“What would you do? – Dealing with the Tough Stuff”, InterACTion theater Troupe


Good morning. How are you? Good We are delighted to be invited back. I
believe this may be maybe our 5th or 6th year as a part of this orientation. Last year we added another element. so i
would like to also introduce our panelists who are going to
have a role as this process ensues. We have Dr. Eli Goldblatt
who is a professor in the English Department. We have Dr. Jean Boyer, who is Assistant Professor in the school of psychology and we have Dr. Kariamu Welsh who is a professor in dance and they are all members of the provost
teaching academy So thank you very much for joining
us and they’re going to have a very clear role that will be evident in you
shortly when they have an opportunity to respond to what you will be responding to as you see some of the situations in
which you may or may not encounter being played out in front of your very
eyes This indeed is an improvisational theatre
troupe anybody know anything about
improvisational theatre what is it Yes, you yell out, because we are being taped, I would have to repeat that. I saw a hand somewhere in there, Yes Made up on the spot that is just about right here it is
indeed made up on the spot this particular improvisational
theatre troupe has been around temple university for over twenty years has performed here
and there and all over the place and has had a lot of fun doing an element of improvisational theatre called socio drama Socio drama is based on shared central issues of a group so instead of thinking about what may be on your mind right now we actually ask you and then the actors play back what they hear and you get to talk to the actors the
actors get to talk to you and our team panel are going to talk to
us all and give us some advice on how to do things even more effectively so if you noticed, there was a key
piece of this you have to talk to us all right. that’s how it works so typically in theater you know there’s
that wall and the actors are there and you’re there and observers here you are active participants so what i like to do if i could have
called the actors up to the front across the front here and we want you to imagine for a moment that they are you for most of you your classes are beginning
next week okay i am fortunate enough to teach two
graduate classes in the college of education and i’ve been working on my syllabus the whole summer and i’m going to be spending the weekend going over things looking over stuffs making sure that i am prepared for my first day which is Monday as well, so we’ll like to hear from you some other things you may be thinking about as you anticipate going into the
classroom next week Now this requires that you just yell out unprepared students class clown caught cheating how to organize my class unmotivated students at Temple university? unmotivated students 8 am tired students alright wonderful students who are excited to be there uhh students that are consistently late but I like it uh… breaking the ice on the first day you’re thinking the students may be saying do I have to deal with another power point well you’ve really got me cos my whole first day, my whole first day, I have classes from 5:10-10:10 and I know I know, Mondays 5:10-10:10 and my whole first day is a who wants to
be a millionaire game and its power point driven I have stuff in there but it is power point driven so students, you may be anticipating a little death by power point syndrome anything else disruptive students shy students grade grubbers Boy, i’m telling you between the grade grubbers and the sexy students we have a lot going on in this university building trust So on that first day not only do you want to warm up the temperature in the room but you want to establish some trust that you’ll need to uh build up on through the course this
semester alright well we have a lot going on here okay we have two new actors so let’s go back to the sexy students
while we’re waiting we do have a very strong harassment
policy here and we value our ability to be able to
really establish repore and yet know the boundaries okay we are about to watch what we call in theater world a machine, and it is an artistic interpretation of some of the thoughts and feelings that you have just shared, now lets watch why is he texting while i’m talking? why is he texting while i’m talking? why is he texting while i’m talking? why is he texting while i’m talking? I cant believe they’re late again why is he texting while i’m talking? I cant believe they’re late again over achiever, over achiever, he looks really good, how am i supposed to teach with this guy in this class, i don’t understand hahaha he just looks too good. Freeze, lets give them a hand. bottom line here and it’s right and a lot of it is related to classroom management so let’s look a little bit more, we’re about to have a scene Our TA is coming in for her very first session with her students will let the scene play out a little
bit we would freeze, we would get some of your observations, and then some from the panel. Freeze Can you talk to me just for a moment. How are you feeling right now related to this class? Well, I’ve done a ton of work to prepare for this and i’m really ready to go and i feel like we are not gonna get much done. I’ve done the readings, i just wanna get started. Well, thank you. I noticed that you didn’t have a lot to say, I was just wondering about that. okay, well welcome I noticed the two of you seemed to be really glad to see each other. Did you get the name of the TA? I just wanted to ask if you were offering yourself to support the instructor, it looks like she might need that support. What do you think? Thank you, Thank you. Alright, finally our TA Alright, now that’s good, that you are open to developmental feedback all right, any body have a little feedback here? On the list of her problems, one of them is she doesn’t have enough authority in her voice to clam their attention. Sounds like have a plan A and a plan B and