Thursday, September 15, 2005

Take Four: This Time Make It Seem Less Scripted

One of my courses is something that I am teaching for the fourth time. That's if you're counting by semesters. If you're counting sections, this my eighth section (meaning each time I walk into my classroom, I've delivered each lecture seven times in the past).

At this point the schedule is pretty much hammered out. On the first day of class I can hand out a calendar indicating every assignment and the day that it's due. I know which problems the students hate. I know which ideas they struggle with.

Now this is finally becoming the sort of class that you imagine when you are reading "helpful advice for people new to teaching math." The sort of stuff that you would like to do in your class, but that you really don't have time to do in reality because you are just trying to keep up with the planning and the grading. I am collecting a box of props to illustrate visual ideas that are hard to see as flat pictures. I am reading about the historical background of the time/place the ideas were developed and the people who first came up with them. I have a small archive of recent news articles about our seemingly abstract topics.

The weird part here is that I feel like I'm underplanning, underprepping. The first few times I taught this course, it took me at least an hour to create notes for each day. Now I can put together a lesson in half that time -- and including a lot more things from outside the textbook. This is the first time I've been at one school long enough to teach the same course repeatedly, and it is a strange feeling to be able to do a good job with so little prep time.