Sunday, 4 November 2012

Between me and my conscience

I will be on study leave next term (can't wait!), therefore I have arranged to do all my teaching this term. Since we all teach very specific sessions, few of us are interchangeable.

For many colleagues outside Cambridge my workload may seem ridiculous, but then I have massive admin responsibilities plus tons of masters and doctoral supervisions. Having squeezed my classroom teaching into our short, eight-week term means that for the remaining weeks I have a schedule that I find terrifying. I teach two sessions on our third-year undergraduate course in children's literature, one on picturebooks and the other on fairy tales. This will be the fifth time I teach them, and I should have updated them a bit, but I tell myself that the new bunch of students have not heard me do it before, so it's a matter between me and my conscience. I never do exactly the same session twice anyway.

I do three sessions on our child lit  masters course, all three on picturebooks. This year, I split one of my old sessions in two, focusing one wholly on the picturebook as a material object, including some picturebook apps. The remaining two sessions will be the same as before. The students have not heard me... I teach two sessions on writing for children, and they are the same as last year, although they will be different because of the very nature of the subject. I also teach two completely new elective sessions in tandem with two colleagues. It's risky as it is, teaching something you haven't taught before, but twice as risky when you have no idea what the colleague will be doing. Fortunately, I go second in both sessions, so I can pick up on the first part and say: "As you have just heard", hoping that what they have just heard is not the opposite of what I am gong to say. My strategy in such cases is: "You are privileged to have heard different opinions so that you can decide for yourselves".

I also give a lecture to first-year undergrads, and it will be just like the previous years. Although I use a slide show and talk to it, so it won't be exactly the same. I could have updated the show, but I honestly have no time. They won't have heard me before. I teach three elective sessions within grad research training. They are open to all students, but usually only our child lit students opt for them. It means that I can count on their having some knowledge of literary theory, but not enough to perceive my sessions as superfluous. They have not heard me before. Well, they have heard me in the child lit sessions. Anyway, I really have no time to update. Since these are very small groups, hardly over eight students, most of them will be discussions. I will just throw some big questions at them and hope that we don't go too far off track. Finally, I teach a new masters session that I recklessly offered last summer, on "Methodologies of non-empirical research". I wrote a session summary then, but now it's imminent, and I am not quite sure what I thought I was going to do. But this will be a challenge, and I cannot compromise with my conscience. I will actually have to prepare it.

I had a colleague who boasted of having taught the same course for twenty-five years. I would be bored to death.

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