. Our lengthy discussions "make class not boring" and "relieve tension" that comes with your work in the schools. Some of you wish we talked more about SL each week, to make sure everyone has a chance to share. "It is when I am working with the kids at my school when I realize just how much I have learned in this class".

Many of you say that you really love the blogs. They provide a "foundations for our discussions" and they offer you a "technology teaching tool for (your) future classroom." One person even said, "I realize that not only does the blog hold us accountable for actually reading, but it really helps me understand better." Several of you said that "reading peers' responses helps a great deal" when you are stuck. It is time consuming though -- "I like blogging but it can be distracting because I will then go on other sites and find myself sitting longer than I have to."

However, at least as many of you really dislike the blogging. You find them "annoying" and particularly burdensome if you don't have a computer at home. "Why do we spend the whole class talking about it if we have to blog, too?" One of you suggested that I move to a policy where you can choose 7 of the 10 blogs to complete or that I drop the comments requirement which seems to stress many of you out. While you seem to feel annoyed at having to comment on other people's blogs, many of you also say you love getting comments -- "I get all excited when classmates comment on my blog!"

I was interested to hear 4 of you say that the syllabus for this class really helps you stay organized. And also that many of you report that taking notes in this class is a rarity -- you say that you get enough out of listening and absorbing out discussions which takes the memorization pressure off of you.

Finally, here are the general comments that show me what is working in this course:
  • "I find what we learn is memorable and useful"
  • "I would like to be the teacher that reads King and King and has an age-appropriate discussion about it"
  • "I want my students to feel like I 'have their backs'"
  • "I want to help in the fight to change the world"
  • "I can't believe how much I have changed as a person in the last month"
  • "I feel like I will definitely be a better teacher because of this class"
  • "This class is making me a more perceptive and generally understanding human being"
Keep up the good work. I am grateful for your honesty and your dedication to your own learning!

See you on Tuesday!

LB :)

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