If you made a new semester resolution, what would it be?
— Nathan Palmer (@sociologysource) January 8, 2014
I used to love to burn down my classes at the end of every semester and rebuild it anew. As I taught each semester I would see all of the problems, weaknesses, and areas for improvement and I’d convince myself that all my classes sucked and had to be jettisoned and never spoken of again. Looking back I now see this as a form of pedagogical self-flagellation. It’s also a sort of academic Groundhog Day where every semester I am stuck trying to get my legs underneath me.
My new semester’s resolution is to write down all of those problems, weaknesses, and areas for improvement that you can only see in the moment, while you’re teaching. I’ve created what I titled a A.F.I. (Areas for Improvement) file for each of my classes that will serve like a letter to my future self to open once the semester is over. I want to use this space as a place to both document bugs in the class and as a space to dream about how I might dramatically restructure the class.
From here out, instead of a slash and burn approach, I resolve to use my A.F.I. lists to improve my classes in an iterative fashion. Instead of trying to birth the perfect class each semester, I want to develop a 3–5 year plan and evolve my classes as I go. This seems like a much more humane approach to professional development.