I'm halfway through my first semester teaching freshman comp. I'm great at one on one workshops, talking through essays, giving feedback. What I'm not so good at is getting them to be excited about the reading. Enthusiasm might be a bit much -- but you know, curiosity? Interest? They're bright kids, but sometimes they look at me as if I'm in the process of slowly driving a stake through the heart.
What I'm mostly concerned about:
1. Basic participation -- getting people to actually DO THE READINGS, so that they can actually talk meaningfully about the texts. Short of mandatory participation (which I think kind of defeats the point), what's the best way to get the level of participation that *is actually mandatory* for good discussion?
2. Making class discussion meaningful-- What happens when they want to talk about how this relates to the movie they saw last weekend?
3. Gauging how much I should actually care about this?
I'm really interested in hearing from other people who have concrete improvement stories -- I've got lots of examples of "great teachers I've had" that I can draw on, but that doesn't really help in figuring out how to replicate this yourself, you know?
What you might need to know:
1. The class is structured around 3 essays, in which they gradually integrate more sources into their essays, and develop their own arguments based on the texts we're reading. The texts are a mix of popular (New Yorker) style criticism and more concrete academic work - Susan Sontag, Anthony Appiah, etc. Strong emphasis on "current affairs"
2. Most of the problems (in class and in papers) have to do with analytic reading -- getting them to sit through, parse, and then use arguments from other texts. In other words, writing is not strictly the problem (though I'm mining this post
and this post
3. Not surprisingly, nobody likes this class. Including the grad students who have to teach it. We try to suppress this as much as possible, but it's pretty much a given that by the second week, they've figured this out. This, I understand, is a problem.
Thanks in advance!