Stephanie Laggini Fiore
I love the beginning of the fall semester, but this fall, I’m feeling especially optimistic! The fall semester always brings such promise with it, as we plan what we’ll teach to a fresh crop of students that we hope (fingers crossed!) will respond to what we have to offer in positive and, dare I say it, soul-satisfying ways. There is nothing like that moment when you see the spark in a student’s eyes or the triumph they feel when they’ve mastered a difficult concept or skill. Every fall, we hope for more of these moments that reconnect us to the joy of teaching.
I still have imprinted on my memory one of these moments in an Italian course I created to improve student literacy in the language. In addition to the required reading for the class, I had students choose a book from a lending library I had created of all kinds of reading material in Italian, from romance novels to non-fiction to classic works of literature. They were to read 20 minutes a night, keep a log of what they were reading, and swap out the book for a new one when they had finished that one. The point was, of course, to get them reading frequently enough to develop their literacy and to cultivate the belief that they could read in the language. One day early in the semester, a student brought in the book she had just finished to exchange it for a new one and, as she was putting it in the box, she held it up and said for all to hear, “I can’t believe it, but I actually read this WHOLE book!” Her sense of accomplishment and, at the same time, disbelief, was palpable – a true moment of joy in her learning.
At the CAT, those moments often come in my work with faculty, and this August has been truly special, leaving me with a sense of great optimism for this academic year. Perhaps it has been the energy I’ve derived from large in-person events where I’ve been able to reconnect with colleagues, discuss teaching, and drink in your energy as you anticipate a promising new semester. The first-in-a-very-long-time university-wide New Faculty Orientation and the annual TA Orientation that the CAT hosts were generative events, full of new faces from all over the world, veteran instructors and staff who came to welcome them, and great conversations about teaching. The two interdisciplinary cohorts of faculty who completed the Teaching with AI Teaching Circle brought inspiring creativity and brave openness to change as they gathered together over two days to consider how to intentionally incorporate generative AI tools into teaching. And my numerous visits to collegial assemblies and departmental gatherings to discuss generative AI and teaching has meant for me reconnection, rethinking, and renewal. The long and the short of it is that I feel the same positive and soul-satisfying vibes derived from gratifying moments with students when you, my dear colleagues, experience a spark about teaching in reimagined ways.
I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that you experience many of those shining moments in your classes this semester. Let’s go create some sparks!
Stephanie Laggini Fiore serves as Associate Vice Provost and Senior Director at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching