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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Preparing in Real Time

I can prepare a class in about the same amount of time it takes to teach that same class. In other words, I can take an hour and 15 minutes to prepare a class of equal length.

This excludes the extra time it takes me to read a lengthy novel, for example. If we are reading 60 pages for a particular day, then I would need an hour to read those pages, and maybe another half an hour to 45 minutes to prepare the actual class.

Sometimes, preparation is quicker because I have materials from previous semesters that I can use. Sometimes, it is much slower because the material is all new. Prep can be broken down into two aspects: knowing the material and planning the actual class.

I can grade x number of papers in an hour. Maybe 1 graduate paper, 2-3 undergraduate papers, 4-6 short compositions, etc...

So finitude ought to be possible with teaching as well as with research. If I teach five hours a week, I can spend five hours preparing and an average of two hours grading. That is twelve hours. Add meetings with students and other extras, like answering emails from them, that is about 15, if I don't have to read novels.

If I were better organized I am sure I could spend less time and be a better teacher than I am now. For example, I often just reprepare a class instead of using perfectly fine material I once prepared, simply because I cannot find it.

I am writing about this because I think that teaching is the missing link in the management of scholarly writing. I hear people say they cannot get other things done because they are teaching, or because the semester is too busy... Even I fall into this trap sometimes. If you treat teaching as a finite activity, requiring a certain number of hours, and you schedule those hours, then you will be able to see what time you might have for research. For example, if you are teaching 3 rather than 2 courses, then my twenty hours might be 30.


profacero said...

My university actually gives an amount of time to spend on teaching: 12 hours total per 3 hour class.

I spend less than that on upper division and graduate courses and more on lower division, because the closer to field and the more advanced the course, the easier it is. I'd like it to be the opposite, though, since it would be more interesting.

profacero said...

P.S. But, I can't read 60 pages in an hour, or anything near that. I mean I am really slow. 60 pages in an hour, that is freakin' amazing.

I think, on this question of how much time is left for research, you have to also consider how draining or not your work atmosphere is, how hard or not dealing with student problems is.

I am deciding I need to schedule in time recovering from teaching as actual *work* time. Not as "off" or recreational time but time specifically dedicated to recovering from teaching.

profacero said...

OK, I am outright hogging this thread to help me learn to deal with teaching anxiety. I am terrified of courses below the junior level. Dealing with this terror takes up too much of what would be my teaching and research time.

I am trying to learn the opposite of what everyone else is: give myself enough time, really give myself enough time.

What I was working on yesterday before giving oral interviews as part of the final was imagining finitude differently: not in terms of time - academics are always being told to rush and to save time, which I claim is just a ruse to make us feel guilty about overwork that is assigned us, make us feel it is our fault.

Not finitude in terms of time but in terms of body.

As in: I made a rule for the test, I would not try to jump out of my skin into someone else's to help them speak - I'd help but not that much - and I wouldn't let anyone try to jump into my skin to twist the topic to something non useful or push-pull me for a grade.

So for me it seems to be: imagine finitude of body in that sense - I can only stretch myself so far for people.

Finitude of body, amplitude of time, breathe whole body into the time one has allotted, use all that time, do not feel guilty or scared about using all that time which if one cut more corners could allegedly be for research but would really be for recovering from the effects of rushing.

Finitude of body, amplitude of time, it's downright Gramscian.

Jonathan said...

Go for it. I might learn something about my own acute teaching anxiety.