What’s to Prepare?

Talking about preparing for undergraduate classes. Tomorrow, I’m teaching about the civil war in Guatemala in one class and the fate of the regional nationalisms in Spain during the dictatorship of Franco in another. What would the preparation for these classes look like? I know the material. I know enormously more than undergraduates who never came across these topics need to know. I read about these topics constantly as part of my research. I think about them all the time. What’s to prepare?

7 thoughts on “What’s to Prepare?”

  1. I prepare lots and lots. I gather relevant quotations from the text I’m teaching so I’m not paging through a 400 page novel during class. I bring in relevant paintings, music clips, political comics, newspaper clippings etc depending on what we are covering that day. I create questions to guide discussion. Every week or class session, I devise different discussion-based activities so class is varied and students are introduced to various method of analysis. I also re-read every text I teach–even ones I know well. I can skim but I still have to familiarize myself with the readings before I come into the classroom. And if you add everything up for my three courses, I’m at minimum assigning 300 pages of reading a week. Even writing out assignments takes a long time. I created an assignment for my students completing their senior theses project that took me a day to write.

    Our classes are two hours long. For every two hour class, I easily prep eight hours the first time I teach it. Once I’ve taught it, I prep less. But I still mix things up to keep it lively for myself. Prepping for classes consumes far far more of my time than grading. I personally consider class prep the single most important thing I do to as a teaching professor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. …and when you’re doing this and it is also something you do on topics that aren’t what you write about, then it really is class preparation and not something you are doing as part of research. I’ve put in this kind of time, as you do, and it always makes life rich — in part because it’s enough time to also figure out what to cut out, so as not to overwhelm.

      I need to start doing things with more love, like this — again — as you do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. I have taught many novels and other topics that I don’t write about so I am continually learning. And I actually did branch out into a new area of research from my teaching.

        But even when the material is deeply familiar to me, I am always trying to recreate “textually rich” lectures, discussions, and activities that allow students to follow the sort of path that I did as I learned the material myself. I can certainly tell the students about the bombing of London and that Edward Murrow broadcast through much of the bombing. But it’s much more interesting for me and them (albeit more time consuming to me) to be able to locate some of Murrow’s broadcasts, play them for the students, and then have them discuss what they noticed, heard, etc. And then it’s one more step to create questions that push the students to think through potential connections from the bombings to postwar literature.

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