Wednesday, July 26, 2006


The challenge to teaching in the summer is that the heroic instructor (moi) must cram four months of material into four weeks. This means that not only am I designing a class utterly from scratch (I've never taught this course before or even done it as a TA or even took it as an undergrad) but I have to come up with a way to make hours and hours of endless me entertaining as well as informative.

My students are a hard bunch to read - maybe it's a survival tactic. I have a couple who occasionally reveal their amusement or horror through a flicker of the eyebrow, and I've come to rely upon them more heavily than I think they know. Oh, they know the answers if I call on them and all of that and when I move onto an unusual or outrageous topic I can tell that I have their full and utter attention, but here's only so much you can say about President X that will elicit enthusiasm.

This has forced me to make all sorts of teaching choices I would usually avoid - I've showed a lot of film and documentary clips, played and analyzed music and disected pictures. I'm painfully (self) aware that this summer hasn't been my most effective teaching experience, but I think (hope) that having, through desperation, tried some new techniques and made them work, that I'll be that much better in the fall.

Perk #2 to not being a PhD - if I fell flat on my facethim summer, it wouldn't prevent me from being able to get a job somewhere else


Bartleby said...

"Heroic instructor" is exactly the right description. The general physics sequence that I used to teach in two entire 16-week semesters, two evenings per week, is sometimes taught in the summer in two four-week sessions. But never by me, thank God. Those classes met a large fraction of the day, five days a week. My students used to get obviously bored and saturated after only an hour and 15 minutes -- I can only imagine what it would be like to be at it for hours on end, for either instructor or students.

Hats off to Prof. lemming!

harriet said...

Hear, hear! I get tired of hearing myself talk in my regular 1 hour and 20 minute classes. At least with music classes, we're pretty much guaranteed a multi-media experience. Still, I know I was stretching it when I played them Bugs Bunny. With the longer classes, I don't know how you could do it without breaking things up with some AV every now and again. If only to keep them awake. You sound like an inspirational teacher to me.

John B. said...

Remember: There is nothing worse than a two hour lecture on the presidency of James Buchanan...especially when the sun is shining and everyone else you know is at the beach.