I am sooo not grading any more essays tonight. Truth be told, I knocked off a long time ago; they're just gonna have to wait until next week because I'm not going to kill myself getting through them by Thursday.
I'm not a complete reprobate though; I've been picking away at my summer syllabus, so I'm doing work. ... It's just not the teaching work that is currently under deadline right now. And it's the fun part I could spend hours and hours on. I'm basically eating my dessert instead of my vegetables. Speaking of, the flavor in the bowl at my side right now is French Vanilla. Hmph. Needs some chocolate with it.
But anyway, the theory is that if I work on teaching prep (even though it's for the next class), then I'm not completely slacking off ---- I'm following the rules in Boice's guide for new profs, right? The trouble with this theory is that it contradicts with the previous plan: re-use the syllabus I made up when last I taught it and therefore not have any prep. Or have as little prep as possible. Well, I am sorta following the plan, honest! Because I have taught this course before (think: hello! Welcome to your major!), I know which stuff taught well and which caused various problems. And which stories or poems I just decided I don't really like. And which ones I don't really have anything to say except "hey, I like this." (To use the pedagogical lingo, I don't "have an entry point" into some of these texts and my students didn't have anything to say either, so we sat there and stared at each other. No fun.)
So my format and many of the larger works are set already, as are the breakdown of assignments (not the prompts, unless I recycle them). I'm just trying to pull out a few of the shorter things and replace them. However, this is the part I can tinker with for hours, just moving texts around, getting one book after another from my shelves, looking up various texts and authors and whatnot in Amazon or the library for availability ---- fun fun. I could dither around on this crap for days and never go back to my actual dissertation or grading work. (ahh, I love the shiny new potential of the future class ---- it always seems so close to perfection and joy, unlike the messy and compromised ordinariness of whatever is my present class, which never lives up to perfection or plans.)
I have a post or three percolating away about how, oddly enough, my intro class is very traditional: no theory or even criticism. We spend all our time learning explication and formal analysis. I have reasons for this (which will be explained in these future posts) but mainly I've noticed that getting our school's students to move beyond summarizing things and to actually quote the text and then talk about what they quoted takes an entire quarter in my other classes, so I feel they need more ass-kicking at the intro level than they're getting.
Compared to the way Brilliant Ex-BF teaches, my class looks mired in the fifties. He taught his class as if he were still at the tiny elite liberal arts college he graduated from. But you're not, I remember myself thinking. Your students are not the children of lawyers and old-monied professionals and they went to crappy public CA high schools not the whole "prep school" thing back east, and two thirds of my students weren't majors anyway, since there's a loophole that lets students in the social sciences take this course to replace a writing class. Hence my questions a while back about teaching to the top or the middle of the class --- raising the bar or and asking them to reach or pushing them up over it from below.
Ah, I'm getting distracted and writing those posts right now instead of what I actually want to discuss --- back to the matter at hand: the reading list. Last time I made the reading list very light and nagged them to re-read each piece multiple times; this time I've stuffed some more stuff in even though the course length is shorter, because I'd like them to write about stuff we haven't talked about extensively in class. They get no credit from me for regurgitating the reading we produce in class; I want them to create their own argument.
I'm also toying with the idea of a theme, but not a super-fancy cutting-edge one like Brilliant (you know, postmodern subaltern diaspora of the simulacrum, or something like that) --- what about food? I like food. I'm always picking food incidents out of texts and analyzing them for culture. I do a lot with how food teaches us about class, as well. (And yes, I've heard that food studies is going to be one of the new hot things; no, it's nowhere in my dissertation and I don't feel like changing topics and starting over a few spare weeks before graduation. Sigh.)
Anyways: food? I've got several good choices, including a lot of stories that deal with the refusal or inability to eat. Trouble is, all these food stories about poverty and death and anorexia and racism and sexism and madness are kinda depressing. Know of any funny or pleasurable food stories? Actually, any good food text suggestions are welcome; please leave them in the comments. Happy would be good though. And I'd prefer newer to older stuff in the vain and foolish hopes that it might make plagiarism a little bit harder.
Last time I did not have a theme but just an aggregation of poems and stories and a play, which had some accidental connections across them but it was clearly a random assortment. I've seen people who do this course under a theme focus their reading list way too tightly and just drive the students nuts with the incredible repetitiveness of the theme, or suffered because each text had too similar a "take" on the theme and students rebelled at the idea that they had to apply X to each text and get pretty much the same result every time.
I think it's hard to do a theme well, but on the other hand, my students last time weren't particularly jazzed or energized with my class, and they said that pretty straight up on their evals. (Sigh. I will have at least one whole post on those damn evals.) I was thinking that maybe a theme might change the way they react on the final evaluation. Or at least the comments would be source-able in some aspect of the course.
Ok, my ice cream bowl is empty ---- got any tasty poems or stories over there instead? I promise to at least taste everything.