The Pleasure Principle

At this point, I see the main opportunities in hybridizing a Great Works of Literature course to be: 1) more (and more variety of) writing, 2) more opportunities for non-traditional learners and/or shyer students to participate more fully, 3) the space to dig into my own teaching practice, examine my assumptions, and experiment. I will definitely be looking at how I’ve used blogs in the past. I’ve used them in a lot of classes and have definitely gotten better over the years, but I will need to consider what more I have to do to make sure my class blog (or whatever spaces I use) rises to the occasion of a hybrid learning experience.  I want to focus on giving diverse assignments, so students with different skills all have a chance to “shine.”  I always do this, but I feel like the hybrid structure will open up new ways for me to imagine and encourage student success.

The main risk I see–my big fear–is a loss of pleasure. Time flies when I’m teaching. Not all the work associated with teaching (ahem, grading) fills me with adrenaline and joy, but class time does–it definitely does. I’m at the point in my career that even when a class session goes “poorly,” it’s a good experience. I examine it, learn from it, am interested in what happened. Good or bad, class time is an opportunity to get to know my students, be surprised, and learn along with them. It’s just fun.  And it’s what sustains my energies during a semester when some less fun stuff threatens to drag me down. I worry I won’t enjoy teaching as much in a hybrid environment–and that, as Nicole mentioned, I’ll lose the flexibility I’ve learned to build into my classes, which is a big part of what’s fun and DYNAMIC about the work of teaching.

3 thoughts on “The Pleasure Principle”

  1. The idea that hybrid classes might lose the serendipitous moments that traditional classes yield keeps coming up. It’s great that you bring up the necessary ingredient–the leavening agent?–that causes this rise in enthusiasm in the classroom– the joy of teaching. So I wonder what the Great Works cohort might come with in terms of trying to nourish the dynamism you mention, keep the flexibility Nicole discusses, AND maintain the pleasures of teaching for hybrid manifestations of this course.

  2. I, too, have been thinking about joy and pleasure in teaching and learning. My own as the teacher, and also that of the students. Well, and my own as a student as well.

    It’s possible that the main reason I went to graduate school in the first place was because of the joy of gathering in a room with other people and letting the ideas flow. So far in my life, I’ve never enjoyed an online discussion on substantive material as much as an in-person one. But others might experience this very differently.

    One of the ways I measure success in my classroom is based on whether or not students smile and laugh during a class session. This kind of feedback is so useful to me during class, similarly to sensing that students are bored, disengaged, or confused. How can we encourage pleasure and joy in students’ learning when we’re not in the same room? How can we gauge it?

  3. I also worry about this loss of classroom experience. We spend so much time working alone at our computers writing and on our research that often I feel that most of my sustained interaction with other people takes place in the classroom (and I’m grateful for that!). There are many workdays in which the only person I interact with is a barista :). The specificity and rigor of research can be isolating, but the classroom brings the whole thing ‘back to earth’ in often inspiring and interesting ways that remind me why I’ve chosen this career path in the first place. I don’t know that I want teaching to become another thing I do “alone” at my desk..

    That said, I think the fact that hybridizing maintains classroom face-time is fantastic, and I wonder then how the online portion can help enliven the classroom. Especially near the end of the semester (or midterm season!), there are student absences or student-fatigue (or my own fatigue!) that can bring down the classroom energy. Although hybrid classes mean less F2F time, I wonder if the creativity and openness of an online forum won’t allow for more lively and inspiring moments more often.

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