Things I’ve learned from mid-semester check ins —- please read this!

Hi y’all! I just finished reading through the mid-semester check ins — thanks SO much for taking the time to provide really helpful, thoughtful feedback. You all told me things about YOU, but you also shared important reflections about the course, and about how I & we are approaching it.

So I think there are arguments to be made for some slight modifications to how we approach our work.


  1. Most of you really are reading. It was an empty threat for me to mention reading quizzes the other day: it’s not my style, who has time, I don’t think you’d LEARN from it – it is only about accountability, and I think you should hold yourself accountable (rather than expecting me to).
  2. Many of you are berating yourselves for not MASTERING the readings ahead of time. Please don’t! Consider writing questions before class, identifying key points: but please don’t spend hours re-reading, ok?
  3. Having said all of that: sometimes reading are dry, sometimes they are dense, sometimes there are lots of names thrown at you. You need to develop strategies for plowing through all of that anyhow. If you need help – if a whole book is passing you by – come see me.


  1. It is working. Sometimes it is slow & desultory; sometimes it feels repetitive. But the overwhelming comment I hear in discussion feedback AND mid-semester evals is that you understand the ideas better at the END of discussion. So, yes, discussion is not always as lively as we’d like it to be – and we can work on that – but at the end you understand the material. THAT IS THE GOAL.
  2. Discussion leaders (me & you) should post general topics, themes, or guiding questions on the blog, the night/day before class. This will help everyone work through the readings, and have an idea of where we will head in the discussion. Then it is not a mystery how we will be approaching a reading in class – maybe folks will feel better prepared to participate.
  3. Please consider using visuals in discussion (me & you). That can just be writing questions on the board; or making a hand-out (I can make copies!). Many of us do better when we can see the questions we are asked to engage with. We don’t need everything posted visually, but attention to this would help. We wrestle with big questions – lets help each other out with them!
  4. I will be a bit more willing to jump in to discussions; or to frame a reading/discussion at the end. This was a pretty frequent request. I hate to jump on the toes of discussion leaders! And I think you all should trust each other; but as much as we all enjoy the veneer of power equality of our circle of seats (did you like that?), I am sort of the expert in the room. I will be less quick to cede all of my expertise, if you will continue to challenge it with your own expertise.
  5. From me – not from you: please, please do not think that your discussion goal has to be “covering all of this chapter.” Rather, decide what elements of the chapter seem most important, most interesting: build your discussion around that.


That’s what I have. I’m going to post in a few minutes with guidance on the Hickey reading for Monday.

PLEASE contact me with any questions. Thanks so much for your feedback. I can’t wait to read your papers!





Leave a Reply