Friday, May 16, 2008

"real teaching"

I've mused before on the crazy format of my summer class, which starts in less than 2 weeks -- twice a week in 3-hour blocks. What I'm noticing as I've started to lesson plan (and yes, I'm planning relatively far in advance, but it's not really a subject I know well, plus I'm nervous/excited about actually teaching literature, rather than a process-oriented comp class) is that the format is forcing me to mix things up dramatically. Lecturing, in-class writing, group work, brainstorming, video viewing, reading & discussing new material, all the tricks are getting pulled out of the, uh, bag of tricks. Plus I'm coming off a few weeks of fairly intense pedagogy discussions, so I'm all, student involvement! goal-oriented lessons! set my priorities and come up with new ways of getting them there!

But I wonder how much I would have felt correspondingly limited by the more traditional format of two 1.5-hour classes per week. Since in that case, I would have assigned slightly more reading altogether (because whatever they say, I find it impossible to fit in a full semester's equivalent of reading in six weeks), and probably felt less need to come up with a variety of ways to cover that material during class time. Instead, as I said, I'm doing lots of writing exercises, lots of peer review & group discussions, hopefully encouraging the development of transferable skills like attentive critical reading, plus spending slightly more time introducing new written and visual material in class.

This is quite different from the seminars I took as an undergraduate, which were generally guided large-group discussions that rarely varied in format and that were pretty exclusively focused on whatever reading we'd done for that day. So on the one hand I'm feeling all self-congratulatory and whatever, like I'm bucking some kind of pressure to conduct shapeless discussions all the time, and on the other hand I'm just relieved that the format is giving me an excuse to shift a lot of interpretive work onto the students, since I don't know much about the material and would have to do a lot of work to have a more teacher-driven class.

I think what my stuffy head is preventing me from saying more clearly and succinctly is, isn't it great that good teaching sometimes equals lazy teaching?

1 comment:

Sisyphus said...

3 hours --- that'll be rough! Good luck.

I'll be waiting to hear how the students deal with a big variety of teaching styles --- mine seem to be really invested in the passive lecture mode, even when I point out to them (or did, last summer session) that they tended to fall asleep whenever I lectured. Keep us posted with updates!