Well, the numbers and class schedule for this year are posted. And as it looks right now, I’ve got about 130 students spread out over 6 classes (four sections of AP and 2 creative writing). I’m afraid of burning out. Last year was a hard year and going into my 15th year, I’m wondering how long I can keep up the pace.
It’s funny because I made mention of my burnout to the department chair and she listened with due diligence. As the time set in for next year (this year), the creative writing question came up and I said yes. I would like to build a program and get something really special going. To do so would be a challenge and I’m up for it, I’m just afraid of burning out.
When I started teaching, I would complain to my father about how I was surrounded by teachers who were burned out and complained all the time. I would talk about how passion is necessary and how fatigue can be overcome, etc…. My dad’s response was that most of those teachers started out just like me but had been chewed up and spit out by the system. At 23, I believed it, but didn’t understand it. Vygotsky would say I had a pseudo-concept of burnout. Well, I’m moving through the zone of proximal development and, 15 years on, am seeing and feeling what it really looks like.
Working with four new teachers (three officially and one unofficially) this past year was a pleasure. Each of them posses their own unique voice and vision as educators. And each of them are very dynamic in their own right. As such, working with them, I saw various aspects of myself across the personalities as they were discovering their voice, tempo, and aesthetic as teachers and pedagogues. It was through moments with them as a collective and in one on one conferences that I realized how far I’d come. 14 years is a long time and much changes. Part of the journey has been a concerted effort to not become cynical, not to burn out, not to jade. I hope I was successful modeling how beautifully challenging the journey can be. In doing so, I didn’t gloss over the frustrations or the complications of our charge. However, I hope I didn’t come across as a cynic.
I don’t want to feel like I’ve lost to the machine, that hope has been blown out by numbers and stoic administrators.
New research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer demonstrates that students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more. Across three experiments, Mueller and Oppenheimer had students take notes in a classroom setting and then tested students on their memory for factual detail, their conceptual understanding of the material, and their ability to synthesize and generalize the information. Half of the students were instructed to take notes with a laptop, and the other half were instructed to write the notes out by hand. As in other studies, students who used laptops took more notes. In each study, however, those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops.
What drives this paradoxical finding? Mueller and Oppenheimer postulate that taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning. Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture. Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information. Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention. By contrast, when typing students can easily produce a written record of the lecture without processing its meaning, as faster typing speeds allow students to transcribe a lecture word for word without devoting much thought to the content.
Study finds writing by hand helps learning. It also boosts creativity. (via explore-blog)
Great read. It is well worth reading the whole article. This will be part of my first week of class in the fall.
My annotations are about to photobomb your essay.
Sian Beilock, a psychologist who has studied and written about choking, argues that when we’re under a tremendous amount of pressure, anxiety over the prospect of failure floods the prefrontal cortex and overwhelms the brain’s capacity to do what should be second-nature.
"If we’re doing a task that normally operates largely outside of conscious awareness, such as an easy golf swing, what screws us up is the impulse to think about and control our actions," Beilock [says]. "Suddenly we’re too attentive to what we’re doing, and all the training that has improved our motor skills is for naught, since our conscious attention is essentially hijacking motor memory."
There’s also evidence that the brain’s hemispheres play a role in making us over-think. Automatic performance behaviors seem to be controlled by the right hemisphere, and “rumination” by the left. Because the right hemisphere controls movements of the left side of the body, one study found that athletes who squeezed a ball in their left hand before competing were less likely to choke. The squeezing somehow helped activate the automatic portion of the brain on the right.
The psychology of why we – and even Olympic athletes – choke.
Still, autopilot might prevent us from choking, but it also prevents us from improving.
Pair with this beautiful meditation on courage and the fear of failure.
There is fascinating stuff here for teaching. Perhaps this can explain some test anxiety for students who perform well in class, but not on tests.
"It comes back to the question, whom are you writing for? Who are the readers you want? Who are the people you want to engage with the things that matter most to you? And for me, it’s people who don’t need it all spelled out because they know it, they understand it. That’s why there’s so much I can’t read because I get so exasperated. Someone starts describing the character boarding the plane and pulling the seat back. And I just want to say, Babe, I have been downtown. (laughter) I have been up in a plane. Give me some credit."
Amy Hempel (via)
All to often, because students tend to write for an audience of one, they miss out on this important part of craft. This type of thing has been echoed by a number of authors.
Thanks to Austin Kleon for this great find.