[Guest Post] A Crash Course in Time Management N.B., This is both Urgent and Important! ;)

By Melanie Mills, Research & Instructional Services Librarian, Western University

[This morning, Melanie – a longtime colleague and LIFE SAVER – visited my 20th Century Theatre class in order to offer some preliminary support around the time management exercise we are doing in conjunction with our research essay task this semester. More on that task forthcoming! Meanwhile, however, I’m thrilled to reproduce Melanie’s excellent blog post for our class website here… loads of cross-applicability for students and faculty alike. Enjoy!]

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Time management is a tricky thing. Many of us – myself included – have managed to cope pretty well without any formal time management training or skill development. We keep track of where we need to be and when (e.g., scheduled lectures/tutorials, shifts at work, volunteer commitments) and somehow manage to cram all of the rest of life’s ‘stuff’ (e.g., school work, exercise, groceries, socializing) into the nooks and crannies that surround our fixed commitments. But wouldn’t be nice if we could do better than just ‘cope’ or ‘survive’? Wouldn’t it be kind of awesome to thrive? That is, to set yourself up to do your very best and to show others what you’re truly capable of? All without routinely pulling all-nighters or feeling guilty or embarrassed when you let someone, namely yourself, down?

Good time management involves setting goals, developing strategies to help you achieve those goals, identifying the tasks or activities that will help you enact the strategy, and prioritizing your time accordingly. It sounds like a lot, but it can be pretty straight-forward. Especially when you have the right tools to help.

This morning, we watched Oxford University’s Short Guide to Managing Your Time where we learned about the fixed (i.e., ‘rocks’) and fluid (i.e., ‘sand’) activities that make up the stuff of our lives. We also learned about the perpetual challenge of trying to fit it all in a finite amount of time. If we think about the work that entails academic research and writing, fixed elements might include: your assignment due date, essay length, and the minimum number of secondary sources you have been asked to use. Other fixed elements that may not be as obvious might include: the availability and demand for research sources (especially physical books in the library) and access to research support services (e.g., Research Help hours of service; Kim, Meghan, and/or Melanie’s time and availability for one-on-one support and guidance. The more fluid elements of academic research would include things like: when you decide to do your preliminary research and reading; how much time you decide to dedicate to these activities; and access to research resources and supports that are readily available at point of need (e.g., online, anytime), such as e-books and online journal articles. Generally speaking, you’ll have more ‘play’ with the fluid bits and much less control, if any, with the fixed elements.

If you think you could benefit from a bit of guidance identifying the various components of the research process, and how much time you might want to dedicate to each task or phase of the process, I would encourage you to consult Wilfrid Laurier University’s Assignment Planner. This tool essentially reverse-engineers the research process and provides guidance on how and when to engage in specific tasks and activities. This may be helpful to some of you, or not at all useful to others. I’ll leave it to you to decide and do with it what you will.

Now back to that video for a second…

The kind folks at Oxford also introduced us to something called a ‘priority matrix’. You may recall that after the video concluded, we plotted some of the discreet activities related to the Research Essay assignment for this course along the urgency and importance axes on the whiteboard at the front of the room. (For more information about the priority matrix, which is derived from something called The Eisenhower Box (Covey, 2004), Hekedemia.com has a pretty decent blog post on the subject here.) The goal of that exercise was to get you thinking about the relationship between and the time required for the various components that together comprise academic research. The ‘sweet spot’ on the priorities matrix grid is the upper right-hand quadrant: activities that are important but not urgent. If you can focus your energies and attention here, most of the time, you’re more likely to find that both your productivity and mental health will improve. (Caveat: this is my own, non-time-management-expert and anecdotal opinion only.)

I encourage you to use the concept of the priority matrix to help you plot and prioritize the research tasks that are ahead of you in the coming weeks. I know I’m going to use it…starting now!

Other handy tips from the aforementioned video to keep top of mind:

  • One Diary (or, Journal, or Online Calendar) — “Plant all your big rocks into your diary, and let your sand just fill in around them“. See fixed vs. fluid activities, above.
  • Timeblock — Assign a finite amount of time to each task. This will help keep you to keep focused, and will facilitate the all important balancing of multiple and competing priorities.
  • Cluster — Schedule similar activities at the same time. E.g., library research, reading, on-campus activities, etc. You’re likely to be efficient if you do this.

