Friday, June 14, 2013

Wrapping Up And Moving On

It is finished.

When a semester that involved me teaching three different classes on four different campuses (one of which was an hour and a half away) came to a screeching halt last month I immediately began another class here at Home Campus, one whose main task was stuffing fifteen weeks’ worth of modern American history into a three week session.  There wasn’t much of a break – the new class started four days after I turned in my grades for last semester.

And it ended today.  It’s all over but the grading.

This is the seventh different format in which I’ve taught US2 since I began my career at Home Campus, which meant that once again I found myself frantically revising things on the fly – creating quizzes every day, tinkering with the lectures as they came up in order to fit them together into a way that made sense in this format versus the others, which is surprisingly tricky when you’re moving things about like that, and so on.  It’s been quite a time.

There is also the fact that about halfway through I decided that the whole class needed a top-to-bottom revision. 

I created this class in 1996, and while I tinker with it every time I go through and I add new features whenever I change format, I haven’t given it a wholesale revision since 2008.  My thinking on the mechanics of American history has changed since then and it is getting to the point where shoehorning the new thinking into the old framework is just clumsy.

Plus, the problem with history is that every day there is more of it.  It’s time now to separate out the 1990s and 21st century into discrete chunks rather than lumping them together into one long class entitled, “Modern America.”  Most of my students weren’t born when Bill Clinton was first elected – they’ve never lived in a world that had a Soviet Union or didn’t have the internet.  Of course separating those out means condensing things in other places (there being only so many class periods in a given semester), so I could either just cut things to make the new bits fit or I could reimagine how everything fits together and make it a bit less jury-rigged than it has become since 2008.

Last weekend I was proctoring the ACTs – a long and excruciatingly boring process where you read so many rules to a class full of anxious teenagers that you feel as if you are clubbing baby seals to death – and in between random walks about the room I laid out a new framework for the course, one that I was quite happy with as it included much of my new thinking on the issues of post-WWII American history and organized it into something rather more flowing than the accretions and sidebars that currently populate the course.

And then, of course, I couldn’t use it.  Not this week.  Not when I am teaching three hours a day, every day.  There just isn’t time to do that much revision – there was barely time to do the requisite tinkering.  So I had to go with the older version, one more time.

This, I found, was aggravating.

I’m scheduled to teach this class again next spring in a somewhat less frantic format, and by then I hope to have the new wholly revised version in place.  There may even be wholesale revisions to earlier sections, depending on how far back I have to explain the things I’m focusing on in the later section of the class – you can’t just drop things in unannounced, after all, not unless you write sitcoms.

But all that is in the future.  My class is done.  I have no academic deadlines until September, and can focus on long-term projects, visiting friends and family, and/or rediscovering precisely who the folks are in my own household, including myself.

I’m looking forward to it.

1 comment:

Beatrice Desper said...

Your pace is like those of my SIL and BIL. Good teachers are like that, and the rotten ones, unfortunately, give the rest a bad reputation.