a C and a D yes, I think its also important a lot of the times you get to introduce yourself and talk about your experiences, because there is the sense that are an undergraduate student too so why are you required to teach me. But as graduate students, we have a lot of experience that qualify us in different ways, so I think that that’s important to establish. very good, so there is sort of a credibility thing that has to be established early on. One of the things which I want to echo is that of your confidence level, The reality is you will not know the personalities until the first day and they are just thrown right into your face…because you are gonna need that to handle the diversity which you clearly have in the classroom, so a little bit of confidence. visible and invisible diversity that you say Was there another person there in the middle? all right, good thank you. I’d like to turn to our panel please Whats some of the observations, comments, and perhaps a little bit of advice for our TA Alright then, yh I think a lot of the comments from the audience were excellent. I think that she really does not thrust in situations, that way we don’t know exactly whats going to happen. We try and be as portrayed as possible, but again the personalities, diversities, the issues also someone asking you to teach at the last moment, uhm, and Pauline’s comment, excellent it may not be that no one is a 100% confident, but you cant let them see your vulnerability because students will then find that hole and they would work on that, so you have to be very very carfeul and I also think that the other comment about opposed to it being a very large class, greeting everyone as they come in, may not be possible but I think that you have to establish the moment you are in the class, you have to establish your presence and the fact that you are the teacher. And you being a TA, it shouldn’t be, you know, i’m just a TA or, you know, you are a teaching assistant but you come there with a lot of knowledge, much more knowledge than the students and you should be able to, you should be comfortable, and you should own that, so that you don’t allow them to diminish you. SO, but I think the comments were very very good and of course the uhm, the group was excellent and I and i’m sure my colleagues, as a teacher of many many years, I have had all these situations and then some. Good morning, uhm, I also think you’re comments were indeed wonderful wonderful but you still have to stay for the rest of the orientation And as you move forward, I think you are going to start to see, no matter what the situation uh, that there are some general guidelines. so uh… preparation is a big yield, having a bag of tricks. And this is the tough part, uh, because if you’ve never taught before, then we’re gonna get that bag of tricks. you’ll build that up over time. But you can also start to research it, The literature’s out there, there’s also a fabulous class called teaching in higher education, and you can access each other, access other professors start talking to anybody to say what would you do if and you’re gonna start to hear even more and more good ideas, like we heard now uh… so that whole idea of building a work reform, uh, this is where you start. Is everybody anxious enough? you know, I think a lot of what this, this event is for is trying to get out and get each other to … you know the stuff running through your veins, and you’re not sure what to do so this is scary, I think the beauty of this drama, is that it gets all out in the open and you can uh… you can begin to look at it and I really value the one person who probably overly, should be Pauline saying, well there are a lot of wonderful students out there. Temple is filled with lots of wonderful students, and you’re not gonna get a whole class of this usually but any one of this people might show up in your class, one way or another i want to go back to the sexuality question again, what I want to go back to is the laugh after the question and i think that what it points out is teaching is a profoundly human art and everything that is about being human is in the classroom the difference is that, as the teacher, you have a different position than every body else in your classroom so the sexuality comment is a comment that violates what we are trying to think about as a teacher and it is very important you understand you just cannot have any sexual romantic connection with somebody you are teaching. That’s just wrong, and all that, its not good for your health or any body’s health so, but the issue remains, which is that when you walk in, you have all kinds of feelings about all kinds of people and its your job to processed those things and you can’t do it all once, you’re gonna get to be a better
teacher you know, even despite yourself, you’re gonna get to be a better teacher and you better make mistakes so let yourself make mistakes but let yourself depend on the fact that you are a smart person, you;re an ethical person, and you’re a person who’s not alone because you can go and find allies to talk through issues that you may have had in the classroom that you were worried about having But, I just want to say, this is the second time i’m seeing this group, but I just love what they do, thank you very much. well, Thank you very much, let us transition into the second scene, so let me go back to inform you for a moment, and lets assume you’ve done a decent job, you’ve established re pore and credibility, you’ve actually taught some content, you’ve taken advantage of your knowledge on differences of learning styles and all of the diversity issues, I mean you’ve been doing pretty good. And then you have a test, or quiz, or paper, and you have to grade them Any thoughts about how you might feel around giving grades? Yes, this is Aaron. How close is close enough. Say more Aaron. so there is some subjectivity involved And that may specifically come out in writing skills for example are you grading for content or are you grading for