As I mentioned in class, the research process is iterative. As you begin your preliminary research and reading, and uncover more about your topic, your knowledge will increase and your own thoughts and ideas will shift, evolve, or even metamorphosize entirely. This is normal! In fact, this is one of the most rich and rewarding aspects of information discovery and original research. But. It. Takes. Time. Good researchers not only allow for this time, they plan for and vehemently defend it! This is something to take into account when you’re thinking of the various tasks associated with planning for and conducting academic research. I would highly recommend setting aside dedicated time over the course of the coming week or two and to prioritize your preliminary research and reading, as well as define your thesis. But then, you already knew that, because you’ve mapped it out on your priority matrix. Right?! 😉

I hope the above serves as a helpful refresher to what we covered in class this morning. Remember, time management is about taking responsibility for yourself, your goals, your actions and their subsequent outcomes.

You got this! 🙂

Melanie

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Melanie Mills is a Research & Instructional Services Librarian at Western University, where she has worked since 2004. Actively engaged in teaching, research, and service to the University, Melanie is a status-quo contrarian interested in the now and future role of libraries and of librarians in institutions of higher education.

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Hedda Gabler wants to make some decisions, some art, feel some fire, and have a life!

(An Activist Classroom performance review)

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(All promotional images by Dahlia Katz)

I’m an Ibsen fanatic. I’m not sure when this happened! For a long time I hated stage realism and would happily tell anyone why the work of Bertolt Brecht, the man behind the “alienation effect”*, was politically superior to that of every one of the avant-garde realists who worked circa 1890 as Freud was storming Vienna, the first world war was still just a paper monster on the horizon, and every piece of theatre seemed to be set in a drawing-room near you.

But the avant-garde realists were not the straw men we often imagine; they weren’t boring conservatives whose goal was to trap us all in tidily-unified narratives that ultimately upheld the status quo. On the contrary: for men like (Henrik) Ibsen and (Anton) Chekhov, and women like (Elizabeth) Robins and (Cecily) Hamilton, the old, dour, bourgeois ways of 19th century Europe seemed increasingly unable to represent those intent on becoming “modern”. By which I mean: women (still without votes), minorities on the sidelines (servants, the underclasses, the workings classes, anyone not pristine-White), pretty much anybody not a dude and a banker. And their drama reflected that failure precisely by staging it at home, exactly where it lived.

(Ibsen, in caricature; Robins, rocking it fin-de-siècle style.)

And so I follow Henrik Ibsen around. I’ve seen dozens of productions of his work – Enemy of the People at the Young Vic in London, the Schaubühne in Berlin, the Tarragon in Toronto; Hedda Gabler in Germany and A Doll’s House all over the place; The Master Builder in New York. Every time, I’m reminded that his dramatic plan is to skewer not just the people in power – the people whose job it is to decide which human beings count, and which don’t – but to challenge the very idea of that kind of power, of the power to destroy a life over something as ultimately trivial as a letter, a bond, a manuscript, a medical report. In other words: the kind of power that organises and arranges a modern, information-age world.

Thus went I with enthusiasm and hope to see the talented and magnetic Cara Ricketts play Hedda Gabler in Jennifer Tarver’s Necessary Angel production at Canadian Stage in Toronto last Thursday. I’ll say up front that I did not love this production: in spots I really questioned its choices and even found them banal. But I also admired a number of the risks it took, and those are the things I’ll focus on in this review.

First, it bears mentioning – it really does – that Ricketts is a woman of colour cast as an iconic northern European character. Should casting be “colour blind”? Should we ignore the presumed racial heritage of characters, especially from the so-called classics, in order to open roles to actors of all visible backgrounds? ABSOLUTELY. And this performance demonstrates exactly why.

Ricketts is simply the most perfect Hedda I have ever seen: stunning, self-assured, yet vulnerable in unexpected moments (she really DOES feel badly about Aunt Julia’s hat! – or for a little moment, anyway). She carries in her body a powerful sense of strength, vibrancy, creativity, and intellect denied by the circumstances of her birth. Her Hedda Gabler is an artist, a thinker, a dreamer, a catastrophic overreacher – everything Friedrich Nietzsche would soliloquise in her were she a man. (Of course she’s angry that everyone keeps pointing out she’s pregnant! SHE knows that she is so much more than the baby in her belly!) As a non-White actor in the Canadian repertory system Ricketts has undoubtedly felt at times like the cards have been stacked against her in a similar way, as certain kinds of glass ceilings remain in place above her despite her incredible talent and skill on stage. In Ricketts’ performance here, Hedda’s chains – as they bind a smart and creative woman in a time unable to fathom such a creature – resonated for me with those that still coil around the most talented actors of colour in the world, generating a remarkable metatheatrical effect.

