Winter break is one of the most wonderful times of the year for most full-time and contingent faculty. Grades have been submitted, the campus has closed, and deadlines for the spring semester twinkle in the distance. This may seem like the perfect time to settle down for that long winter’s nap, but before you snooze here are five teaching tidbits to mull over while sipping that hot beverage in front of the tree, fire, or favorite Netflix docuseries.
Take Time to Reflect
Take time to reflect on how you currently feel about teaching. Use a contemplative practice like journaling, mindfulness meditation, or contemplative writing to become more self-aware of your experience of teaching without interpretation or judgement. Consider using contemplative pedagogies in the classroom to encourage deep learning. For specific examples and a review of the literature on contemplative pedagogies, see chapter 16 “Putting the Student at the Center: Contemplative Practices as Classroom Pedagogy” by Tracy Wenger Sadd in Learning from Each Other: Refining the Practice of Teaching in Higher Education.
Expressing gratitude has been shown to have many health benefits including increases in physical and mental well-being. Teaching is a collaborative experience involving a network of individuals. Write a note of thanks to the graduate teaching or research assistant, administrative assistant, colleague, or staff member who has made your job of teaching more rewarding during the past semester. Consider using the practice of gratitude to start each class to create a more positive learning space.
Stop being a teaching materials hoarder. Get to the root of your teaching clutter to spark joy in your office space by using the popular KonMari Method. Let go of the binder of transparencies and myriad of VHS tapes. You may even find the holy grail of teaching resources from the last workshop under that stack of paper.
Hold a PowerPoint Spa Day
Take some time this break to give your PowerPoint presentations a makeover. Are your slides too text intensive? Consider presenting just an outline instead. Need something more visually appealing? Check out SlidesCarnival.com or PowerPointify.com for free templates to mix things up. For more ideas, check out chapter 10 “Scribes in the Classroom: Effectively Using PowerPoint to Enhance the Classroom Experience” by Monica R. Sylva and Brenda J. Kirby in Learning from Each Other: Refining the Practice of Teaching in Higher Education.
Studies have shown that those who teach with a more authentic style are better at engaging with students and are received more positively. One way to teach more authentically is to identify your strengths and tendencies. Break is the perfect time to complete the Clifton Strengths Finder Inventory and Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz to learn more about the way you approach situations and deal with internal and external expectations. Consider having students complete these inventories as part of the required course materials better reach each student. The inventories also make an excellent way to form teams. One hint: do not include more than one student with a command strength, rebel tendency, or questioner tendency on a team. You can learn more about team-based projects in chapters 4 and 12 in Learning from Each Other: Refining the Practice of Teaching in Higher Education.