I get a little nervous every time I have to plan a new class, but after I get through the nerves – will I be good at teaching this? will I come up with useful activities? How will I handle all the grading? – I then find myself getting really excited. Why? Because so much of what a teaching experience is involves planning, which you all know I love.
Right now, I’m planning a class on Magical Realism Literature. The hope is that while the students are reading these strange, surreal stories that I’ve picked out for them, they will learn a few other things along the way: tactics for successful discussion in classes, practical tips for writing successful essays, methods for reading deeply and pulling out the most important aspects of a text, and a general ability to think critically rather than just consuming media without comment.
In doing this, I have to plan so many things. I currently have a spreadsheet where I’m listing potential activities, potential readings, and potential assignments. I also throw in different discussion structures, since many first-year students at the college where I teach don’t love big group discussions, and since I know a few magical realist writers, I’m toying with the idea of bringing one to campus to speak.
I plan in a variety of ways; first I free-associate all the different authors and activities and assignments I might want to use, then I fit them into the “grid” of the semester; what would be good as an opening reading? What would work better as a long-middle-of-the-semester slog? What would reenergize students for the end of the semester? All of these considerations help me make sure that my schedule is balanced and that I also won’t get bored or run-down.
What are the things you have to plan that bring you joy in the planning? This is just one of mine, and it really makes me happy to see a course “structure” emerge out of what is just my tangled, messy love of magical realism and helping people write.