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Second, and in perfect counterpoint to Ricketts, there’s Frank Cox-O’Connell as Tesman. Although he’s a regular at Toronto’s major “classics” house, Soulpepper, Cox-O’Connell has wowed me in a handful of devised and physical theatre pieces, including Ajax and Little Iliada festival hit in 2012. His charming George Tesman – Hedda’s mildly clueless academic husband, a folklorist and frump of epic proportions – leaps onto things, throws outerwear high up into the air (“into the grid!!” as my companion noted with glee), and offers a startling sense of a young man with at least as much verve as his gorgeous, privileged, and clever wife – though it is, before our eyes, in the process of being eroded into a life of material wealth accumulation, job-grubbing, and praying for the raises that will pay for the butlers, the Eames chairs, and the horses. Truly, I felt for and with Cox-O’Connell’s Tesman: he loves his work, he loves Hedda, he wants to write, to teach, and to take pleasure in small things. Somehow, though, he has ended up in an outsized estate on the edge of town, desperate to best his old rival for the current promotion so the truck can keep on rolling. Between the career leaps and the leaps into the air, there’s a palpable sense of something lost here – something perhaps we can all relate to, even and especially in 2016.

Finally, there’s the overall tone of this production. As I said to my companion at the half, I felt like I’d bought a ticket to Ibsen and had been plunged instead into Tennessee Williams! Carver is using Jon Robin Baitz’s 1999 adaptation and sets it in a vaguely 1950s-60s Euro-America; Ricketts wears her mid-century dresses with gorgeous ease, and Judge Brack, far from being a sinister and gruesome threat, is in fact her confidante and partner in schemes – one whose sexual ambiguity matches perfectly Hedda’s strange habitation of her femininity (and in a way old Tennessee would no doubt approve of). This Hedda felt, to me, like the true author of the narrative we were watching unfold on stage, with Brack as her trusted set director. Each time she made an odd move (trying to burn Thea’s hair; forcing Lövborg to drink despite his addiction; insisting on playing with pistols), that move struck me as powerfully subtextual. In this adaptation a great deal of Ibsen’s original symbolism has been cut away, but that only means that Hedda is not obviously, and clinically, a hysteric in Freudian terms; rather, she’s a creative director, an artist insistent on playing with coups de theatre as she constructs a better, more interesting version of the life she has fallen into while seeking respectability. Blanche Dubois, perhaps; or possibly Maggie The Cat. Either way: it’s perform or die, and Ricketts’ Hedda commands the stage like only a desperate diva can.

So what of the failures, the bad bits – the banal? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this production – except that it often plays things far too safe. The threads I’ve pulled in this review lie provocatively just below the surface for me in Tarver’s rendering of Hedda Gabler; I see them because I’ve been fortunate enough to have long experience of Ibsen’s work in multiple contexts, but I’m not sure they’d register for most audience members. Too often this production feels pretty rather than urgent, well dressed rather than truly intellectually challenging, and – perhaps – it’s even a bit afraid of what CanStage’s subscription audiences might think if stuff got a bit out of hand.

This is a totally understandable fear: we live now in a climate of artistic austerity, where major performance venues need to pay far too much attention to bottom lines, and in which middlebrow spectators are way, way too often pandered to (unfairly) rather than encouraged to learn, think, and grow their critical audience chops. Nobody benefits from this kind of punch-pulling – although of course it’s the safest way to end the run with enough money to do it all again next season. This, friends, is something we have in common – all too common – with the avant-garde realists of the late 19th century: industrial capitalism, and the wealthy complacency it bred, maps rather neatly onto the complacency of late-model finance capitalism and its interest in the arts for appearance’s sake (the “creative economy”). Sometimes, the best we can do is to cast incredible performers in imperfect productions, and hope for a spark.

Go see it!

Kim

*”Alienation Effect” is the conventional translation of Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, the term that he used to describe a process whereby theatre can “make strange” (“fremde” = foreigner) things that are otherwise so familiar as to be invisible. One of my students, playing with her rudimentary German and using a shocking amount of creative license, once described it as the “wear strange clothes effect”. That’s my favourite transliteration of all time.