grammar as well punctuation… you know Oprah stopped doing this stuff so I’ve heard from friends who are teachers in other universities they’ve had, uhm it might be the same here an interesting time dealing with student athletes who seem to get out of things easily for who there aren’t as high expectation, how to deal with that I know the paper was due and i had a game and i had to be there, it may be a little bit late and it may be ugly around the edges, but I won the game How do you deal with the parent who comes in and says why did you give my child a B I did hear of one that moved into a residence hall right into the room temporarily, but i did hear that How do you deal with an ESL student? Writing papers, do you hold them to the same standard, so if English has been their primary language all along do you take it into consideration? I’ve actually had that in my graduate class as well, cos I do have papers and a lot of the students have not had English as their first language is that what they meant to say? is that what they said, were there reasons included in language differences that created the issue? anything else? you How do we deal with group grading? work load completed, but not done well by the entire group uh… that one is tough, because we know that some of the pedagogy and andragogy related to learners is that they learn often in collaborative settings. but then how do you grade particularly when you know there are some issues around who did what and who didn’t and who contributed to the end product and then if they do self grading, that brings us to a whole other issue doesn’t it? just factoring the difference between effort and confidence, so how much effort did they put in or wanting them to do well versus how they are actually confident. how do you deal with it when you rubric leads to the entire class failing? true story what do you do when your rubric leads to the fact that your entire class fails how do you give students the feedback they need without discouraging them so much that they stop trying and some people are more sensitive than others and some of us are more capable of giving developmental feedback than others uh… how do you deal with the students that you judge like specifically the guy in the back who you want to fail, but they pass the test. so sometimes its not just the students that have issues, we also have issues. I just don’t like you How do you like use your time efficiently, you know some students need a lot of like specific help… how to manage your time around giving feedback, being supportive to be an instructor and being helpful, no you cant do that with every single person, and the other side of that is this is an academic experience at the end of the day, is it an individual experience, you dont want to create another umbilical cord that they use to hold on to instead of allowing them to have their own successes and perhaps not so so that they can learn I remember my freshman year at Howard university in 1966 like it was yesterday, Lord have mercy I struggled I struggled I survived and got my doctorate, you would look at me that first year you would have wondered Is there anybody over here, yes? we’re talking about take home assignments, is this an opportunity for them to do additional research and burn the midnight oil and really product, is it an opportunity for them to find ways that creatively accomplishes the goal we are about to see a scene between the students and its TA where there are grading issues. Lets watch Is he the worst TA ever? any stress going on in your life? I didn’t sleep enough, I didn’t eat breakfast this morning The dog woke me up a little cranky, I was just trying to give her some critical feedback you know, I think in this world for us to be better, we have to be honest with each other the dog woke you up and Lord knows what else is going on in your life so you get it too though? I get it I get it, you stand right there. Is it possible, that you didn’t have a good night sleep all these sort of things, may impose themselves in a minute in the moment in spite of that kind of thing. Lets go back to the grading issue for a second i think you started with the word, it sucked tough love the verbiage could be improved, but what if it did? suck this was not university quality work comprehension issue be prepared for the student that’s constantly giving you a hard time about grading, that you’re ready for maybe the elementary school kinda comes out I don’t know, maybe seven to eight times so responding to emails, weighing things on the paper, specific comments and also I think being clear on what the policy is and talk about grades, in other words that’s clear established whether it’s a certain time after class, or what not, then you give yourself enough time to be prepared so its on your terms an environment that is conducive to a positive interaction for everyone involved whats the term when somebody catches you off guard? in the moment, you may not be prepared before I turn it into our panel the objectivity the subjectivity involved in grading, how you make all those decisions and all of that uhm, there’s several thoughts that comes to mind, in this situation and also
