April 1, 1996

From Gerald R. Lucas

Video Self Critique

Video-induced despair is not adequate to describe the Angst that watching myself teach on video precipitated in me. As the article “Watching Yourself on Videotape” suggests, I noticed all of my deficiencies in exaggerated and ego-deflating detail. I seem to say “O.K.?” every ten words—nervously—as if I am asking if the class understands and/or as a pseudo transition. I habitually play with the buttons on my shirt, sound more effeminate than I imagined, and do too much of the talking. There are also positive elements; however, they seem overshadowed by the negatives of my teaching style. Yet, I must try to be objective and less-critical as the article suggests.

I shall attempt to restart on a positive note by discussing the aspects of my class that I performed well. Though I did not state the objectives of the class at the outset, I knew my subject matter well, emphasized and restated the main points throughout (between the bloody “O.K.?s”), made smooth transitions, summarized the day’s lesson/discussion and pointed to its relevance in upcoming classes, was at ease with the material, and began and ended promptly. My presentation was good: I talked clearly and enthusiastically, slowly enough so that students could take notes, to the students (addressing them by name), and listened to students’ comments and questions. I exemplified and related new principles to the students’ lives and knew whether or not they understood; I utilized sundry examples, reiterated difficult themes or ideas, used handouts, and evidently wrote legibly on the board. I thought I needed work in my questioning skills, but I believe I was effective.

The questions I posed to the class ranged from requiring absolute knowledge all the way to contextual. For instance, I asked about an allusion in the poem (absolute—all they have to do is look it up), solicited the summary of key themes (transitional), and offered challenging questions, based upon that day’s lecture/discussion, for them to answer in writing (contextual). I gave students plenty of time to answer questions, answered their questions clearly, and asked follow-up questions. While I tried to avoid questions that can be answered with one word, many times I would still present them. I believe that I encouraged student involvement, supplied ample praise, and accepted other viewpoints.

Specific things that I could have done better include stating the class’ goals in an outline at the beginning of the session. I tend to want to cover more material than is comfortably possible in one class period which does not allow time for the students to talk much. Although they did have multiple opportunities for discourse, I found that I did most of the talking; this, however, I don’t find too deleterious. Often I would make allusions and use words that the students cannot possible understand and/or not adequately define or explain them (talking about existentialism, I alluded to Sisyphus without telling who he is). While I encouraged individual positions in the discussion, sometimes I seemed brusque or non-responsive when I felt the comment is just out there. As I said above, I did most of the talking in class and am not sure weather or not I adequately brought about closure to the class. These complications probably had to do with trying to cover way too much material in forty-five minutes.

I began the class with a personal anecdote about my stupidy—I believe that the students enjoyed this aspect of the class the most. Occasional banter, without digression, breaks up otherwise serious conversation. I’ve found that making fun of the writers we’re discussing shows the students that even “literature” is not perfect (viz. Poe’s “‘Surely,’ said I, ‘surely, that is something at my window lattice. / Let me see, then, what thereat is” from “The Raven”—just plain silly).

Since it’s hard to spark even a modicum of enthusiasm in my freshmen, it is, therefore, difficult to tell what they enjoyed least. Yet, having watched a typical class, I enjoyed my constant “O.K.?s” least. How bloody annoying. The rest of the class was interesting. Seriously, perhaps breaking up the discussion for a writing activity may have relieved some of the tedium (yes, tedium, having to listen to my whiny voice—shut up, Jerry!).

Three things that I would like to change about this class would be: what I look like, how I talk, and bloody “O.K.?s.” O.K., really, I would have liked to have incorporated more activities, especially an in-class writing at the end to sum up the day’s discussion. I would cut back on the amount of the material, and let student discourse at least equal mine own rambling. One more thing, I would work on closure. While I believe that the end was sufficient, I would have attempted to facilitate a better closing to the discussion.