Monday, January 30, 2006


Today in Applied English Grammar I "led discussion" on the topic of "Grammar, grammars and grammaticality" from our textbook. It was challenging.

Only a few days ago I'd bragged to a friend about my ease in front of a classroom, about how I draw energy from performing before a group. But today's presentation was nerve-wracking. Why?

1. Audience. I was giving a presentation in my professor's class, and my presentation was being graded by the professor.

2. Lack of precedent. I was the first; all my colleagues will follow, week after week. I'd not yet seen examples, positive or negative, of how the discussion session might proceed.

3. Time! I'd thought that I would have ten minutes but was given twenty. I didn't have enough material prepared for that much time!

4. Lack of preparation. I knew the material pretty well, but had not rehearsed ways of extracting the information from the students. So it wasn't interactive, wasn't much of a discussion. It was more of a lecture.

There's no clock in the room, so I asked a friend to keep time for me. That helped a lot-- both because I was able to tell how much time I had left, and also because it established rapport with at least one member of the audience. That rapport was for my benefit-- even if the rest of the class was against me, Semra was on my side.

Organization could have been better. I'm always bad with that. Had notes, had an outline, and they certainly helped. I'd find myself straying from the outline depending on the class's response-- if someone in the class brought up an issue that was farther down on my outline, I'd go ahead and address that issue. This is a strength of loosely planned talks, I believe, and encourages interactivity: the style and content of my teaching is directly influenced by the audience. But it also becomes easier to stray along a tangent, or to skip an issue and forget to return to it.

There was no real conclusion. I finished all the points on the outline, went back to discuss grammaticality a little more but could get no reaction or comments from the class, and so even though I could have gone for three more minutes, said "Well, that's all I've got" and sat down.

Of course I won't be doing this again, not this semester, though in future classes I'm sure I'll be asked to do something similar. I'm glad I got it out of the way, and there may well be brownie points for going first-- but as I observe my colleagues give their presentations, I'd like to reflect on what I might have done differently.


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