It’s Week 12 and tomorrow is Tax Day; we may be forgiven a certain lassitude. At this point in the semester we and our students can feel like travelers stuck on a bus trip that is taking way too long. No matter how fascinating we all found each other at the beginning of the journey, things may have gone a bit stale. Here are few quick tips for re-energizing your semester.
- Try something unexpected in class. One instant way to change the energy in the room? Music. Choose a piece of music to have playing as students enter the room—to hint at the topic of the day, to reduce anxiety before a test, or to reboot after a unit break. When I team-taught a super jumbo version of an introduction to religion class a few years ago, my colleague and I selected pieces to set the tone for our alternating lectures, David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” for my religion and gender session, k. d. lang’s “Constant Craving” for his on the Buddhist Four Noble Truths. It was a great way to build an affective relationship with so huge a group. Or ask your students to build a musical soundtrack for the topic under discussion, as this high school history teacher does.
- Shake up your relationship with classroom technology. If you regularly use clickers, video, live Tweeting, or even just humble PowerPoint, try going dark for a session. Or the reverse: fold one digital element into an otherwise low-tech class. (The incomparable and indefatigable Instructional Technology Consultants in TLP would be glad to help you think though an activity.) How would learning be reshaped by changing the way you, the students, and the course material interact?
- Feed your mind. We work at a university, where smart and creative people are doing smart, creative things every day. This is the forest all around us, but too often we can only see the giant task-shaped tree right in front of us. Check out the University Calendar, which you can conveniently filter according to your own proclivities: arts, athletics, lectures, tours, you name it. Tomorrow’s Middle East Studies Symposium and next week’s Turner Print Museum Student Print Exhibition do not relate directly to my area of teaching or research, but I suspect they will make me proud of our students, teach me something new, and help me remember why I chose an academic life—all of which are likely to make me a better teacher.
* Authored by Dr. Kate McCarthy.