in the scenario we saw earlier that is around student behaviors and activities and dispositions. it’s a one in one situation or the whole class situation, we have all the chatter and cell phone and all kinds if stuff i think it’s important to remember that there’s only one persons behavior you can control and that’s yours you can’t control her behavior, you can’t control the class behavior, you can only control you so that’s one thing to sort of keep in mind, and if you are only trying to control you and trying to control someone else then right away, you’re gonna have a base for more collaborative adversarial relationship. I think, secondly again, whether its in class behaviors or student seeking kind of feedback, you can do two things you can think about what are the behaviors that I want from my students whether it’s in class behavior on how we have discussions, or how you enter the room, or how you come to see me for feedback what is it that I want? and how do I want that to be? and then teach it you think about what do you not want what do you not want to see? and then you prevent it I’ve heard a lot about this, about planning and having a policy, that’s exactly right, so when you’re working on some of these Its not just the content uh… of what you want to teach, which is you know kind of important, that’s why we have universities, but the context around which how that’s gonna happen so what are your course policies about coming for feedback, when can that happen, how can that happen, think about um… in terms of the emotional intelligence piece, This is think is one of the hardest parts of teaching, whether its preschool or grad school, and I’ve taught both of them and there are some unpleasing similarities it’s an interesting paradox, is uhm, teaching occurs in the context of a relationship and it is a human endeavor as Eli was saying and our job is to create good relationships whether its one on one or you’re in a classroom this size, then you’ll have a relationship with the group and you want to have that strong interpersonal bond at the exact same time you can take nothing personal so you need to develop a stronger personal relationship and take nothing personally the last thing i’ll say about this particular scenario is whenever you can do something that’s called listening with the third ear this woman is not concerned about her grade and she’s not concerned about her writing skills she’s very scared because this is a really high stakes thing and she might have to go home I don’t know where she’s going home too and I don’t know what the repercussions of that are uh… but it’s a pretty big deal uh… so i would want to , you know respond to that concern and anxiety uh… the other thing I would want to think about is in a country of origin where came from, what is it normally like when students talk to teachers and professors is it the same or different than here so, you want to always think about that but again, even if its you know, however she talks to her professors in her country of origin if that doesn’t match what you need, again go back to the very beginning, you have until Sunday, think about what do you want from your students and how am i gonna teach that, and what do I not want, and what are some things to do to prevent that, and again you’re saying but what are they, tell me uh… and I will, i’m gonna pass the mick back and forth but also see those resources out there that can also say and the book that, uhm Pam, did you say, is there a raffle for that book? tools for teaching, does have all the tools in there and you’ll get all those kind of tips, and look at the webpage at the teaching and learning center, look at those resources, go to those workshops Jean, I also think that we as teachers, we have to be careful about our assumptions and our expectations even though she didn’t do well, uhm the teacher should not assume, that she would continue to not do well or that she is a problem, in other words, sometimes as you heard i mean, we all have moments in our education where something we didn’t understand something, it was an issue of comprehension or whatever so that one has to not assume that because she received a C, that she is a C student and one should not speak to her or treat her as though she cant do better. I think you should be very very careful about your assumptions and your expectations and also responding to what Jean said, again you also have to take into consideration that she did bring up the visa, uh.. issue. you have to respond to that, you may not be in a position to do anything about it but you should at least let her know that you hear her and I want to speak to the audience in the room all this meaning you have different people from visual arts, film, theater, dance and also pre-defining as well uh aqua music of course. Uh.. again pretty much the same rules apply, however you know, in a studio situation, should it be art, music or dance, there is subjectivity that’s going to happen but the teacher has the responsibility to uh.. really see the craft, structure and other things that have been asked of the student, for instance I may be critiquing something or examining something that may not be my ‘cup of tea’ but it is not the teachers responsibility to go there, in other words, i’m not , I can respect that the student has decided to do this particular kind of post post- modern work and I might not be too post post modern work, and that’s okay because then if there’s craft, if there’s we do in fact come up against that all the time, all the time or someone else especially with undergrads, they’ll come in with a very naive sort of approach to their art to their writing, and you you want to guide them to a more sophisticate or mature writing,and you don’t want to you don’t want to really reign too hard on their parade, because it really discourages them, so its really important to encourage the students even as you try and guide them so again you know with this situation as many of you said you know this TA his verbiage was just inappropriate you may feel that way inside, but you know you just don’t tell someone something sucks, you know and, and its really important,and as our cosmopolitan said , you do have to treat that student at the moment as if they were very very important regardless of your night before or the morning of what you ate or you didn’t eat, you know we’re all human and sometimes, we have a bad day, but you really have to monitor yourself as a teacher I’m a psychologist I live on the Cartesian plane, I worship at the altar of empirical science and data and one of my all time favorite psychologist and I don’t know if there’s anyone here gonna be teaching organic chemistry you’re gonna give them a multiple choice test, its subjective, what!! because why did you ask this question and not that one? because whatever you