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February 10, 2012: Ain’t No Dispatch like the Dispatch I got

Today, for the first time ever, I’m drawing a blank on what to include in this dispatch. I usually rehearse or work on what I’m going to say in the morning, when I’m cleaning the horse pen. It was not that I drew a blank this a.m.; but rather; I was obsessing about teaching.

Teaching, like writing involves rehearsal. I have taught four differing classes at one time, which was a bit too much rehearsal for me. Teaching one class is a whole lot easier in this sense, for I can focus on the one class. I’ve never before taught Animal Behavior, so the subject matter is new. What’s interesting is that it can be taught in a way similar to how English classes should be taught, that is relying heavily upon the use of group work.

I fully understand why some teachers eschew group work – for one thing, it

takes time to get people organized. For another thing, the degree of participation on the part of students always varies. And, students often bond, with unpredictable results. It’s far easier to give them the information in lecture form, and then test them on the material.

I’m having the students collaborate and give short presentations. They’re to get me their notes – I’m summarizing them and stating what’s important in terms of the midterm. The midterm will take the form of three written responses. In essence, they are contributing to course content, by sharing what they’ve gleaned from the week’s reading, and from their own personal experience.

I’ve not taught in an academic setting for ten years, so I thought that I’d have forgotten much of what I know about how to structure a class. But that’s come back easily to me. This is what’s most interesting. I used to use a great deal of negative reinforcement. I didn’t take late papers and was very strict on attendance. This was in an attempt to save myself time. This time around, I’m focusing on the use of positive reinforcement. So far, so good. The class has a good feel to it, and I feel invested in putting as much time and energy into it as time allows.

I’m also trying to learn to use Blackboard, which allows me to post and share readings and assignments. Once again, I am shinnying up the learning curve. How dull life would be if I was always in my comfort zone. I start to chaff when that happens.

So there we go – an account of what I’ve been thinking about. The class did go well today, and after, I felt good about it. Pete and I went for a ride when we got home – he rode Siggi and I rode Signy. They were happy to get out. I need to work more with both -- soon spring will be here and we’ll be able to go farther afield.

It’s slowly dawning on me that Signy is going to have a foal. I alternate between thinking the best and thinking the worst. Dr. Farris once cautioned her students that they ought not breed their beloved mare because sometimes things go wrong. Oh, oh – every day I love Signy a bit more. Fortunately, she’s had many foals before, and knows what to do. Horses, they too are good teachers.

67. 2/11/12: The February Thaw