Do you remember what it’s like to be a student?  The excitement, the anxiety, the fear, and the promise of your future success?

I tackle this feeling often.  When I first started teaching as an adjunct over twelve years ago, I nearly burst into my first classroom filled to the brim with energy, ideas, and, yes, the solution to every teaching challenge you can imagine.  I was going to be “that teacher” everyone remembered.  When my students graduated and moved on to their careers, it would be me they would recall as the most influential person in their lives.

As the years progressed, and I taught more, and often some of the same classes on rotation, I could feel a certain amount of redundancy in my approach.  Some of my syllabi even became—*gasp*–stale.

So how do we stay fresh?  How do we recapture the “newness” of being a student, where everything is open to exploration?

Some things that have worked for me, and may appeal to you:

*  Take a class!  Yup!  The best way to renew your student spirit is to be a student again.  This could be anything from a professional development course, do actually starting a new degree program if you’re ready for that.  It doesn’t even necessarily have to be related to your field or your career.  The point is–engage your mind!

*  Refresh your syllabus.  Don’t get stuck in the rut!  Change it up each semester/term (if you can).  Or, at the very least, if you have a fixed syllabus (as many institutions do), try to supplement the experience.  Add a movie, a video, an extra reading, or a collaborative activity.  Check with your department chairs to make sure that’s OK, but usually it’s a nice way to freshen things up.  Check out this great article about David Foster Wallace’s syllabi (authored by Katie Roiphe of Slate.com):

  http://www.slate.com/articles/life/roiphe/2011/11/david_foster_wallace_s_syllabus_is_there_any_better_.html

*  Ask a colleague to observe you.  Observations by supervisors, chairs, deans, are, to be sure, nerve-inducing events.  So, ask a close co-worker or colleague to watch one of your classes, and you return the favor to him/her.  Then share tips and tools with each other.  If you are teaching an online course, ask a colleague to review some of your posts and perhaps give you suggestions for new and innovative ways to challenge students in the discussion forums.

Most of all–don’t ever stop learning!  I cannot impart knowledge to my students if I, myself, block my own learning.

Please share your thoughts and thanks for reading!

Stephen

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