Now that I’m past the halfway point of summer, I’m permitting myself some thoughts and work in teaching preparation: even if it’s just one day a week. Late August, as our term start looms, I’ll shift that to two and then three days a week in the final crunch of syllabus-setting and online teaching preps. The upcoming term will be crazily busy with four classes and, possibly, a senior student supervision. One of the courses is a brand new preparation, “The Occult in History”, requiring all sorts of background reading. I’ve chosen cool supplementary texts for my western civ and early modern British history surveys (the great Portuguese national epic, The Lusiads, for the former and Games’ enthralling reconsideration of the Elizabethan and Stuart experience of the wider world, The Web of Empire, for the latter) and been busy reading through those with an eye towards integrating them into our classroom experience.
Always reading, always reading. Who doesn’t love to read? Don’t tell me! My real pedagogical fun for the summer has been reading about teaching and learning. Every summer I reread Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do to get me excited about stepping back in front of the classroom. I also try to read two or three other new-to-me works in pedagogy. To this end, and with some inspiration from The Chronicle’s Top 10 Books on Teaching I picked up How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Ambrose et al. from my library and I also grabbed a copy of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning on my ereader. Reading these books has gotten me thinking about how I employ reflective responses and discussion segments in my classes, and that’s just a few chapters in with each of them.
I don’t want to reninvent my wheel when it comes to teaching but I do want to refine my craft while continuing to fold new discoveries and interpretations into the content that I teach. Creating new courses, choosing new supplementary texts and boning upon the latest insights into pedagogy are all ways that I can keep my teaching fresh for me and, hopefully, the students. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a lot more reading to do before it’s suppertime.