Thursday, September 11, 2008

On the Joys of New Preps

For various reasons this semester, I'm teaching two new preps, and a revamp of a prep I've not taught in a while.

So the two new preps are not only new courses in the way that they're configured, but also chock full of new books I've never taught before. While in many ways, this is a pain, because of all the lesson planning I'm doing from the ground up, it's also been extraordinarily invigorating.

Take my 300-level American Drama class, which I have focusing on political theatre. For whatever reason, I've never had occasion to teach either Clifford Odets' Waiting for Lefty, and perhaps more surprisingly, have never taught Sophie Treadwell's Machinal. Both are really interesting little plays, ones I hadn't heard about as an undergrad, but whose fortunes in the critical discussion have gone in opposite directions in the recent critical climate.

But I am loving how much my students are digging these plays. One of my male students said something like, "when I read the back of the book, I thought that this was going to take hours to get through, but I ended up really loving it."

Now, I can get these kinds of comments all the time from texts I've been teaching for ages. But what I don't get in those situations is the kind of unexpected glee. I can expect that students are going to dig Blake or Woolf in the Brit Lit II course, or that Cloud 9 will generate loads of hot potato discussion. There is joy in these moments, but the joy is expected, part of my daily budget of things to look forward to.

But when a new text comes along and just rocks the house, it's like finding money in your freshly laundered pockets.

So in the new prep, for evey text that goes over like a lead balloon (oddly, Calvino's If on a winter's night...), we also find these unexpected hours in our day in which thoughts are flying around the room like like bees, swarming and buzzing and dangerous and sweet. Moments like this, the job is hardly work.

(Plus, I really like Machinal, so I'm happy to know that it will work well on syllabi into the future).

1 comment:

Jason said...

Have to say, for whatever reason I'm not surprised Calvino was lead-balloon material in the undergrad classroom, although I'd love to hear the reasons in your case. (or, should I say, "You sit down and call to discuss the ...." oh nevermind).