During the month of October, I had the opportunity to visit all of the 101 courses offered by our language departments here at Oberlin College & Conservatory. I made the initial request to investigate how faculty and students are engaging with technology during their class time and how the CILC might better serve our affiliates, but the insight I gained into how faculty and students interact here at Oberlin has been incredibly enlightening.
We all know that Oberlin’s reputation for teaching and connecting with students is excellent, but until you really see it in the classroom, over several departments, you cannot truly appreciate the calibre of faculty that Oberlin has sought out.
The opportunity to see my faculty colleagues in action, their relationships with students, and their innovation in language instruction has been my favorite part of my time here so far. One of the things that I hear often from colleagues is that they get tired teaching the same courses over and over again, and find themselves lacking the spark of motivation that brings the excitement for implementing new ideas into the classroom. Observing colleagues in their classrooms is a fantastic way to re-energize and discover new approaches to instruction.
I love to share my teaching materials with colleagues and I’m always appreciative of instructors who open their classes to observers a few times each semester. Visiting other language classes is a great way to see how other teachers approach teaching vocabulary, grammar, conversation and how they integrate culture but one of my favorite exercises is to visit colleagues’ classes outside of the languages to see what people in the social and hard sciences are doing that might work in the language and culture classroom. Good teaching is good teaching and at a basic level, the topic and field are irrelevant to the instructional approach. Additionally, I often find that incorporating activities and approaches from “other” fields infuses my classes with curiosity and keeps students on their toes, which of course, keep the interest and investment level high.
Keep in mind too, the benefit of having a colleague give some constructive feedback on how you are engaging with students in the classroom. CTIE just announced their annual Student-Faculty Partnership Program that allows faculty to see how other students are receiving their instruction. It’s a fantastic tool and a great opportunity to engage in some metacognition on your own teaching and learning.
If you are hitting your mid-semester slump or are having trouble finding the spark to design next semester’s courses, I encourage you to visit a colleague’s class. We are among some of the most talented instructors here at Oberlin and observing good teachers in action works miracles for the motivational slump!