From the Director: Begin afresh!

Dr. Ann Johnson, Director Faculty Development Center

Dr. Ann Johnson, Director of the Faculty Development Center

Professors often say that the beginning of a new school year is like January first – a moment when we hit the reset button, make new resolutions, and greet all that is new in our work lives.  In Philip Larkin’s poem “The Trees” May is the month of rebirth, when trees perform their “yearly trick of looking new” and seem to call out “Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”  For academics, September offers that kind of promise.

Much is new in our Center. We welcomed new Administrative Assistant Beth Blonigen this summer, re-vamped our website (take a look), and have organized a new program to encourage faculty to visit each others’ classrooms and talk about teaching: the Open Classroom Project. Classroom observation is so often linked in our minds to evaluation/promotion scenarios (and the stresses involved) that we forget how inherently valuable it is for us watch and learn from each other. Teaching is such a large part of who we are, yet we carry on behind closed doors; this program is aimed at getting some fresh air and conversation circulating. Please explore the Open Classroom webpages and think about scheduling a visit. And if you’d like to open your own classroom and join our roster of participating faculty, please let me know.

We are also planning a talk series this Fall on classroom-based assessment. How often have you been disappointed when students don’t perform well on an exam? We can diagnose learning gaps on a more regular basis using techniques that can be fun and simply formative – and have been shown to improve student learning. In one of our summer seminars I learned about the creative and really smart assessment strategies that our faculty members have been developing in recent years, and we’ll be showcasing some of these this Fall.

Finally, nothing makes me feel more optimistic about a new school year than participating in New Faculty Orientation in late August and getting to know the new faculty. This year we have 35 enthusiastic new members bringing to us a delightful array of talents and an impressive list of accomplishments. Be sure to welcome them.

I hope to see you at upcoming events, and please consider taking advantage of the Open Classroom Project. It’s an opportunity to become a student again, a learner, opening the windows and doors on teaching through conversation with your colleagues. Begin afresh!

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