Monday, September 22, 2008


I just spent a few hours this afternoon helping some students with the course content while they prepare for their first exam, which is tomorrow. I love it, but it completely obliterates my ability to focus on anything. I find a few things particularly stressful about the way my partial participation in this course have shaken out:
  1. I have absolutely no idea what goes on in the labs. I don't know what their lab homeworks are all about, or how the concepts are getting explained to them in lab for how to do things in the homework and lab reports. I don't have time to go take the whole course with them and participate in labs, so I am totally useless at helping them figure out the labs, and I am not likely to become useful anytime soon.
  2. The study methods involve working from previous example exams, which don't sync up with where we are at in the course this time of this year. They end up being incredibly stressed out and wasting a lot of their time and mental energy trying to understand how to do these problems that they have no reason to be able to do yet.
  3. Since I don't have a lot of time to spend on this aspect of things this year (and have not been asked to spend much time--my "official" duties are only a total of 10 hours of lecture) it stressed ME out a lot to find I don't know how to help them understand the stuff that isn't my direct responsibility or for which I missed the associated lecture by the primary professor. I end up needing to do quite a LOT more homework in order to be able to help them understand things that I a) haven't thought about in detail in years and b) mostly have my own internal, instinctive cartoon explanation for anyway.
I'm sure anybody who has had to develop and teach a whole course is saying "Boooo freaking hoooo!" but hey, the point here is that partially team-teaching a course that was developed and is administered by someone else without looking like a total moron and being mostly useless to the students is a LOT more work than you think on paper. I'm trying to make sure I get involved in as many aspects as possible so I can keep up with these things but by then it's like I might as well be teaching full-time. Oh well, I still love it, I just want to make sure I don't end up leading anyone astray by having the wrong way of explaining things to them so they miss out points on their exams.


okham said...

Well, let me give you another example of something just about as frustrating as team teaching. Imagine teaching a multi-section course, and not being allowed any input whatsoever over the course content, textbook, grading policies, whether or not to have homework, how many midterm exams... Because there must be "uniformity" among different sections, we all have to do whatever it is that the course "coordinator" decides (this person, who is not even a regular faculty, must be God's gift to teaching, I suppose...).

Arlenna said...

That would really suck! At least in my case the primary professor for the course is extremely easy to get along with, an excellent teacher, and has expressed that he's more than happy for me to offer input as we go along. I really like working with him, it just has turned out to require a lot more brainpower than I anticipated--but I guess that's life!

I had a great meeting with the professor in charge of the labs for the course, she is great, and I got to learn a lot about what they'll be doing in lab so we can be complementary in lecture rather than unnecessarily redundant. It'll help a lot to know what things would be useful for them to work on in both vs. just one or the other.