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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Sunday, March 9, 2014


I might be picking up two extra classes for the rest of the semester to help out the dept. and s hospitalized colleague. Then I will see what it's like to do four courses at once. I guess I feel good about it, though, because I will get a nice benefit in the future in exchange, and I am almost finished with the first draft of another chapter, leaving only "Queering Lorca" to go. Now that I think about it I know pretty much exactly what I am going to say in Queering Lorca too. It will take some research to tie it down, but I do know. Or I will know once I sit down to do it.


Anonymous said...

Oooh: you will get (further?) course reduction while being Senate president, very good.

4 is easy enough when you have experience, and can be relaxed when everyone knows you are pinch hitting. It's incredibly hard when you are new. Later it's just the no privacy that is the issue -- you are constantly in social and group management mode.

Jonathan said...

I'll be off in the fall. Yeah!

Thomas said...

Sometimes, when I hear people complain about their teaching load, or, worse, when I get the distinct impression they are about to collapse under stress, and they're now spending their third sleepless night in a row worrying about how a two-hour class will go tomorrow, I feel like saying, "Just treat the class like you're pinch hitting for someone else."

If everyone took their teaching a little less seriously, identified with it a little less strongly, understood that the best thing they can do is show up with their minds in good working order and a clear intention to talk about something they know well (and have known well for some time), then there'd be room in the classroom for students to actually learn something, pursuing their own curiosity.

The whole problem is seeing teaching is a kind of performance. In fact, it's mainly just being smart and showing up. Which is what the pinch hitter is able to accept as a matter of course.

Jonathan said...

Yes. I feel wholly relaxed about it. I am not even a linguist, so this is just a matter of me being smart enough about a field I'm not a specialist in to have intelligent discussions about topics of interest to me and them. Some of the students are ones I already know too.

Jonathan said...

Also: not just showing up and being smart but:

keeping records of student performance
providing material for them to discuss in class in an organized way
writing tests

If it were just showing up and being smart I could teach six courses a semester with no problem.

Thomas said...

I know, but I find when teachers "stress" about their teaching, these are not the tasks that are weighing them down. What they worry about is their classroom performance, and they think the solution is to spend a lot of time/energy preparing lectures (and powerpoints!).

In my view, the effort is actually better spent designing assignments and grading them. And, actually, the way you do that is also just to set aside some time (just like there's a set time for class) and the "show up and be smart".

It's in these engagements with what the students produce that teachers really "prepare" their lessons … albeit always for next year.

BTW; It's actually a sad comment on the institution that the smartest people we have in any given area are not given opportunities to just show up, no problem, and be that.

I blame the protestant work ethic.

Jonathan said...

Undergraduates don't care or know how smart you are.

Grad students might, but they care about other factors more.

In grad school, that's how my professors were. Only a few could pull it off. Freccero for Dante, for example. Some were not smart enough. Some were. Sometimes the students were not smart enough to pick up the slack from a smart but passive professor.

In short, many things can go wrong. At times it has worked for me to be smart, prepared, and show up. Sometimes, not so much.

Anonymous said...

"In my view, the effort is actually better spent designing assignments and grading them."

This is true but I have other problems. (How to teach, not how to do research or write, is my HUGE issue and stumbling block. I need therapy on it.)

1. Content issues. Knowing enough about what I am assigned to teach, or have decided to teach based on abilities and interests of current students; judging how much I need to learn, figuring out when I will do this.

2. Program and audience issues. Course is usually parallel to similar courses nationwide but who will be in course, what preparation and tastes will they have, can they do (and do I have the ease to get them to do) the things that are done in this course when it is taught by a real expert and in better circumstances?

3. Program issues for multisection courses I parachute into. What are the goals and benchmarks here? How are the official (vague) goals executed in practice, how have they been for students who have taken earlier parts of the sequence? What kinds of activities are used to move students toward achieving these goals?

I tend not to have enough infomation on program and students, or to be teaching out of field, or to be teaching some wild preparation in field but that has been designed to fit both a very general audience and graduate students preparing for exams.

Except when I get a very standard course in field, I seem never to have enough information about anything to manage it entirely rationally. And partly it is some sort of bad habit, I am so used to being parachuted in or to being in a situation where your courses are changed on you at the last minute, that I am entirely too tentative.

(I discern that my answer would be to have very very clear goals and stick to them no matter what. To do this: make very perfect syllabi and then cut out half. At the outset.)

Taking teaching less seriously: I think I need to take it more seriously, actually, in terms of assignment design and skills building. I am always trying to save time on it, not overthink it, but I need to be differently serious than I am, I am convinced.

Anonymous said...

Later, still considering:

"Undergraduates don't care or know how smart you are."

Disagree: many do.

"Grad students might, but they care about other factors more."