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Class Design

Saturday: December 14, 2013

Lately, I’ve felt like I am back in grad school, working on a grant application and reading a slew of books to prep for teaching. I’ve noted three main areas of stress for that:

1. Selecting a book:

2. Reading the materials in time:

    • I am aware that some time can be saved by just simply staying ahead of the students week by week but that is not my style, at least for now as a new teacher. Firstly, I need to read everything to even understand what I want to include overall in the course of the class. Secondly, I may decide to rearrange chapters or it may inspire me to hunt down a movie or other readings. And lastly, I want to be able to hint at future ideas and paint a big picture throughout the semester, not just at the end, looking backward.

3. Structuring the course schedule:

    • Once all the materials are read and gathered, I have to lay it out into a temporal form. This is the hardest part for me – not only because I am new at it all, but also because I am going from teaching 50 minute classes three days a week to 75 minute classes twice a week (and then in the summer, to 3 hour classes twice a week). With my very first class, Cultural Anthropology, I created a timeline without dates. In my opinion, that is not very hard to follow but apparently some students had issue with “not knowing when anything was due” (even though, as I likely expressed here already, I made it very clear each week verbally and through email). However, by my second semester, when I had figured out how many slides fit a lecture, I was able to easily abide by dates. That is sort of out the window now, though, with the difference in class schedule.

Once my books were committed, I felt relief – the bookstore could do their thing and students would be ready the first week of class. I was originally daunted at getting all the materials read on time, but I’ve cut back a bit helping at Boy’s office (though I have helped out at the Candy Store a bit) and slowed down on the grant application for a while. I just got the Ceren book today, and I have 20 pages left in the Biocultural book, the rest are read, so I am good to go there, holidays notwithstanding. I’ve mostly fleshed out a schedule for archaeology but I still need to get a grip on physical anthropology.

And then there are the lectures. I’ve never had trouble making power points (though I can get quite OCD with finding just the right picture and have ventured down many rabbit holes on the internet because of it, wasting a lot of time!). As long as I know what I want to cover, I do agree that these can be made on the fly throughout the semester, so I am not terribly worried that they may not all be ready to go in time. Will my future self hate me for it? Possibly. But I also want to try to not rely on powerpoints as much this round. They will certainly be central to my lectures (it is the way I was primarily taught, and I do think that it helps students organize idea segments into linear thoughts that are easier to recall) but I want to utilize the board and in-class exercises more. I started playing with the board by the end of my first semester and used it a lot more in my second, so that shan’t be too difficult either. I don’t want to talk at them, but rather to them. The ones who listen, anyway.

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