Things Teaching Has Taught Me

1. Build it, and they will come. Timetable it, and they might. Or not. Depends, really.

2. No matter how organised you think you are, you aren’t.

3. Bulldog clips.

4. The class that you’re sure will be really popular will take the full amount of time available to clear the minimum numbers threshold.

5. Unless you’ve booked a tiny room, in which case you’ll have a sell-out with a waiting list.

6. Time and duration are concepts that appear to be identical on the outside, but which assume vastly different aspects depending on whether the main sound in the room is the scratching of pens or the scratching of heads. The scratching of knives is generally considered a bad sign.

7. Technology is your friend. Just not today.

8. Poets leave everything until the last minute. Or the one after that, depending on whether they are iambic, trochaic, dactylic (watch out for them) or anapestic. If someone appears to be pyrrhic – run.

9. When planning a class, research your topic, make notes, and assemble them into a selection of files, folders or heaps.

10. Then do something else, because you read about it the night before and it sounds vaguely interesting.

11. There is no substitute for wanton cruelty.

12. The only way to work out how much material your class will get through in any one session is to invent a time-machine.

13. Bulldog clips. Big ones and little ones.

14. Three quarters of the material you have prepared is superfluous. And you will not realise this until you actually talk through the whole lesson as you plan to teach it.

15. It’s best if this happens before the students arrive.

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2 thoughts on “Things Teaching Has Taught Me

  1. Joanna, is this a poem? It feels like one (-: Oh yes, this is so fabulous, so true. I will forward the link immediately to my fellow tutors of creative writing at Massey Wellington.

    I am particularly prone to 9 and 10. I always get IDEAS about a class the night before or as I drive in – oh I love the new ideas and I think, yep I’ll try that, that will be fun. Sometimes the freshness gives it life and sometimes it crashes and burns. Yesterday I had an idea about an exercise on voice in fiction using Nick Cave’s song Breathless and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black – got the idea in the traffic jam driving in. First class: I over-ran the blackboard – it looked like some crazy scientist had come in and written up a formula for the Big Bang. Second class: organised the blackboard successfully (3 columns) – oh no, one small problem with the sound (technology not my friend) until tech-able student jumped in and pressed a couple of buttons. Both classes: amazing writing. Will do again.

    • No, it isn’t a poem – but feel free to share it with anyone who you think will sympathise!
      I like the idea of combining Nick Cave and Amy Winehouse … poetically, that is. I have Nick’s “Red Right Hand” on one of my most frequently used playlists on my iPod, and spend way too much time imagining video clips for it involving whatever else it is I happen to be doing at the time.

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