Friday, January 4, 2008

Teaching by the seat of my pants

This semester (which, uh, starts Monday, God help me), I'm completely redesigning one of my courses. In fact, I'm still doing it right now. (Yup, still working on syllabuses; haven't photocopied anything yet.) And I don't mean I'm assigning slightly different texts or doing different assignments -- which is what I'm doing in my other class -- but I mean re-conceiving its form and content in such major ways that I'm even (gulp) tossing out the textbooks I've used and designing the content through handouts, reserve reading, and web sites. About half of the semester is going to consist of me coming in with lecture notes and handouts, with them having done maybe some background or introductory reading, but nothing else. Given that I'm a literature person, this is not usually how my courses go. Usually the class is about a text and it's the center of attention -- I'm there to teach students how to read it more deeply. But this is one of my historical linguistics courses, and this time I'm going to be the "content delivery method" myself. Scary.

And even scarier is the fact that I'm really not sure what I'm going to be doing every day. Some of this I'll be doing as the semester progresses. It's not the ideal way to go about things, but I was so busy planning ahead the new assignment sequence in the other class that I've only been able to sketch out this one. I have notes to myself for some days that say things like: "Bring in an interesting text." Yikes.

But the thing is, I think sometimes when I teach like this I'm a more lively, exciting teacher, because my adrenaline is pumping and the material is about as fresh as it can be. It keeps me from merely looking over old material rather than really preparing it. So actually, in a perverse way, I'm looking forward to this!

Here's hoping I can pull it off.


squadratomagico said...

Thank God I'm not the only one! I'm teaching an entirely new class that begins Monday (well, Tuesday, really) and I still am wondering whether to change anything on the syllabus. I plan on photocopying it the hour before the first class meeting.

Good luck!

Bardiac said...

Sometimes, adrenaline is GREAT! But it's tough for a whole semester. Good luck!

Ancarett said...

I'm firmly of the belief that you should reimagine courses on a fairly regular basis. Either that or you'll go crazy teaching the same-old, same-old. That said, I'm happy to aim for no more than one or two such courses in a year of teaching. Otherwise I settle for redoing the odd lecture or segment of a course.

Good luck. I'm sure you'll have a great time with this!

Anonymous said...

Be sure and document what you did as you go along. Notes or a rough outline, or a paragraph about each class. Otherwise, when you go to teach this course again, you won't remember what you did and you'll have to recreate it -- the equivalent of redesigning the course each time you teach it.