Academics / Carnival of Journalism

Carnival of Journalism Fail

A mathematics lecture, apparently about linear...

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The Carnival of Journalism has been going on the past few months, and I’ve missed posting to them. However, this month’s topic is very interesting, and I feel like I have something to contribute, if a little bit past deadline.

The topic:

A failure in your life (personal or professional) that has lessons. It must be your failure and you must have to take responsibility. But this will be a safe space to discuss our failings and what we can learn from them.

I’ve had a number of personal and professional failures over the years, many of which have been deep and emotionally wrenching. But I want to focus on one particular failure which happens frequently.

Having just finished turning in final grades for this semester, the concept of failure is very real at the moment, as it is at the end of every 15 weeks in the university system. Every semester, I deliver grades that are, shall we say, less than optimal.

And in some way, each of those less-than-optimal grades I view as a failure on my part as a teacher. There are students who get it, who do great work in classes, and others who never seem to grasp concepts, techniques, technology, etc. or they just decide to stop coming to class.

I know, deep down, that there is only so much an instructor can do, and the rest is up to the student. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deliver those grades. Maybe it does for some people, but not for me.

At heart, I want all my students to succeed in the classes I teach, because I really love journalism and “multimedia” or whatever we’re calling it now, and I want them to love it too – or at least like it enough to do well in my classes.

As well, I have no personal animosity to students. I wish them the best in their endeavors, because I would like the same were I in their shoes.

And so every semester, I look over the grades, the schedule, the professor evaluations, the equipment and try to figure out different ways to tackle the subject matter, to spend more time one-on-one, to smile more, anything to find a way to connect with those students.

This fall will be my 11th year teaching collegiate journalism classes, and I still feel the need to reinvent my courses constantly. And that’s the thing I think is the lesson from this failure: Even if you think you have things down, there’s always a time to look back, evaluate, and try things differently.

I always tell students that the beauty of college is that every 15 weeks you get a chance to start over with a clean slate – new subjects, new instructors, etc. Nobody in history 101 cares if you didn’t measure up in poli sci 101.

And each semester is a fresh chance for a teacher to start the class with a clean slate as well. It’s part of what keeps me from despairing over these small failures.

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