The Invisible Curriculum

The other night, one of my students told me that I had made the most incredible comment on his essay, the best comment he’d ever had from a prof. No, I hadn’t told him that his essay was the best I’d ever read or that his use of the semi-colon was sophisticated. I had simply remarked that I used to drink at the same shabby-genteel, ever-so-slightly seedy bar that he mentioned in his essay.

Sometimes things like that just make us real to our students, and it’s connections like that that I think James M. Lang is talking about in his very interesting piece The Invisible Curriculum. He writes about the importance of personal contact, of the way we can stop in the middle of a lecture or a lesson and interject some comment about life and teach something personal.

I love little personal moments with my students; they are one of the things that make teaching such a wonderful profession. On the other hand, I am quite shy and sometimes find it difficult to initiate conversations or to reach students who are themselves a bit reserved. I’ve occasionally been told by students in evaluations that I play favourites, and this troubles me, because I don’t, but I can understand how sometimes staying aloof from one student but laughing and joking with another could be easily misinterpreted. Perhaps this is a lesson in the “invisible curriculum” for me: that I have to work hard to make sure all my students are included. It’s not enough to admit to the whole class that I’m a hopeless Buffy fan, I need to try to reach each individual on some personal level, too.

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4 Responses

  1. I think you did a great job of showing the class that you are a real person. And I enjoyed your sense of humour. And your no bulls**t attitude. Being someone who is sometimes a bit reserved I can relate to the challenge of making connections with some people, although I often find that the people I have touble connecting with at first are generally the most interesting. For the record, my self-consciousness about my writing, and perhaps about my age, left me feeling a bit intimidated by the almighty English professor! My apologies for being awkward:)

  2. Thank you! And no apologies necessary – I did not ever think you awkward. In fact, I found myself a bit intimidated by the very professional air you exude 🙂 If you had any idea how completely crazy the notion of being an “almighty English professor” seems…

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