Tag Archives: my wonderful students

Why bother?

Almost 600 students are enrolled in my classes this semester, and an additional 250 next semester. I will not be able to learn every single student’s name, at least not very well. But I try! And I suspect by the end of the term (end of the year for Psyc 100 — which goes until April), I’ll know a decent proportion of that large number. To do this, I constantly test myself, guessing and then asking students again (and sometimes again) until names stick. After answering a student’s question after class yesterday, she turned to go and I said, “…and it’s [her correct name!], right?” She turned and said yes, but with a puzzled look on her face. She said to me something like, “there are so many students, why do you bother trying to learn our names?”

Why do I bother trying to learn names??? The question caught me off guard. Startled, I stuttered, “well, because I care. I guess that’s what it comes down to.” It may sound trite, but I do care. I wish I could personally know every one of my students. I think that would enrich our classroom experience greatly. Indeed, the more students I get to know the more fascinating life stories I hear, and the more insight I get into what it means to be a student now, today — not more than a decade ago when I started my undergrad degree. I’ve felt the change in the classroom environment that happens when students realize I know who they are and remember them and notice when they’re not there that day. It motivates me in my teaching and lesson planning when I can think of the individuals who will be there, looking to me for guidance about what and how to learn. Of course, I can’t remember everyone. But I won’t stop trying. Because I care.

Celebrating the end of term!

And what a term it’s been! It’s certainly been busy and challenging, but I feel like I have learned a lot and I have had a ton of fun! This term I taught learners in two courses: the continuation of Intro Psyc (go section 6!) and Psyc 208 (a course I designed called How Social Psych Can Help You Succeed).

This year the students in my Intro Psych class were so wonderfully curious and engaged! I felt such great energy from them every day (some days more than others, but that’s normal!), and they truly inspired me to bring my “A game” every day (which I tried my best to do!). Here are some photos from our last day together. I had asked them to write their most important take-away message from this course. Take a look… 

Last week in Psyc 208 we held the Creative Advertisement Showcase, which was a fantastic celebration of what they had discovered throughout the term! Previously, teams of students had identified a learning challenge they face, investigated primary sources for insight into understanding and addressing the challenge, and summarized those sources in annotated bibliographies and team abstracts. The purpose of the Creative Advertisment was to get the word out to fellow students about research-based techniques and strategies for addressing the learning challenges they face. They truly were creative! Projects ranged from video and live games to posters to live skits and demonstrations to videos and pamphlets… an impressive variety! Check out some of their videos and websites (ordered by team #)…

Team 7’s Learning about Distractions:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lts-wX9L8q4

Team 9’s Learning Environments: http://psyc208.wordpress.com/

Team 12’s Sleep & Learning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaqQkImzagU

Team 15’s Stress Happens, Even for a Jedi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnmYyz61Mys with website: http://ipixels.net/stress/

Team 18’s Technology Crackdown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zBCkhIoS74  

Team 22’s Cultural Differences and Learning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jPW6tRA20w

And here’s a shot of Team 13’s interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” study strategies station in action!

Thanks to everyone for a fantastic year! Study smartly for your finals… and remember that no matter how you do on them, that’s not a reflection of your worth as a person.

I know it’s been a busy term when…

… it’s been this long since a post! Wow, this term has really hit me hard! It was somewhat unexpected, but not entirely. I knew I wanted to revamp my 208 course substantially and that has involved a lot of re-thinking what material is included and how best to teach it. My TAs, class, and I have explored various learning activities together, and (as far as I can tell!) to much success! Since its inception, the spirit of the course has always been to push boundaries of learning, and we do this through activities like 5-minute papers, team-based quizzes and projects, as well as a strong emphasis on making connections between material and our lives. I appreciate the effort that my fantastic students and TAs bring to the table; without their willingness to explore learning, this course would flop. Many are taking risks and diving in to an attitude of embracing learning… and it’s awesome to be a part of it! I was so touched this week when a student came to me after class and mentioned how much she’s appreciating this class. What made this particularly special is that I have noticed how much this student has recently been taking risks to share her ideas during class. I congratulate her on her efforts to self-development! Oh, what a wonderful career I have… I get to be able to be a part of peoples’ growth and development! Yay!

This student’s thoughtful expression of gratitude came to me on the heels of having received a beautiful thank-you card from students I had almost four years ago. These three students — Grads of 2009 now writing from Montreal — sent me a card thanking me for my role in their stats class, which was waaay back in fall 2007 (or thereabout!). I taught their labs for Psyc 359, an advanced stats class for honours students. These were (are!) three great women who I remember fondly. Years later, they remembered that I brought Timbits to their final exam and encouraged them throughout the course.  How absolutely touching that they remembered these things, and then cared enough to send a card! It literallly brought tears to my eyes (and I must admit one or two made it down my cheeks). What they couldn’t know is that I have just been assigned to teach a section next year of Psyc 218, the stats class for all majors that is a prerequisite for 359. Their note was a fabulous reminder of how much impact I might be able to have by showing how much I care about my students and their success. Because I really do!

Thank you all for your kind words, and indeed thanks to all my students. I’m honoured to be a part of your journey!

Psyc 217 Poster Session!

Last Friday evening (November 26), 550 Psyc 217 (Research Methods) students showcased their hard work designing and conducting research throughout this term in a poster session. It was a fabulous event with many students reporting a rich learning experience… and that it was fun to see what everyone else had come up with!

Many thanks to Eric Eich, who committed financial support from the department to make this happen, to the Life Sciences Institute for allowing us to book their space, to my fellow 217 instructor and poster session co-coordinator Colleen Brenner, additional 217 instructors Victoria Savalei and Rajiv Jhangiani, and all dozen Teaching Fellows for their support and dedication to making this a success. And, of course, to our hard-working, impressive students! It was a pleasure to see your work!

BodyWorlds Field Trip!

Last night 37 of my fabulous Intro Psych Section 6 students joined me in an exploration of the brain and body at World of Science’s Body Worlds exhibit. We were able to see in real size many of the structures we’ve been exploring in class, including the structures of the inner ear, and brain parts including the corpus callosum, thalamus, and hippocampus. After looking so often at magnified, stylized, colour-coded versions of these brain strutures it was amazing to be reminded of just how small and unimpressive the structures appear — despite their incredible capacities. There were some great posters on display throughout the exhibit that discussed the neuronal communication process, and what we know about the brain’s influence in creativity, sleep, personality, love… and so on.

Here’s me and some of my students as we were leaving the exhibit area (unfortunately no pics are allowed inside).

What students were saying:

It really helped me visualize everything we were talking about in class.

By being able to see the actual thing [e.g., the cochlea] it is easier to picture. Seeing a diagram is one thing, but the actual structure adds another level.

This field trip helped me to understand more about the thalamus and the neurons.