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Teaching Engl 101, Class #7: The Sophomore Week Slump

September 9, 2009

Posted by Rick. (CF MFA) First semester TA

Some days you just get a little overconfident in your ability to teach a class. Or to prepare it. Or to speak in complete, coherent sentences. And just because you have a degree in English and, as a creative writer, have studied things like plot and character and setting, doesn’t mean you can teach it.

Today I had this great class planned. I had a couple of diagrams with circles and arrows relating to setting, situation, character, audience, purpose, and tone, and how they all come together in harmonic convergence and influence each other for the greater good of all mankind. The diagrams were stunning in their simplicity and simplistic in their stunningness.

Unfortunately, the rest of my lesson was not so much “stunning,” as “stunned.” Or maybe “stunted.” I found myself looking at the clock and longing for the end of class, or, barring that, a full-blown, instantaneous H1N1 outbreak.

And, no, I wasn’t drinking when I wrote the lesson plan. I’d thought about the bottle of Scotch in the cupboard (What Would Cheever Do?) and how good a nice couple of jiggers on ice would taste. But, no. I owed it to my students to give them the best education their parents’ money could buy at a state institution. So I kept sober.

But in the morning, when it came time to talk,  none of it made sense.  My carefully numbered index cards, while still technically in numerical order, were all over the board subject-wise and might as well have been covering subjects like Genetic Drift,  Euler Circuits, or the use of the 180° System in Cinema (all of which are index cards I still have from my undergrad days — I’m such a dork.) The students snoozed and I engaged in a little incessant blathering. Tonight I’ll be preparing for Friday’s class and you can bet I’ll be busting out the good stuff. (OK. Really it will be the $10 bottle of Highland Stag, but I am on a student budget after all.)

I’m wondering if the old adage “Write drunk. Revise Sober” will translate to this situation. Plan drunk. Teach sober?

I’ll let you know how that one works.

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