Thinking About Fall Teaching

I’m really looking forward to getting back into the classroom (vaccinated, masked, spaced as far apart as the room will allow).

The university is encouraging us to accommodate students’ requests for remote instruction as possible, which in theory, I agree with. If someone is sick, I don’t want them coming in, especially if they have something communicable. That was always true for me — I told my students that long before the pandemic, and I don’t penalize them for missing in-person class if they keep up with the work.

But it raises the question of how to manage that, going forward. If I were teaching a big lecture class, I think I’d probably assume some percentage of my students would be missing every class, and would be seriously thinking about defaulting to streaming my classes or recording lectures for those who weren’t coming in.

But my classes aren’t big lectures — this semester, I have two small classes, both likely to end up around 15 students.

For the advanced fiction workshop in particular, I would normally emphasize *not* missing class casually, because so much of it is workshop, and there’s a professional courtesy aspect that comes into play — if other people show up to critique your work, you owe it to them to show up to critique theirs. And yes, you can do remote critique, but if half the class doesn’t show up, it really does impoverish the conversation pretty substantially — you just don’t go as deep, typically.

I’ve never tried streaming that kind of class, but I think it’d be tough to do well; there’s an intimacy to being in the room that also changes the conversation, I think. Would welcome thoughts from others who teach creative writing classes like this.

For my 400-level lit. class, the critique portion isn’t there, so it’s less important that they come if they can. But it’s a pretty substantial time commitment for me to record lectures for every class, just in case some students aren’t attending. I could stream, I suppose? Maybe in a low-key way, just setting up Zoom on a laptop facing the room, and having them call in if they can’t make it to class, so they can at least hear the discussion? Hm.

In the old days, we’d just have them get notes from a classmate if they missed, and I wonder if starting the semester with a Google drive and shared docs for note taking during class might work at least as well as me recording lectures. I mostly don’t lecture much anyway in a seminar class; I’m more interested in what they’re getting out of the texts, and the conversation they generate.

Teachers, thoughts? What are you planning for this fall?

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