Lecture Notes.

There’s little doubt that I learned much more from my recent presentation at a local university than the students in the class did. My eyes were opened quickly, but only after a follow up with the class’s regular professor did I realize the many differences between American and British lecture styles. This is a bit humorously ironic, as I undertook my entire undergrad career here in the States, but my preferred method of presentation is decidedly foreign – more formal, deeply detail-oriented, and containing much reading punctuated with media examples and brief, unscripted side notes. While I’ve lectured on this subject before both in Scotland and America to some effect and fair response, it was pretty clear that this undergraduate class was totally uninterested, completely overwhelmed, or just plain bored out of their seats. They slung me a couple of cursory questions at the end, but no great discourse was generated by my subject matter, and I wondered, of course, did I flop it?

Fortunately, I stood around with the good professor for a while and we discussed what went down. He was sure that it was not boring material or delivered in an undesirable manner, and that I covered all the important concepts and context that needed to be examined. His suggestion, rather, was that the students were patently unfamiliar with the method. A small class of fifteen, they were used to sitting informally around a table, seminar-style, and discussing historical questions in a round-robin manner. This was confirmed when he came into the store the other day with a report from the class. They liked the lecture very much, but were unaccustomed to the level of detail and style. I thought back to my earlier years of university and realized that I actually preferred the same way they did – I learned so much from those instructors who were able to explain history in a systemic way based upon holistic, bite-sized examples with which we could identify and engage. Information that shows the inner workings of historical consciousness, into which we could transpose ourselves. I had forgotten this in my preparation for the lecture, though I must in part blame it on the fact that I’ve never had any teaching training – a boon that this professor explained immeasurably changed his way of doing things in the classroom.

In the meantime, these events are good practice for me, and they not only keep my public speaking neurosis in check, but they allow me to keep my head in the books and follow some of those intriguing tangents that were found during my time in the archives – and to report on them. There will be a time when I can explore the meta-cognitive aspects of the job – which is a fair job in and of itself. Another reason why teachers should be lauded and revered. It’s not just about what you know, but how you synthesize and convey that knowledge to make it effective. I have much to learn about teaching.

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It’s been two weeks now at the store since the changeover, a little or a lot of work every day with no days off. Things are getting done as we head toward Christmastime at light speed, and energy levels all around are high. An immense sense of freedom in all of us now, buzzing about and ordering, unpacking, and allocating product like mad. I can go home when I want to, though it’s more work rather than less for the time being. The evenings afterward have been filled with crackling fires, ball of warm cat melting into my outstretched legs as I type away on the laptop. Sleepy housemate dozing on the floor pillows in front of the hearth, cooling cups of tea forgotten on the table amidst the narcoleptic late-night movie glow or ticking mantle clock. Bring on the rains, for we have the trappings of winter at the ready.

7 Responses to “Lecture Notes.”

  1. angledge Says:
    November 16th, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    If the melting cat ball becomes too gooey, put him in the freezer for a couple of hours. He'll re-solidify, no problem.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 16th, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    There's no room left due to the post-Halloween frozen Snickers stash. Damn, those are good.

  3. jacesan Says:
    November 17th, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    I'm glad the experience didn't discourage you from further lecturing. Sometimes it's hard to go back and see things from the student's perspective. I had a mixture of age, and education levels come into my lab this week. But that's sort of what makes it fun too. Seeing if I can pique their interest by just explaining stuff to them without all the technical details that they can learn later. It's gratifying to see the light bulbs go on over their heads when some of what I'm telling them starts to sink in. 🙂

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 21st, 2006 at 12:34 am

    Yes, it wasn't really a discouraging experience, but rather one of understanding that I have a whole other aspect of the discipline to examine and dig into before I'll make a good instructor. It's a nice and very interesting challenge. Glad you saw the light bulbs there; nothing is more tedious than seeing broken filaments and nothing else. 🙂

  5. nite_secrets Says:
    November 20th, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    Come lecture at Rutgers, I love history and I could probably sit in being staff.
    Warm cat loafs – what would my cold feet do without them!

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 21st, 2006 at 12:37 am

    A NJ trip just for a Rutgers lecture? But don't you people throw tomatoes and gnash your teeth at foreigners from the other side of the country?

  7. avalokita Says:
    November 23rd, 2006 at 11:21 am

    Are you thinking of Tennessee?? NJ is filled with foreigners, just mostly of the international kind.

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