Monday, October 6, 2008

Teaching Block

I think that my teaching is faltering a bit. Well, in one class, anyway. Or maybe it was just today. I can hope?

We're starting Twelfth Night in the survey. A fun play. Reading it brings up very fond memories of seeing it performed with my family about 8 or 10 years ago; we were at the Folger and had seats right up on stage, and the performance was lively and hilarious. I like the play--much better than some of the Shakespeare I read for the independent study I directed last semester, by the end of which I was heartily sick of The Bard. But for today they'd read Acts 1 and 2, and I couldn't for the life of me think of a way to teach it.

Does that happen to other people? I was like, yeah, okay. Viola is in disguise. Um...disguise is important here? There are a lot of double meanings and irony? What do we do with that? Um...wait and see what happens?

Yeah, it was rough. I ended up lecturing for a while on the period (we're only just out of the Middle Ages, in week 7, for that is how I roll), then waffled around with them for 20 minutes trying to find something to have a discussion about. I had notes; they were just kind of dull and disjointed. I don't know if this is because we'd only read two acts, because there's not a lot of thematic depth to the play,* because I'm a lousy teacher, or because I was just mentally worn out this morning. All I know is that this is the only new text I'm teaching in the survey this semester, and apparently that's thrown me for a total loop.

I'm tempted to go with "mentally worn out." Teaching 5 classes--even if two of them are the same class (comp) and one only meets for an hour a week--might be catching up to me; I feel like I'm in a constant teaching rotation where no sooner does one class end then I've got another one to gear up for. And, to be perfectly honest, I haven't been devoting all that much time to my teaching. If I'm going to get this revised manuscript back to the publisher by mid-December (= the goal), I have to make that a top priority. I'm reading a lot of new stuff for the revisions; my plan is to read like crazy through October and then start working in the actual changes to the MS in November. That seems like a manageable plan--but only if I keep up with this thing of doing virtually all of my course reading for the week on, like, Saturday, and then doing all of my prep in the mornings (which is tough when my MWF schedule starts at 9 am).

With the possible result, of course, that I'll be punting a lot in my classes.

Hm. At least Comp and the senior-level seminar are going well (the latter in particular--I heart it). But it's funny--I loved the survey last year, and now I feel like I'm just sort of waiting it out. Part of that might be the dismal black hole of a classroom they stuck me in--way too big for the enrollment and in a basement with no ambient sound so that when I stop talking the silence presses in on all sides; one can only hope.

Sigh. It's 9 pm; I suppose I ought to read for tomorrow's class (the one I didn't get to on Saturday).

*I am not saying that this is the case. It is merely one possibility. In my weakened state, I am incompetent to judge.


Fretful Porpentine said...

With Shakespeare, you can always have an instant lesson plan by showing video clips. Students love it, and there's tons of stuff you can say about performance choices, especially if you watch multiple versions of the same scene.

The Trevor Nunn film of Twelfth Night is fantastic, and there are clips from two less familiar versions on YouTube:

Not that my teaching style consists entirely of video clips, of course. (Um, not on most days, anyway?)

Dr. Crazy said...

I second the film clip suggestion - also, I do an activity (I've done it with Othello and Hamlet, but it would work with any Shakespeare) where I have them do some character analysis, scene analysis, and then cast/stage the play as if they were going to make it into a film. They have fun with it, and it really helps them to get the physicality of the plays,which then helps with discussion of things like "disguise" etc.

Favorite casting choice students have ever made for Othello:

The Rock as Othello
Paris Hilton as Desdemona

And they actually gave legitimate reasons for these choices.

Oh, and finally, if I were teaching five classes with two of those comp? I might die. Seriously. And I'm saying that as a person teaching four classes this semester (though I have pretty much eliminated comp from life, which makes that four feel like 2 or 3)

Good Enough Woman said...

I like to teach sections from Book III of the FQ before I do Twelfth Night. Then I have lots of cross-dressing, love-seeking, sword-handling (or lack thereof) comparisons to make, pretty much from the get-go. Plus I just love Britomart. She rocks.

heu mihi said...

You guys rock. Tomorrow's class: Video clips. Friday's class: Character analysis and casting. Too late for the FQ, alas (I cut it this year because I floundered so hard with it last year and they were all bored out of their respective trees, although I, too, heart Britomart), but it's a good suggestion. And hi, Good Enough Woman!