Director’s Letter

CATEGORIES: Foundation Courses
Lesley Erin Bartlett (Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Dear all,

As someone who lives by an academic calendar, I usually lose September completely in the rush of starting a new semester, meeting new students, and facing myriad summer-is-over demands on my time and attention. Poof! What happened to September? Where did it go? I’m guessing many of you can relate.

This year, I have intentionally been more present in September. What is happening right now? ENGL 150 students and instructors have been working on personal narratives, and now they are starting profiles. ENGL 250 students and instructors are finishing up rhetorical analyses and looking toward research projects. I imagine students are feeling curious and perhaps anxious about getting grades on their first major assignments, and instructors may be feeling the same way about grading.

As we find our footing in the new semester, I encourage you to reflect on how teaching is going so far. What is going well that you want to carry forward into the rest of the semester? What might benefit from a quick reset? It’s not too late to make a change that will benefit you and your students—and it’s not too early either. Now could be a great time to try one or more of the following ideas:

  • Send a few encouraging emails to students whose attendance has fallen off. Let them know their presence and engagement are important.
  • Send a few encouraging emails to students who are doing really well. Let them know you have noticed and appreciate their contributions.
  • Take 5 minutes at the end of class and ask students to write an exit slip. What is working well for you so far in our class? What is helping you learn? What could I clarify or change to help you learn better?
  • Find a grading partner or group, and make a date to grade alongside each other. Coffee shops and libraries are great places for a quiet grading party.
  • Send me or Amy Walton an email to set up a time to talk over that teaching issue or idea that you can’t stop thinking about.

These are just a few of many possibilities to try as you compose your teaching life this semester. As always, thank you for the work you do.

All best,