I Can Get Some Satisfaction

Steve Volk, December 8, 2017

Earlier in the semester I surveyed  the faculty as to what you considered to be your greatest accomplishments as classroom teachers and what you drew the most satisfaction from. As the semester draws to a close today, I am publishing some of what you offered as an end-of-semester gift.  I hope you’ll take a moment to think about all you have accomplished over the course of the semester, and, indeed, over the course of your careers, whether just begun or long in the tooth.  In a somewhat bleak moment, you still have much to be pleased about, and your students much to be thankful for.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishments and satisfactions as a classroom teacher?

  • Students falling in love with my language.
  • [The] personal connection [I make] with the students; seeing students improve over time; occasional light-bulb moments in class.
  • I’m a tough grader. [I see on evaluations that] my students appreciated this.
  • Engaged learning — project based approaches in which students directly engage in projects that (in some small way) change the world, or engage in research in which they ask and answer important questions for which answers are not already known.
  • Creating new courses, and making changes to existing courses, that keep [Oberlin’s] curriculum near the cutting edge.
  • I’m never satisfied and I really hope that my greatest accomplishments are ahead of me. However, if I had to choose one thing that I think I do particularly well it is my application of the science of teaching and learning to my own teaching in the service of my students’ learning.
  • Small things. A discussion that goes particularly well, a student who improves her writing over the course of a semester.
  • Creating an engaging classroom environment, delivering interesting lectures and creating in-class demonstrations/exercises, introducing students to the power of statistics, and encouraging students who think they are “bad at math” to succeed.
  • Getting students excited about seeing the world differently.
  • Knowing that each of my students has received personal attention tailored to their individual learning.
  • Seeing students develop over the course of a semester. Hearing from students that a course truly helped them in later courses and even non-academic endeavors. My field gives me the privilege of getting to know and work with each student individually as the basis of the learning we accomplish in collaboration, and that is the most rewarding part.
  • Over the years I have arrived at (what feels like) a sense of clarity about what liberal arts education is for, and what the specific role of the humanities is within that education. This clarity has in turn clarified my teaching goals in the classroom and in individual conferences, the setting in which I spend about 75% of my teaching time.
  • Teaching students to become better writers & thinkers, and contaminate them with my love of the subject matter (language, lit, film, history).
  • Finding a way to combine lecture with discussion on a daily basis.
  • (1) Getting students to have great confidence in speaking a new language such that they learn it faster and more readily than in many beginning language classroom contexts; and 2) providing a context for undergraduates to engage meaningfully and purposefully in their college community.
  • I am not a classroom teacher, but when I coach groups, I would say it is when the kids get excited by the music and start to work hard on their own.
  • My upper level studio classes. I enjoy the subject matters [I teach] and have found ways to teach them very effectively.
  • Getting students to think differently and become excited about quantitative skills.
  • Teaching problem solving skills.
  • Inspiring students.
  • When students work hard and “get something,” figure something out that they hadn’t thought they could or never imagined would work out in such a way.
  • The success of my students, though I am not a classroom teacher.
  • Getting students excited about course material.
  • Meeting students ten years or more after
    graduation who tell me how valuable my classes were to them as a performer or scholar.
  • It is rewarding when students tell me that the class has been their favorite course at Oberlin or that it has changed their life for the better, but perhaps my favorite moment was after giving a guest lecture in [another professor’s] class, when a student told me how refreshing it was to hear a professor say that they didn’t know something.
  • People being excited about learning.
  • When students tell me that I have changed how they see the world; especially when they come back years later and say my lessons have stuck with them.
  • When the learning becomes a group project and you can feel the energy in the room explode with enthusiasm.
  • Serving as a positive role model for women in STEM; helping students to gain confidence in their own mathematical abilities.
  • When I orchestrate a situation in which I can see a student come to a realization or ignite a new passion.
  • Flipping an intermediate language course.
  • Finding a way to connect with students of different backgrounds and skill sets.
  • Getting students interested in the topics and helping them grasp difficult concepts.
  • Creating an environment where students can feel comfortable asking questions.
  • When students email me apropos of something they have seen, heard, or read outside of the classroom that they relate to things we’ve talked about.
  • Actually changing the way a student thinks, and fostering true self esteem, critical thinking and confidence in young people.
  • Learning from my students and watching them and me grow.



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