Starring Sally J. Freedman as herself (On presentations)

I don’t regret starting the job at Starfleet Academy early when the opportunity arose; I’m enjoying it, we needed the money (and health insurance!  Woo!), and I now feel much more confident about staying on in the fall.  But I do regret not being able to give a lot more time to my MFA class at New RU.  I’ve taught similar classes before, and I think I caught a little luck in terms of group chemistry, so as far as I can tell it’s all gone okay.  But I’m pretty sure it would have gone better if I hadn’t been teaching five other classes at the same time.  

However, I might still have made one of the mistakes that I did make, which was not giving them very clear guidelines on what I expected from their presentations.  I thought, hey, they are graduate students and have clearly given presentations before.  Several of them have teaching experience (with New RU undergraduates and elsewhere).  You can see where this is going, I’m sure: their presentations were all over the damn place.  Too long, too short (yes, I did give a time frame, but I don’t think anybody rehearsed), too informal, too polished (okay, not really “too polished” but definitely not enough openings for discussion).  Too broad/shallow, too obsessively focused on one thing.  Next time, they will get what I never once got in grad school: an assignment sheet with criteria. 

The good news is that in each case, the rest of the class came up to the mark.  They answered even vague and poorly phrased questions (I’ve probably given them plenty of practice doing that ), evinced enthusiasm and support, and really helped make each presentation pretty successful in its own way.  I was also quite pleased with their ability to speak about the work using the language of craft we’ve developed over the semester; I think they can use vocabulary and criteria they didn’t have before.  That makes me glad.

I’m slated to teach a different course in this program in the fall, in a time slot that I think will work better for me.  I hope the course fills (that seems like more of an issue in the fall, when there are more courses that compete directly with mine).  I won’t be teaching at NCC, so there will generally be a break of at least four hours between the end of the day at Starfleet Academy and New RU.  And it’s earlier in the week, so I think I’ll just be less tired.  I’d like to see it work out.  After spending the day with teenagers, delightful though they generally are, I’ve come to treasure spending the evening with a small group of serious-minded adult writers.  Though I often feel I’m dragging myself there, I end up getting energized and I feel myself smiling a lot.  I know I will appreciate the lightening of the schedule when the course is over, but I’m going to miss it.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I’m so impressed that you’re pulling off teaching at multiple institutions. I don’t know how well I’d be handling that, although I can imagine that your adult evening class feeds a different part of your than your Starfleet Academy classes.

    So do you definitely have the Starfleet position for next year? Any idea what you’ll be teaching next year?


  2. Posted by meansomething on April 27, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Yeah, they actually offered me the job for next year back in Feb, and it wasn’t contingent on my agreeing to start this year. I signed the contract a couple of weeks ago. It looks like I’ll be teaching the same grade next year, plus electives to be determined. We’ll probably be having those conversations pretty soon!

    I really do want to keep my hand in at the MFA level, too, in part because I like it, in part because being able to do that kind of teaching will help me support my writing life.


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