The discussions, readings and podcast I was exposed to in this workshop helped me realize that I need to make some significant modifications to my fall semester syllabi in order to be more flexible and accommodating to my students’ need as well as in order to bring hope and positivity to the class.
With those two goals in mind, these are some of the changes I plan to incorporate in my classes this semester:
– Flexible deadlines: I’ll continue having a fixed deadline (Sunday at midnight) for students to submit their BB assignments for the week. I think this will give all of us structure and might make it easier to plan a schedule ahead of time for balancing academic work and personal commitments for the rest of the semester. However, I’m now also conscious of how important it is for me to be willing to reopen assignments in order to give more time to those students that, for whatever reason, failed to submit some of their work. I’m thinking I will make all BB tests available for a second attempt during the last two weeks of the semester. That will give everyone a chance to review the material and finish any work they might have pending.
– Open-theme writing assignments: I teach a Spanish writing intensive course and I usually encourage students to write about personal and even difficult topics in this class. During the workshop I was made aware of the fact that even though some students might value being asked to reflect on themselves and get in touch with their feelings, not all of them might be ready or open to go there. So I have decided to change my current informal writing tasks and replace them with an open-themed journal. I feel this will still force students to write on a weekly basis and will still give them a semi-private space (I’ll be the only one reading what they write) to talk about any difficult situation/emotion they might be experiencing if they choose to do so.
– Reduced teaching content: As I review my syllabi for this semester, I have to confess that I am having a very hard time eliminating content. However, I do realize that at the present time students might be having difficulty concentrating and retaining information and that, therefore, less could be more. I am going to keep working on lightening my courses in terms of curriculum but also of the number of tests and tasks I assign per week.
– Eliminating timed-tests: All my online classes used to have a midterm and final timed-exam. I always tried to design those test so that students had just enough time to complete them but not so much that they could switch to Google in search of the answers. I am now going to eliminate those exams from my courses this semester. I’ll be assessing their reading comprehension as well as their orthography/grammar skills solely through non-timed activities spread throughout the entire semester.
– Stories with a positive outlook: During this workshop I noticed that a significant number of the stories I share with student by means of the movies or readings that I assign might be contributing in a very negative way to their feelings and outlook on life. Since our last meeting, I’ve been searching for new materials to try to contra-balance what might be a somewhat inherent Hispanic tragic sense of life with a more optimistic approach. As a result of this search, my curriculum will now incorporate the books Yo no soy tu perfecta hija mexicana and La trenza, as well as the following three films: La estrategia del caracol, El hijo de la novia and Campeones.