Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pop Quiz, Hotshot!

Oh the joys of planning lessons (read: choosing stories and poems) for a literature survey course.

My warm and cozy nook.  This was after I ate ALL THE COOKIES.

First you sit down and figure out exactly how many class periods you will have for the semester.  Then you look at that giant, doorstop of a textbook and start making some hard choices.  (This involves lots of sticky tabs.  Did I mention I LOVE office supplies?)  What do you leave out?  It can't be Flannery O'Connor.  And certainly not Nathaniel Hawthorne--everyone should have to read "Young Goodman Brown" at least fifty times in college.

All this decision-making isn't made any easier by the lovely sampling of contemporary writers that are included--Nathan Englander, Junot Diaz, Annie Proulx, and don't forget that Peter Meinke story that makes everyone cry. ("The Cranes")  Balance must also be considered: Am I including a significant number of female authors?  People of color?  Is Sherman Alexie really not in there?  This is hard.  I want to include all the stuff.  All the stories.

But this is not just a fiction course.  There's poetry.  And drama.  I love poetry--drama, not nearly so much.  Maybe we could read a few poems, watch a movie, and call it day.  Read more stories!  If we read a story about a person who writes poetry, does that count? (Just kidding, poet friends.  We'll be reading lots of good stuff.)

And because all of this wasn't challenging enough, I asked for some sample syllabi to make sure I cover everything required.  What do they send me?  Just the syllabus of one of the most awesome English professors I ever had, you know the kind: Her syllabus is detailed and perfect.  You can read the words/instructions in her voice and feel instantly inept as you imagine yourself attempting to teach the same subject matter.  Is it too late to back out?

I'm trying not to even think about making up tests.  The classes I've taught so far have all been writing courses.  I can grade a paper with the best of them. (Well maybe not with the best, but I can certainly manage it.)  I've never written a test before.  Will I over empathize and make it too easy?  Will I be subconsciously angered by perceived student apathy and make it too hard?  Will half the class simply refuse to show up for the midterm?  (Sorry, I was having flashbacks to last semester.)

Of course, the good part about having the SuperProfessor syllabus is that I can steal/borrow her awesome ideas, namely, I'm totally making my students memorize and recite a poem.  (My husband asked if it could be a limerick or haiku.  Pretty sure he's a college freshman in disguise.)  We're definitely going to attend the theater department's spring production (though admittedly, the name of it didn't really kindle anticipation and excitement in my heart.)  And I'm absolutely requiring them to submit PCQs on their readings. (Pre-class questions, for the uninitiated in Dr. Brown's amazing classes.)

One thing I'm really looking forward to is the quizzes.  There will be so many quizzes.  Planned quizzes.  Secret quizzes.  Hard quizzes.  Short quizzes.  If there's one thing I learned last semester, it's that freshmen will not do their homework unless moved by intense fear.  And so I will strike fear in their hearts with quizzes.  I will show no mercy with multiple choice answers.  It will be short answer.  It will be timed.  And most importantly, it will be at the very beginning of class, you late slackers.  Muwaaahaaa.  Is it wrong that I'm looking forward to the first student who wanders in five minutes late and misses the quiz?  Probably.  Do I care?  Not so much.

So that's pretty much my weekend.  Oh, yeah, there's also a ton of snow outside my window (at least a ton by SC standards.)  But that's more my husband's and Kiddo's domain.  I remain in my little hole, planning (plotting?) in front of my personal heater.  And when I start to feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities (Donne? Shakespeare? Keats? Eliot?), I just sit back and imagine all those sweet freshman sliding down snowy hills, sipping steaming drinks, laughing with friends, all completely and blissfully unaware of the quizzes that await them.

Also blissfully ignorant of my evil plans.

No comments:

Post a Comment