My Road to the Ph.D.: A Short Detour…


I’m going to try and get some pictures of the campus posted shortly.  Not sure how many people are following this blog but I always think pictures are a plus.  Tonight, however, I’d like to focus on part of the trip that got me to this point–specifically, the students I’ve taught in the past.

I conducted an informal survey for the student who I taught in place of their final exam as I would be away (here actually) during their final exam week.  The questions I asked them were focused on their response to the effectiveness of various teaching methods I used over the course of the year, their reaction to various texts, success they may have / not experienced when putting the different learning strategies to work, etc.  The intent was to gain a better idea as to whether or not my teaching was working as well as provide the English department with what I believe will be some valuable feedback and information to take into consideration in planning for next year.  Granted, I won’t be returning but I will still be forwarding it on nonetheless.

Now, I originally thought they would be able to submit the information anonymously but it seems it’s actually relatively easy to figure out whose answers are whose–at least for the written responses.  And I have to admit, I was slightly blown away but what I read.  I thought by granting them anonymity and making it ungraded, they would open up and at least a few students would open up on me.  Not a one did.  Here’s the response one girl wrote who professed her absolute dislike for English throughout most of the year:

I feel that you were an amazing teacher. I feel this way becuase you have honestly tought me how to write a better paragraph and I feel more confident going into senior year with your help. You were honestly the best teacher, you always had good analogies and were always supportive and a hard worker. I am going to miss you next year. I hope you had a great year with me!!!!

Minor errors aside, that’s probably one of the best job evaluations that I think I ever received.  I would stack that next to ANY one of my best Officer Evaluation Reports from when I was in the military without question.  That is what most of my colleagues and I hope for years down the road from now and it floors me to hear it–especially considering who said it.

And this is why I’m going to get my Ph.D.  I think most people hear me say that and think that my goal is to be sitting in a leather chair in front of a large desk, smoking a pipe in a room walled on all sides by books working on my next publication and teaching the occasional class.  This could be further from the truth.  While the summer option here at IUP is certainly a major deciding factor, I love that the program here is teaching-centric.  Instead of emerging as a subject specialist, I will be a generalist whose classes were all geared with the classroom ever-in-mind.  Students like the one above are the reason I am here so that when I begin teaching in a college classroom next fall, I can deliver the best possible student-centered classroom experience that I can.

In spite of all the other stuff that went on this past year, I will definitely miss working with a good number of my high school kids because I did have a great year watching them push their own boundaries and grow.

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About fhelvie

I live in CT with my wife and two sons. I am also writing my doctoral dissertation, which is focused on the relationship between American literature and comic book superheroes. I have served as a panelist at a number of conferences discussing my research in comics, medieval literature, and pedagogy. Most recently, I had the good fortune to present at the New York Comic Con. In addition to my work in comics scholarship, I'm also a full-time professor of developmental English.
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