Instructor extraneous! (a post from the hip)

My favourite classroom experiences are the ones driven by effective in-class group work: when the task is both clear and interesting, the students are into it, and the room works WITHOUT ME.

Today in my 20th Century Theatre class we talked about immersive theatre, with particular reference to Griselda Gambaro‘s politically charged Information For Foreigners, a dispatch from Argentina’s murderous Dirty War. (Hats off to my fab TA, Meghan O’Hara, for an engaging lecture that detailed Punchdrunk’s infamous Sleep No More to set the scene).

In order to get a handle on the often confusing and jam-packed scenes in Gambaro’s play, we created visual maps of the work using those fun-and-games tools – chart paper and coloured pens! – that are (ahem) typical of grade-school classrooms… but are JUST AS EFFECTIVE for adult learners. And we had good, clean, productive fun indeed.

Herewith, some of the snaps I got to take when it turned out I was not needed!

On “Minding American Education”, by Martin Bickman*

*An Activist Classroom book review.

I have a big stack of books next to my bed – like most bookworm types, I’d wager. It never grows smaller; in fact, I think it’s inhabited by book-replicating trolls. Or perhaps it’s simply that I’m slow to move through each title, falling asleep as I read most nights.

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(This image comes from shiyali.blogspot.ca.)

For the past few months, one of the titles on top of the pile has been Martin Bickman‘s 2003 volume, Minding American Education: Reclaiming the Tradition of Active Learning (New York: Teacher’s College Press). I finished reading it, at last, on the night before our first day back to class last week, and I’m eager to share my delight in it.

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Minding American Education is a rich tapestry, though it’s woven from two quite different strands of thread. I’m tempted, even, to say that there are two different books here, addressed to two different kinds of audiences: scholars of American literature on one hand, and teachers of elementary, middle, and high school students on the other. Nevertheless, the two strands of Bickman’s discussion move together like warp and weft, producing a broad-ranging discussion of the longstanding, powerful, and imaginative tradition of active learning in American pedagogical theory and practice.

 

Bickman is a literary scholar as well as a teacher of teachers, and through the chunky middle of Minding American Education he is concerned primarily with American transcendentalism (the works of Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, the Thoreaus, Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example) and especially with the ways in which the transcendentalists reimagined education as an enterprise in knowledge-creation rather than rote learning or linear dissemination. Bickman notes carefully the rarity of this kind of reading of the transcendentalists: while we appreciate, as a rule, the literary and philosophical merits of these authors’ works, much less common is our appreciation for how these pioneering American thinkers were rebelling against ways of teaching and raising children that encouraged teachers to replicate themselves in their students, and through that process to replicate dominant culture tropes and ideologies.

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(A trio of transcendentalists: H.D. Thoreau, Emerson, Fuller)

As Bickman moves, in the latter half of the book, into the modern period and eventually into his own, contemporary experiences teaching literature at the University of Colorado, the writing becomes less philosophically dense and gains what for many teachers may be more familiar ground. Nevertheless, I want to recommend not skipping the early chapters that bring transcendental theory into collision with education praxis; as a scholar with absolutely no knowledge of the transcendentalist tradition, I was both fascinated and moved by Bickman’s account – not least because it offers a very different picture (active; activist; exploratory; non-hegemonic) of American education history than most non-Americans are likely to expect.

Bickman makes a strong and – today more than ever, as Donald Trump lumbers toward the 2016 Republican presidential nomination – valuable case for why and how exploratory learning enables the development of creative and nuanced minds, and along the way he rescues a number of now-outré education scholars (John Dewey!) from the dustbin, mining their writing and their practice for important tools and insights. This is my favourite thing about Minding American Education, in fact: it has no time for educational faddism. Although it is committed to a practice of active learning, to tracing the history of that practice in American thought and to advocating for its futurity at the heart of a robust American democracy, it does not regard active learning as a fad, and it does not treat student-centred learning as anything but a methodology with a long, rich lineage. At bottom, it is 165 pages of evidence that active learning is not a fad – it is an ethics, it is education for democracy, and it has been around for a very, very long time.

