The summer class is starting to settle into a rhythm. In-class writing, giving background on the reading, pointing out highlights of the reading, occasional interludes of period music or art, break, pointing out more interesting stuff about the reading, handing back the in-class writings and telling the students about all the smart insightful stuff the other students said, the occasional YouTube clip (here, have some animated Sir Gawain!), background about the next set of readings.
What's missing? Oh, yeah. They don't talk. Well, two of them talk, but one of them has four young children and has to be absent a fair bit of the time (all for bona fide emergencies, so I don't want to dock points), and it's pretty hard to carry on a discussion with one student and the instructor. I've called on some of the others out of the blue when I know for sure they have something to say, but I dislike putting students on the spot -- it's worse than useless if the student doesn't have something to say, and I cherish the illusion that class discussion ought to be free and voluntary. Paired or small-group activities have sometimes worked and sometimes flopped spectacularly. So I end up lecturing a lot.
I feel guilty about this. I'm not sure whether I ought to feel guilty. I mean yeah, I believe in the Virtues of Active Learning and all that jazz, but I also believe in Engaging Different Learning Styles and Responding to the Needs of Individual Students and Classes, and maybe this class has decided that their preferred learning style is listening quietly. Maybe there's nothing wrong with that. Then again, maybe there is -- we're here to teach skills, after all, not just content, and it's hard to learn these skills without using them. Then again, maybe there isn't; they do write in class, every class, so it's not like they're starved for a chance to do literary analysis in practice. And some students, apparently, like lecture and think they learn most effectively from it, to the point of asking for more of it on the course evals; who am I to tell them they are wrong?
Behind it all is a stubborn conviction that I must be doing something wrong if people don't want to talk -- because when I didn't want to talk, it was nearly always a sign that the professor was doing something wrong. This, of course, is silly, since they're not me; some are from cultures (or majors) where silence and deference are the rule, some are just shy. Still. I keep thinking about my least favorite professors in college: the one who never did anything but summarize the readings; the one who looked up at the class every now and then with a bone-dry "Would ... anybody ... care ... to ... comment ... on ... that?" (of course, nobody ever did); the one who asked the class to vote on whether they preferred lecture or discussion on the first day, but who really only welcomed comments when they allowed him to make the point that he knew everything about the topic and we knew nothing. I hope I'm not falling into one or more of those traps.
Anyway. Lecture Guilt. Excuse me, I must find some pretty pictures and music to illustrate tomorrow's lecture.