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More adjuncting notes!

Thursday: February 26, 2015

Keith has been keeping a record of his new adjuncting trials (you can begin here), and I’d like to comment about some of his issues from this week’s post because I ran into very similar issues (and still do, actually). Read his current post first, then check back here.

Keith says:

“I had the next lecture ready, and the one after that as well. While I thought it would be helpful to be so far ahead, as I got ready for the class, I was confused about what I would be presenting. The two lectures got jumbled up in my head!”

Ahhh, I know this dilemma well! I learned to use my jumbled comments as segues into the next lecture with a simple “and we will learn more about that next time” or “so when you read about that, now you know how it ties into today’s topic”. In fact, my mistakes in this matter have led me to intentionally create segues, which helps the students see the threads I am weaving and follow them with less difficulty.

Keith came up with a brilliant activity to teach about subsistence strategies and get the students engaged. It’s very clever and I may have to borrow the idea! But, in his first implementation, he ran into some issues immediately and had to formulate a quick Plan B.

“I arrived at the campus early Friday morning to get set up. The classroom opens up into a nice quad area with some hilly lawn. When I started planting frilly toothpicks there, I came to a frightening realization: the toothpicks are nearly invisible in the grass! While having the resources be hard to find to a degree would be fine, but complete camoflage would have made the activity too time-consuming. Also, they could be a hazard for anyone with thin footwear. With fifteen minutes before class started, I needed a new plan, fast.”

Been there, done that as well. [I ignore the picture he paints in my head – most of my classrooms don’t even have windows, let alone an opening straight into a quad!!] This is why I learned to not seek perfection-through-well-preparation because until you have the experience of how it works in front of a classroom, with the constraints of the physical environment and complications of a mass of individuals, you just cannot be fully prepared, ever. Try to do your best, absolutely, but there is no sense in turning class projects into mini-theses with hours and hours and hours of thought behind them. If it falls flat, then you wasted a lot of time!

Make the classroom your fishbowl. Play around with it between semesters. Mold it to not only what works, but what works for you. Keith may tweak his activity until it runs smoothly for him. And if I copied it directly, it still may be a disaster for me, and that’s okay! I’ve read so many articles about teaching anthropology and found so many cool activities that veterans use consistently, but if they do not work for what I want to focus on and my own personality and the type of students I have, then it doesn’t work, period. That does not at all suggest I am a failure. Move on.

He also mentions how discussions with students trigger his own thoughts on the subjects. This is a fun part of teaching, for sure. Sometimes, I will stop lecture right then and there if I am reminded of a video or news article or internet meme (I try to use current events often!). I’ve noticed that this sudden break in routine wakes students up (me too! me too!), allows them to see how easy it is to find information on the internet – or how to critique the information pushed on them, and shows them exactly how I found the information in case they want to show a friend (which will increase their own interest in the subject). It’s a win-win in my eyes. I pause the lecture, search for a half a minute or so, and then BAM! And if I cannot find it, I just say “oh well, I will have this by next class” or sometimes I tell them to check their messages because I will send them the link. Just depends on the issue.

And for that reason, I try not to have lecture/activity prepared to fill up the entire meeting time – I’ve found to have about ten minutes to spare works great – it either gets eaten up during lecture for questions, or before/after for review questions. And if not, well, students are rarely anything but grateful for getting out early.

Of course, now that I’ve taught the same courses a few times, I know where more questions are asked, and where I need to ask more questions to check their understanding before continuing. I can say now that it is much more relaxing and fun to teach Cultural Anthropology and Human Origins. I have a ton of notes I want to fix for the next time I teach Archaeology, and I dread the thought of creating a brand new class (while at the same time dreaming of doing something new and exciting!). For now, my positions at the universities where I teach allow me to be comfortable with these three classes so I needn’t really concern myself of trying something entirely new all over again. (But I have been collecting ideas, for sure!)

In fact, I’ve just been offered a grant to develop an online course (which I am already teaching). Yes please – not only because grants are wicked cool, but because it really would be helpful to get some direction! My reviews thus far have been way, way better than I had expected, but still – always room for improvement!


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2 remarks!

  1. You’re a more prolific typist than I! Thanks for the comments. I wasn’t feeling so hot about that particular day, but typing it up made me see the parts that worked.

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean. I decompress to Boy and then realize what I should hold on to and what I should cast off for next time. Honestly, though, it seems like it turned out great for your first time! :D

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