Journal Week 34: A New Season

School starts up on Monday at ACU. Back to the classroom!

I'm entering into a new season of teaching. For the last ten years or so I've taught the largest class at ACU, 300 students in a large auditorium for PSYC 120 Introduction to Psychology. With a second section in the Spring semester of the same size, that has meant that about half of the ACU student body, at some point, has been in my class.

PSYC 120 isn't a required class. It's a social science offering in a menu of other classes, from history to sociology to political science. Consequently, PSYC 120 represents the only chance a non-major would have to take a psychology class in their college career. So we throw the doors wide open to let anyone who wants to take psychology take it. And the class gets big.

There have been advantages and disadvantages to this. From a teaching perspective, I would never hold PSYC 120 up as a model of cutting edge pedagogy. It's a big lecture class. But PSYC 120 gives our department a lot of exposure on campus that has created interest in our major.

The biggest downside for me personally has been being unable to get to know 300 students a semester. The class is fun and has a lot of energy because of its size, but it feels anonymous to me. And it creates a strange asymmetry of intimacy when I walk across campus. Hundreds and hundreds of students know me, but I don't know them.

So it's been a weird season, being the most recognized teacher on campus. It many ways it has been fun. For years my colleagues have teased me about the popularity, calling me a "rock star." That's embarrassing, but deep down who doesn't want to be popular?

But over the last 2-3 years, I've been getting tired of the big class and big stage. I want smaller classrooms with less visibility on campus. This feeling is probably a season of life thing.

And due to some faculty retirements in our department, that new season has come. For the first time in over a decade I won't be on the stage in PSYC 120. I've handed the class off to a charismatic young female faculty member and have picked up a required course in our major.

I'm really looking forward to the change. Instead of speaking to anonymous masses I'll be able to develop personal relationships with my psychology majors.

I won't be a rock star, but I'll get to be a mentor and friend.

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