Posted tagged ‘Teaching’

Teaching “May Term”: Some Reflections

May 30, 2013


teacher writing

Some call it “May Term”… some call it “J term”… if I were a poet, I could come up with a third.  Regardless of your terminology, I’m writing about the “intensive, semester in a few weeks EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME” that many schools have.  “Back in my day” as an undergrad, this was not an option.  However, I’d like to offer a few points of advice from this side of the podium on how to handle teaching an intensive semester-in-a-month class.

1) Cut back – Cut back on everything.  Your Chair will tell you not to.  Your spirit won’t want you to make the class any “easier,” but the bottom line is you have to cut some content.  Students cannot retain in five weeks what they can in fifteen.  Remember the whole “uncoverage” conversation.  I don’t care if you’re teaching World Civ or US history, something’s gotta go.

2) Don’t lament the structure; embrace it.  Initially I found myself frustrated with the smaller class size and the restricted time to develop my ideas.  “I can’t do this…” I said.  “This is too hard…” I said.  But I could do it.  Once I learned to listen to my students (I know, I sound like Mr. Myagi now), I realized they were making different sorts of connections in this format.  Unlike us, these students don’t spend three hours a day working on history.  So when they do for an intensive class, they make unique observations and connections they may not make in a standard semester.

3) Let less be more.  This point is related to the first point, but what I mean is rather than focus on “whole texts” and longer readings (that students frankly cannot finish in the format), try breaking down sources together.  Running a class like this (with three hour meeting blocks), creating a “workshop” style atmosphere can be very beneficial.  While it might seem like you’re covering less “survey” material, the hands on connection points are invaluable and, for some of us, more enjoyable.

To some these might seem like obvious ideas, but I know I had to learn them the  hard way.  Feel free to share this post with friends and colleagues who may be teaching in this format over the summer or for intensive classes next fall.

Any thoughts or ideas you might have, feel free to comment below!


TEACH: The Uncoverage Debate Continues

March 15, 2011

We CFH graduate students are, if nothing else, students. Many of us are also teaching, or aspiring to teach. With a gusto beyond that of many ordinary instructors, we want to teach well.

One of the marquee debates of our time, something that will be talked about a century after this era, is that of coverage v. uncoverage. In other words, are we here to teach CONTENT, or is it more important that we cover key ideas, thoughts, and processes? Do my students need to know the facts of Thomas Jefferson, or is it more fruitful to debate the underlying ideologies of Jefferson’s penned “Declaration” compared with his own slave holding? If I spend a day in class on the debate, what do I cut? For heaven’s sake we can’t skip the XYZ affair…… or can we?

For more on the debate, including a link to the CFH’s own board member Professor Lendol Calder’s original article, click here.