Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Preparation aches

Is it possible to be too prepared? Classes start Monday and I'm ready to go--so ready that I worry that some disaster will disrupt all my careful planning, like the year the flood delayed the start of the semester by a week but I had already printed all my syllabi. Being unprepared makes me nervous but being overly prepared makes me differently nervous. I'm afraid there's no cure for this malady.

But what great syllabi I've prepared! I've got a peculiar schedule: three freshman classes  three days a week plus the senior capstone two days a week. The capstone class is studying garbage, which makes me really happy. We'll start with Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being, read some garbage theory, learn about trash art and recycled music, and then set the students loose to pursue research projects in their own literary landfills. 

Of the three freshman classes, only the Sports Literature remains pretty much unchanged from last year, except that I've added a brief reading from The Odyssey (the aging Odysseus proving his manliness by engaging in games with young studs) and some poems from Jill Bialosky's The Players. Also, I dumped the Sherman Alexie novel we read last year, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, although they'll still read Alexie's great poem "Why We Play Basketball" and watch the movie Smoke Signals. Instead of the Alexie novel, they'll read The Rider by Tim Krabbe (hat tip to Bardiac for the suggestion!), which will stretch students outside their comfort zones by taking them on a European bicycle road race. Let's see how many different ways they can spell derailleur! (No matter how I spell it, it never looks right. It derails me every time.)

The other two freshman classes posed a different kind of problem: for years I've taught freshman writing classes on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule, but this year I'm switching to Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Spreading the reading and writing assignments across more class periods left me with a great opportunity: Workshop Wednesdays, when we'll do hands-on activities designed to improve research and writing skills. Instead of one or two obligatory library research sessions, we'll have more frequent sessions in which students have to locate actual resources and evaluate them. I hope this helps. I heard a horrible story last week about students who think the best source for any information is simply to post a question on Facebook, and I fear that my classes will be full of that attitude.

But I'm not afraid of being unprepared. I get the gold star for advance preparation. What could possibly go wrong between now and Monday?

No comments: