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Writing and Time: Summer Teaching and Scheduling

acceleration, classroom management, teaching

There are idyllic images of writing. Picture Hemingway leisurely strolling the streets of Pamplona or Thoreau overlooking Walden Pond.

 Walden Pond at Sunset

Time is an inherent factor to the creative process. Things need to soak, to marinate, to become something. The ideal picture of creativity is often one with loose deadlines or perhaps none at all.
That’s not, however, the reality for our students, and it is even less so in the summer.

I am teaching a four-week developmental writing class that started two days ago. Normally, two days into the semester things are pretty relaxed. We’re still getting to know one another. We’ve had a syllabus quiz and some ice breakers, and I’ve introduced the first assignment my students will need to turn in online. This gives us some time to deal with hiccups like textbook funding shortfalls, scheduling confusion, and technology anxiety.
Today, two days in, my students in this class have already submitted two graded in-class writings, started working on two informal assignments to be turned in online, and been introduced to their first formal writing assignment, due in a week.

I’m not going to lie. When I made this syllabus, I was scared. I pictured mutiny.

Walk The Plank, Panarea
And I didn’t want to have to walk the plank.
My anxiety was heightened even more when I found out that a few of the students in the class were in school for the very first time in years. The pressure was on to make sure that they weren’t overwhelmed. I knew that what happened in the next few hours could set a tone for them that would carry over (or not, I feared).
I don’t want to jinx it, but so far my fears seem unwarranted. These students have been alert and active. They have been on top of every assignment and asked way more questions than I normally get in the first few days of classes. I spent a lot of time talking about the importance of staying on track in a class this fast-paced, and they seem to understand the challenge.

I don’t expect to get it all exactly right at first, but I’m feeling a lot more confident about this time thing. Sure, they’re going to move fast. Yes, I had to do one fewer major paper than I normally do in a full 16-week class, but I do feel that the schedule before them is both doable and challenging. I really believe those who complete it will be ready for the next class.

How have you handled condensed classroom schedules? How do you make the most of longer classroom hours without losing attention and focus (theirs and yours)? Are there any benefits (content-wise) to moving through faster?
Photo: Tim Hettler
Bruno Travers
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