For all this historical insight, however, my favourite chapter in Minding American Education, and the one I recommend EVERYONE read, is the last one: “Enacting the Active Mind: Teaching English, Teaching Teaching.” Here, Bickman relates his experience teaching two particular courses at the University of Colorado, one of which was actually two courses in one: a graduate class on the theory and practice of teaching literature, organised around the team-teaching of an undergraduate class in which the graduate students acted as teaching assistants, active teaching participants, laboratory experimenters, and careful observers. (I first learned about Bickman’s work from my lodger, who himself took this course as a graduate student and raved to me about the experience.) Bickman’s discussion of this course is profound for its honesty: he explains the many stumbles he and his TA teams experienced along the way, and he explores carefully the ways they arrived at fixes, some of which worked better than others. This chunk of the chapter is a window on an exceptional, committed, activist teacher discovering new insights into his own teaching practice on one hand, and into the ways in which undergraduates learn, engage with, and inhabit literary texts on the other. It is both riveting and humbling to read.

In this final chapter Bickman is frank about the limited power of lecturing (“I blush to say it, but I was never tired or bored by my own lectures. And yet I know I cannot keep my mind from wandering after about a half hour of someone else’s lecture, no matter how good it is” [154]); about the value of reader response theory as a tool for empowering students (although, as he notes, that theory is often let down by its abstractions, imagining “the ideal reader” rather than trying to encounter real ones [153]); and about the value of writing before and during class time as key to students’ learning processes (“As we push our vague, fuzzy thoughts to precision, we find the very act of writing makes us articulate things we didn’t know we knew” [155]). In effect, he ends the book by mobilising his earlier, transcendental history, whose purpose now comes fully into view: what the transcendentalists have given him, and might by his example give us, is a firm sense of how to enact theory, test and experiment, learn and change as our students do, knowing that it is not our job to impose theory on them, but rather to build it with them.

This afternoon I had a snowy walk with a good friend who is teaching a contemporary critical theory course (a staple of all English Literature programs in North America) for the first time this year. He lamented that he’s found few resources online to help him troubleshoot common problems with teaching high theory to inexperienced undergraduates, and he concluded that it seems the scholars most likely to teach theory are those who tend to be least interested in pedagogy. While I’ve no doubt this is true often enough, Minding American Education suggests that it need not be – that in fact good theory and good teaching make exceptional fellow-travelers.

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Check out a preview of the book here.

Philosophically,

Kim

 

Looking back, looking ahead – part 2

On New Year’s Day I posted a look back at last semester, with three things I felt had gone quite well September through December. Herewith, part two of that post:

Improvement city.

1. I need, finally, to make a proper commitment to actual, effective time management in the classroom.

I am, as a professional teacher, better than most at keeping to schedules. But the fact remains that I routinely run out of time in my classes to talk thoroughly (or at all!) about important stuff I excitedly put on the syllabus at the start of the year (or in the prep at the start of the week!). The primary culprit is over-prepping, which I’ve written about before on the blog, but it’s also true that I welcome discussion in class and do a lot of things to frame it – a lot of my prep is, therefore, exercise set-up, and exercises can usually be modified or thrown out on the fly with no real harm done to my headspace.

The way I foreground team-based exercises in class, however, also means that inevitably some content stuff just gets missed out: the post-exercise discussion takes on a life of its own and then before I know it we’re at time and I never got to the CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT pocket lecture with which I was supposed to end the class…

Accidentally ending up with a rollocking class discussion is, of course, no bad thing: it’s just a blessing that also happens to be a time management problem for a teacher who really needs to get this key piece of the puzzle out on the table, so that next day the course can move forward. Without torpedoing next week’s class, and the class schedule after that.

My first reaction to our first awesome class discussion/total time management fail in my larger class (20th Century Theatre) this past fall was predictable:

AAGGHH!!!! WHY IS THIS STILL HAPPENING TO ME???

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Then I took a deep breath. And I realised: hey! I could just put my pocket lecture online. So I posted the notes to the “in class tools” page of our course blog, started the next class with them on screen, said a few words about some of the key ideas they contained, and asked the students to have a full read on their own time. Then, we moved on.

As the semester progressed, I realised – obviously belatedly since lots of my fellow profs already know this stuff (duh!) – that the web is my friend when in-class time starts to run short. It’s easy to put things on my class’s (relatively sophisticated) course blog – as text, or even as audio or video. It’s easy to shoot the students an email alert telling them it’s up. It’s easy to remind them that this will take about 5/10/15 minutes of their time, sometime between now and next class. Which means it’s increasingly less stressful to prioritise class discussions that look like they might run long. No more half checking out as we talk, with one eye on the clock. No more trying desperately to pull the chat back toward the lecture piece coming up next, so as to svengali a cool segue. Less time stress in every way.

