Start Small, Finish Big

You’ve just returned from a Teaching Professor Conference or read of an innovative teaching strategy in a book you devoured. You desperately want to incorporate the innovations you’ve learned into your own courses, but at that exact moment, you feel your energy drain when you imagine hearing unsupportive administrators utter their stern objections “to keep things the way they are.” You pause to look around, seeing older colleagues who have more teaching years behind than ahead of them—“I tried that once … “—knowing that they never received the administrative nod for their innovations.
I don’t face these challenges where I teach: neither in my department nor in the college administration. For that, I’m thankful. But my situation wasn’t always so accommodating, or so I thought. When I began to use writing within the classroom in ways that seem foreign to college administrators and suspicious to department chairs, I could feel their distrust grow. “Someone told me you really enjoy teaching freshmen writing,” a senior colleague said doubtfully, stating it so I could immediately deny it! Who, after all, could be expected to marshal any enthusiasm for historically despised courses? Although that was many years ago, I hear about similar situations today through workshop questions and e-mail correspondence: enthused instructors looking for an implementation pathway to those terrific ideas in the midst of their discouraging circumstances.
The best adage I can give …