Certain chunks of information in a course could be posted in writing on Blackboard, but they would be drearisome—unlikely to produce good results from students. Such posting without class time spent introducing the material would bring to mind the words inflict and torment. Every discipline doubtless has tedious sections. In English class, these include works cited pages and citations.
So here we are. It’s time to get to material that nobody likes yet is necessary for truth in reporting or for job training. The instructor must grind through the information with the students. A room full of incredibly bored and distracted students is a tip-off that things are not going well. Fortunately, a few tips can lighten the task.
First, body movement of any kind by the instructor helps. Even the least alert student, if awake, is bound to note a shift in posture, a few steps taken to one side, or the wave of an arm. Don’t get frozen in place at the teacher station using the projector. It is too mesmerizing. You, the instructor, might even get lulled. Every now and then, it helps to walk to the dry erase board and put a few details on it. Use as many colored markers as possible. Pace around a little.
Clothing to wear on such lesson days is debatable. Some argue for dull, bland clothing to keep the students’ eyes on you and the content, whereas others contend that wild colors and numerous accessories work better. The problem with the latter is that students might wander mentally into excessive picking apart the pros and cons of your zestful garb.
Story telling also helps. Tell stories of past students who bungled this type of assignment, names excluded, or add an autobiographical anecdote about something bungled. Don’t be insulting or demeaning of past students (or yourself), but use any allowable humor that casts past stress into present “lessons learned.” After all, people laugh at a lot of things that at the time were not funny, but later turned into humorous reflections.
If this brings discomfort, tell any story. Allow some detail of the lesson to provoke an anecdote three meadows over from the point but which draws in all but determinedly disconnected. Talking about the weather might be fake. Most anything, however, can be compared to a sport of some kind, or to food.
Last, remember that when grinding through material, don’t worry about negative, nonverbal feedback. They dare not be overtly defiant (at least I hope not). Don’t be bluffed out of presenting the material. They need it, and in dry stretches where an ounce of pleasure just won’t eke out from listeners, remember that the measure of a teacher comes down to maintaining poise, remaining cheerful and convinced, and grinding on through. Students may not thank us later, but at least we will have done our jobs.