Now that winter 2016 is here, I’ve decided to turn this revelation about the power of blended learning into an experiment a bit radical. My colleague at Brock University, Natalie Alvarez, and I have decided to team-teach our upcoming performance studies classes virtually. We will be recording a fair amount of content for the web to be viewed by students on their own, so that when we get together physically we can just focus on discussion, full stop. We are giving the students one of three class contact hours “back” in order to do this work carefully and in an engaged way, at least until reading week. (This is a mark of true blended learning classes: some contact hours are online, some in person.) And students will be asked repeatedly to engage with one another online by looking at each other’s posted work across the 200km between us, offering feedback, reactions, questions for discussion, and collaborative critique via the website.

I have unsuitably high hopes for what is a total experiment and could well become an unmitigated disaster. More in April!

2. I have indeed given the students the task of creating the course reader. With mixed results.

Back in May I reflected, with my former TA Madison Bettle, on the challenge of creating and maintaining supplementary material on the web that students will actually use, but will not use passively. My solution was to task this year’s cohort with creating a version of the supplementary research archive that Madison had made on her own initiative last year.

So, as per the spec, my 20th Century Theatre students are this year building the reader: each week two or three of them are assigned topics from a list supplied by me, and each week they must send me their draft contributions by noon on Monday. I do a light edit, ask for a handful of minor changes (and sometimes a bit of fresh investigation), and then I invite them to upload their final contribution, with images and media, to our course blog on their own. Once that happens, I provide official comments and a grade. (I also provide, in some cases, some last-minute quality control.)

The good? Some contributions are just amazing, most are perfectly good, and the students have thrown themselves into this labour, on the whole, with gusto. I even have some evidence, thanks to our mid-year anonymous class survey, that they are reading one another’s work!

The ho-hum? I’ve found editing some of the draft material incredibly onerous – I’ve realised that this task basically asks the students to create public writing, even if the “public” is just our class, and it occurs to me that I might need to prepare them better for this (upsettingly rare) task before I throw them into it again next year. I offered a “model” supplementary reader contribution in the second week of class, and I invited Madison to come and speak about the logic and intentions behind the reader’s original creation. Regardless, students seemed, at least on their first passes through the task, confused more often than not: is it an essay? If not, what is it? (Part of this is because too many students are only ever asked to write essays, of course. “Essay” equals “writing” for them. Which is HORRIBLE.)

Finally, I’ve discovered on the fly how to grade these things, and I suspect the grading process is not at all transparent to students going into the task for the first time. I’ve now engineered a grading rubric, and have come to the realisation that it needs to be shared with the students ASAP, and not just on a case-by-case basis. This should have of course happened at the start of the semester, but I was overly preoccupied trying to help them understand the purpose behind what they were doing in the first place. Oh well: never too late to clarify, especially where marks are concerned!

3. I need to find some windows. NOW.

Last semester I taught in a windowless room. The same room. Both classes.

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(This is not the exact room, but it’s a pretty reasonable facsimile. Nice, huh? Yup.)

 

 

 

 

It is shaped like a Greek auditorium. At first blush this seemed great – I teach in a theatre program, after all! The room can provide several lighting states, has about six white boards that can be shuffled up and down, and comes with a full tech setup and plenty of room for guests.

In fact, the room is an albatross. Because the chairs and tables don’t move. And there are NO WINDOWS in it.

World, I ask you. How can a classroom with no windows be permitted to exist in 2015? Quite apart from the fact that our days on this green and sunny earth may well be numbered, I just don’t understand the logic behind making any teaching or learning space light-tight. Whatever that logic is, it cannot, to my mind, make up for the sheer fatigue we all feel trooping in there at 9:30am on a sunny day, to be hit by fluorescent lights and projector beams. I know my students are tired at 9:30 because they are students, and thus not inclined to rise before 10; I also know they are tired because the fecking room is a nightmare of unnatural stimuli that, evidence suggests, negatively impacts student learning.

I don’t know how to solve this one, or if it’s solvable, short of moving the class, periodically, outside as the weather improves in spring. Which I am not at all opposed to doing – because this is the view beyond the walls:

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And on that happy note, a good semester to you all!

Kim