are putting on there is subject to what you chose to measure instead uh… so all data are always subjective uh… and that’s OK. Subjective assessment is not the same as biased assessment. it means its subject to context, its subject to criteria that are established a priority. Its subject to something I would call a decision frame uh… so how do you, what are some of your goals for deciding your students know what it is, so it’s always subjective and that’s something to always keep in mind. Its different from biased you don’t want to root for someone to fail, but its subject to your own lens its subject to all kinds of stuff. Alright now you can talk. Let me just say somethings to back up what they just said. the most important skill a teacher can have is not talking, its not conveying information, its listening because its through listening that you make the kind of connections that allows you to go forward, and allows you your job is not to convey information our job is to make the best possible environment for somebody to learn something when you make it up you make
hostile situation no matter how eloquent you are in presenting material, students aren’t going to learn anything and that leads to the second point which is you face particularly as graduate students you face a very challenging paradox in our system you are all recruited accepted and encouraged to come because of the promise, your promise as but when you go into the classroom the field is only part of what you’re
doing teaching is a transitive verb that means that did verb takes an object and you could be a teacher of chemistry a teacher of English, a teacher of business sports and leisure management but that’s really not an adequate description of the word teaching, because teaching also takes the object students. ideally what you want is to be a teacher, teacher of students, a teacher of chemistry to students, so really because you come here as an expert, you have to be conscious of the fact that when you’re in the classroom your first obligation is to teach the students and think from the students point of view, how are they going to learn your particular subject they are not going to learn your subject at the level you know it not for a very long time which if you want them to have the best chance to learn what the subject you’re teaching in the best possible environment and I think that’s what my colleagues were saying so at the end of it, my students, it was a group project, and uh, and so I sent it out and they responded, and this group emailed me back and said ‘we were a little disappointed because we felt we covered the content” and they had gone through their paper Item by item around the areas that i was concerned about and showed me where they had made connections that frankly I had missed and so I made the adjustment which is not easy, you have to go back into blackboard and adjust because in some cases, the points may change the grade but I had to be willing to admit that I had missed somethings,so that’s also a possibility. you don’t want to do that all the time I just have one quick point I want to get to the question someone asked about athletes because it gets to a bigger question. First of all, you’re not alone in the classroom, in addition to faculty your specialty there are a lot of very good units on campus but it could help the writing center, the math resource center and for athletes, we hear of actually a really good academic support program for athletes and they do not report to the athletic department, they report to the provost, that’s a really big difference because it wasn’t always that way at Temple University. so Justin Millers, the head of athletic support, if you have a question about it, about an athlete, you need to talk to his office immediately. sometimes students would be running trip on you sometimes the coaches may be pushing the envelope in a way that isn’t appropriate for your class, as long as, I mean it is a very tough job been in an athlete division in school, very tough job I really think mercenary system is the best system for it, the students, in that situation but this school doesn’t have a tradition of cutting athletes a lot of slack I mean, there’s been some of it, but if you compare it to schools I won’t name, we are doing pretty well, but the NCAA, does have rules and there is a compliance officer on campus so if you see something like that you need to talk to them right away hmm, and heres an anecdote again, anecdote equals data but my experience with student athletes that I’ve had, has been strong and cognitive…sometimes athletes have a little edge over some other students because they know how to set goals and they understand that to attain goals they must practice, which means doing it over and over again i think the most challenging thing for me with the athlete has been more temporal when they have to go away, missing a critical class, and again that goes to the planning and prevention not just for the athlete but what you have in your syllabus, universally what somebody has to know in this class, so its not just for athletes its for anybody who takes this class right, I would like to bring the actors up if I could… and we are about to experience a closing machine, so our hope was, that as a result of this presentation, that you would feel a little bit more prepared for your roles next week. So imagine now, that its the end of the first class, the end of the first class, the last student is packed up and is leaving. and you’re getting ready to walk out of the room what do you feel relief, not as bad as I expected, overwhelmed accomplished, excited for the next class, more of a sense of control mixed emotions mixed reviews at this point like the next reading or the next assignment and I have to do a blackboard email i forgot something sense of purpose, you’ve actually met them, you now have faces you can visualize where you’re going, any others? glad you’ve chosen this? Alrighty

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