On Entertaining Through Teaching (or the Other Way Around)

No one ever wants to take a composition class.

That’s the first hurdle in teaching I always faced – convincing the students that they actually want to be in the class they find themselves forced, by the college, to take.  Even when I taught an upper-level class in poetic forms, a lot of my students were unexcited to be in my classroom, mostly because a forms class was required, and about half of my students were fiction-focused, driven to my class by the need to graduate.

Now teaching composition isn’t really fun for me either.  I’d prefer to teach creative writing, or focus on the literature of alien invasions, or study the analysis and the writing of reviews.

But teaching a class for me involves two things: entertaining the students and entertaining myself.

Given: If I am not interested in what I am teaching, then how can I effectively convey what I’m teaching to my students?

Given: If the students are not interested in what they are learning, how can they be convinced to spend time on classwork, much less actually learn what the class is designed to teach.

Solution: When I was teaching regularly, I would regularly change what I was teaching.  Well, the truth is that I was almost always teaching composition, so I couldn’t change the subject.  But composition is really a focus on clarity and style, an understanding of the formal qualities of writing.  And because we’re dealing with form, that means that a class can talk about anything through the lens of composition.

Solution: The same with the students as with the teacher: a student is more likely to care about something that they care about.  With that tautology out of the way, what I mean is that if a project or paper or assignment ends up focused on a subject the student cares about, then they are more likely to invest time in that project/paper/assignment, and the more they are invested, the more likely they are to learn (whether they like it or not).

So I’m fascinated when any sort of normally dry subject is dressed up in a fashion both entertaining and effective.  Sure, according to my theory, any lesson that’s entertaining is effective in that it grabs the student’s attention.  But to be truly effective, a lesson has to convey information in an understandable way that sticks in the mind or, more importantly, encourages said mind to explore the subject beyond the lesson.

And if I had the time and the expertise, this is the sort of lesson I’d be producing.  So, without further ado, here is a lesson on economics. Adieux.

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3 Responses to On Entertaining Through Teaching (or the Other Way Around)

  1. Jason Myers says:

    That was awesome.

  2. Teaching a class sounds a lot like raising children: keep them entertained and I amuse myself…or at least keep peace. And yet, over the years, there seems to have been inner growth. Go figure…

    Just hopped over from YAlitchat.

  3. Andrew says:

    Exactly that. Well, I haven’t raised children, but your comparison seems apt (exactly).

    The only difference between the two (and between teaching grade school and teaching college) is that I can kick students out. As a parent or a grade school teacher I think there’s more of a delicate balance going on. You have to entertain the students — or the children — or they become miserable and, so, make you miserable in return. As a college teacher I don’t have to entertain my students, I just find that they learn more and class goes better if they are entertained.

    Also, thanks for coming round!

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