Friday, June 15, 2007

On With the Show

I taught my first two classes this week. Things went pretty well, I think. Once things got under way, I felt fairly comfortable. Oddly enough, the second day of teaching felt more awkward than the first. Perhaps because I had to do more actual teaching—not so much introductory stuff. Actually, I take that back. The first half of the second day felt more awkward than the first day. As for the second half of the second day, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, I experimented with a PowerPoint presentation at the end of my class, and it made all the difference in the world. Instead of getting the random, mumbled, and unintelligible answers I was getting as a response to most of my questions, the students seemed to perk up, pay attention, and participate avidly. I was quite amazed at the difference, actually. And I think I felt a bit more at ease, too. Instead of having one sheet of lecture notes for the whole entire class period, I could just glance at the screen and see exactly what I wanted to talk about right that minute. Very cool.

So, here’s the problem. Most projects that I undertake tend to become quite laborious in my hands. I think I have perfectionist tendencies even if perfection isn’t always my target. In short, I obsess over and devote too much time to projects, but I don’t necessarily get the payoff. Not the best combo, but oh well. To digress, I probably invested an insane amount of time into the little slideshow that I did present. Because of the overwhelmingly positive response I received, and because I too felt empowered by my use of technology, I now feel like I should do a slideshow for every class. And not just incorporate a slideshow into class, but basically have the entire class taught parallel with the slideshow. One of the best classes I had as an undergrad utilized PowerPoint every single class for the whole class period, and I loved it. It is engaging. I learned a lot. If my students like it just as much as I did, I feel I should return the favor and give them what they want. It just means I might spend even more time prepping for class than I ever expected. I think it will pay off when I’m actually teaching, but it might prove rather overwhelming outside of class time.

I told the students I was no PowerPoint expert, which is quite true. I just fumbled along figuring out how to use the program as I went. It’s surprising what you can learn by doing this. The presentation I made for Monday is fancy shmancy compared to last week’s. We’re talking moving graphics, pictures, everything. Maybe it’s a bad idea to get this creative right off the bat. Once you’ve given people a reason to have high expectations of you, you’re pretty much stuck keeping up to them.

One thing will keep me from seeming too professional, however. Those stupid pull-down screens upon which the slideshow is to be presented. I don’t have a problem with window blinds, so I don’t know why these things have to be so drastically complicated. When Melanie still taught Kindergarten, I got her world map stuck in the down position and couldn’t get it to ravel back up. Eventually, they had to replace it. After my Wednesday class, I wasn’t able to ravel the screen back up either. The directions tell you to pull it all the way out, hesitate, and then slowly release it. Well, trying to pull it all the way out, I ended up with it dragging across the floor. It never went back up, but I didn’t dare keep trying to pull it “all the way out” as the directions so kindly recommended. Finally, I just had to leave it, like a giant curtain that was several inches too long. I’ll find out Monday if the next teacher was able to fix it. But my question is, do I try using the screen again and just hope I’ll eventually know how to get it to go back up? Or do I just make us watch the slideshow on the whiteboard? I’ll let you know what happens, but feel free to cast your vote. Or your advice, if you know some trick of the trade that will prevent me from ending up in that situation again.

Until next time…


  1. Powerpoints can be a great help, just make sure to use them as highlights and not read from them. Some of my worst teachers all they did was read the exact wording off of the powerpoint presentations. If you need some help with then, I do know a bit about powerpoint.

  2. I have read your blog...just want you to know. I have no tips to offer whatsoever. As for that danged screen, try just pulling it down a little bit and then releasing it to go back up before it catches to stay put. It sounds like the Venetian blinds and I always get mad working them.

  3. Disclaimer: Don't hate me now but... I can't stand power point -- not to ruin your day or power point stride or anything :)

    Here's why. Power Point always strikes me as practically screaming, "Dummy!" As is, me as the student, sitting there, listening to the teacher talk when the same words they're saying out loud are written in huge font in front of me. It's like the teacher assumes:

    1) I can't read so the teacher should also say all the power point words aloud.

    2) Maybe I'm not listening so in case I can read but not listen the teacher should paste the words in front of me.

    What's more fly is when the teacher not only presents the PP on a screen and says the words aloud but ALSO hands out a handout with all the PP on it in notes. 3 times the overkill.

    This hatred of PP assumes that you as the teacher, says exactly the same things that are on the PP screen -- which in my case 98% of my teachers have continually done.

    But I have faith that one of favorite bloggers (aka Benny) would not do this and only uses said PP to enhance his teaching stylings.

    Wow, should I write a book on PP or what. Have you given any thought to teaching through interpretive dance (just kidding) well, half kidding don't tell me you woulden't pay to see certain teachers do this.

    BTW after this long rant. I'm sure you will be a great teacher! PP or not; you're smart, insightful and nice (good mix for a teacher).

  4. P.S See the above post. This is what happens when bloggers take a break. They aren't writing so I suppose they just strew a bazillion long comments out into other blogs. Hmmm.

  5. Darnded screens! I am no good at those things either. One of the first "discussion" things I taught in college had one that was electronic! There was some key hidden somewhere in the room that needed to be turned. OF course, the screen covered most the chalkboard- what I needed to use and I could NOT find how to get it up. I think that was a day my supervisor decided to stop by too. I think he thought he would be helpful or supportive, being there on one of the first days. Yikes!

    Anyway, Mac and Jennifer have some good points- power points! haha... I think you will do great. If it works for you, use it. I think it's all about style and it sounds like it helped your students. So good luck!

    I'm excited for your next blog about the screen vs. whiteboard. Way to leave us dangling and wanting more!

  6. I agree with Jennifer and Mac, but my two favorite teachers in high school also used powerpoint heavily, so I'm not so jaded. I love powerpoint-you can add in music and crap, cool pictures. Sociology was much more interesting illustrated by scenes from Donnie Brasco and music by Beck.
    As for the whiteboard thing, it totally works. And if you want to make notes, you can just write on the board.
    I agree with Jak that just as learning styles are different, so are teaching styles. I've had teachers who used the Socratic method to great effect and others who did just lecture but were fascinating. Go with your gut.
    I understand the perfectionist thing totally because I am EXACTLY the same (Me? Like Ben? Weird! ;) )
    Anyway, miss you buddy. Love you.