Yesterday, I completed a draft of the schedule for one of my classes to be taught (an "intro to" for non-majors). It was a good milestone. As it stands, I get through the entire text and three tests in the first 25 of 29 class sessions. The third test is just before Thanksgiving break. That leaves us four sessions for catch up (if we fall behind), or more hopefully for reflecting on the material we covered during the semester, and bringing up some new topics closer to my heart and theirs. That, and reviewing for the final. I've never taken a class that followed that sort of model, completing the core materials early, then spending the last few sessions reflecting on it, making it relevant to questions beyond the text and coverage. I'd like to bring in some of my own work, explore some of the students' interests, take what we've learned and apply it in a novel situation. We'll see. The best laid plans...
I think I'll get back to some of my other research a bit today. Perhaps I'll draft up the schedule for my other class. I'll be teaching the same courses both terms, both for non-majors. There are just a few specific requirements for the first class, as in "you must cover x," but otherwise, I'm free to design it as I please. The second class is wide open. It's a somewhat openly-defined topic, and the coordinator for the course has given me full leeway. I chose a text, a rather short one, and will be supplementing it with readings from other materials. I'm going to be presenting standard coverage of the topic (the text is written by several of the big names in that subfield), but also covering topics (like the subject of the conference in England last month), which are up-and-coming, but about which I have a great deal of expertise.
We'll see how this first term goes. One of the things I sought in a graduate school was the opportunity to design my own courses. When I taught at the community college in Colorado, before heading back to get my PhD, I was fairly free, but more restrained. In part, I didn't have as much confidence in my own knowledge (it was my first time teaching at the college level). So, I stuck very much to the text in coverage, peppering my talks with accumulated knowledge and my own ideas as time went along. But I never had the opportunity to create a new course whole cloth.
Other than one interdisciplinary seminar that I taught in grad school (which I did design start to finish, though with only moderate results), and a few guest sections or invited lectures here or there, I haven't had my own classroom for seven years. This year will be my chance to really test myself as an instructor, to toy with how to structure a course, covering what needs covering, but expanding and directing as I see fit. If I can really pull this off, it may just reopen me to the possibilities academia affords. If not, at least I've tried.