Monday, November 24, 2003

A Course Is A Course, Of Course, Of Course

Haven’t even done the progress reports for this past term’s Media Literacy class and I’m already getting stressed out over HIS 321 Modern American Culture. Some of it is just a badgut feeling about starting work an hour earlier each day than I have over the past year, just to get to the other campus at eight and teach. But most of it is the course itself.

It’s not like I’m being a wuss. I’m not a history teacher by trade; pre-MAT I may have majored in American Studies and Sociology, technically, but mostly to get at the media and digicultural cyber-studies major I was really addressing, so though I had the right texts, left over and annotated from a few core college courses, they’re a bit musty when opened.

More, this is the first full-credit course I’ve taught here, something which is ordinarily (i.e. for most teachers) considered half of a full courseload in our block calendar and schedule but which, for me, will be followed by a ¾ job for the rest of the day every day. For those that don’t know our school, this class meets for 105 minutes a day, five days a week, and covers an entire year in eleven weeks. Kids take two courses at a time, and can be assigned two hours of homework a night per class. I’m supposed to do grading and class prep on my own time, and like it.

I tried to be preemptive, hitting it early and often. The syllabus is done, and the major project designed and described in full – I’ll post a full .doc later; the basic premise is that every other week on a rotating topic students will have to research and then teach the class (10 minutes) about a cultural event from each of five decades, presenting that event as paradigmatic for its decade. They’ll write and hand out an abstract as if they were writing a full paper but, instead of writing a paper, they’ll present their findings/analysis as a mini-lecture.

(The best part of this, by the way, is that I’m going to make the kids experience each decade viscerally through the projects: as they move through each decade project, students will only be able to use the research technologies which were popularly available in that decade: no photocopiers until the 1970s; no printers until the nineties, and no Google until the final project. Well, that, and I don’t have to prepare for the first twenty minutes of class every day.)

The major nervewreck/racking problem with trying to prepare the course, really, is figuring out how to make the reading fit, a task which always confounds me. Though I haven’t fully reread the books for the course in a year or more, I have been assuming I can depend on notes in them from my own college-days readings for a while. Though I had planned on having time to read along with the class.

Looks like I’ll be pushing the envelope a bit in the near months. Too bad they don’t make sparknotes (no endorsement implied) for Extraordinary Speeches of the 20th Century, or the Dictionary of Critical Theory. But seriously, this promises to be a life-disruptingly total and totally immersive blast. I even picked up a couple of fun self-reference texts for chapter Xeroxing – sure hope a much-missed Camille Paglia’s not too much for high school seniors. And I’ll enjoy rereading all those Tom Wolfe books, and Postman’s early work.

Oh, and drinking coffee for the first twenty minutes of class every morning, while other kids teach at me. Now that’s the way to teach. Ah, boyhowdy, you’re such a genius.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:08 PM |

Post a Comment
coming soon
now listening