Friday, August 31, 2007

So Pho, How’s That Teaching Thing Going?

Friends have been writing, asking about my announced adjunct teaching gig at the University, so rather than keep writing the same email repeatedly, here goes. I am teaching The Supreme Court and the Constitution in the Political Science department.

This course doesn’t teach the “fun” parts of the Constitution – the Bill of Rights with all of its hot buttons. Instead, this course focuses on the parts of the Constitution that are fun only for hardcore law geeks – mostly the body of the Constitution proper, with a couple other amendments – the Tenth and the Civil War amendmentst especially – for good measure.

The material is dry because it’s difficult. But Articles I, II and III are the real engine of the document. That part of the Constitution gives each branch power, but also highlights that the power is limited, that the government has only the power granted by We the People. And the body of the Constitution establishes the system of checks and balances that has kept us a free and vital people for over two hundred year.

I better stop, I’m getting excited.

If you didn’t read this into the earlier mention, I’m kind of the Lecturer to Be Named Later. I was brought in with a couple weeks to go before class started to fill in after some late summer staff changes. So it has been an adventure putting the class together in a truncated time frame. Fortunately the professor scheduled to teach the class had ordered a book, so I have some foundation to build on. The book works overall but is a little textbooky whereas I favor assigning primary sources to students, so part of the challenge is to find supplemental readings with enough lead time to make it fair to the students.

Ah, the students. No doubt at some time one or more students will Google me and find his/her way to the blog (if it hasn’t happened already), so I’m not going into too much detail about the class itself. Suffice it to say that my students are all brilliant and engaged and will no doubt continue to do the reading and participate in class [waves].

My introduction to teaching was as follows. I toiled on my syllabus during the few free moments during the kids’ last few days of summer vacation. My kids did not actually start school until the day after my first class, so I had to find child care, didn’t get my syllabus copied prior to the first class and didn’t have time to scope out my room. This last turned out to be a real problem as I discovered that my 30-person, hoping-to-be-discussion-oriented class was scheduled in an auditorium that seats 400. I was trying to encourage a discussion from up on a stage as they strained to read my messy handwriting from a half mile away.

So the first class was a little rough. I couldn’t keep track of any of the students. I about wore out a pair of shoes trudging football field between the podium and the blackboard. Every humorous interjection landed with an audible thud. It was like that.

Second class was better. I got a new room, I felt a little more comfortable and I could at least pretend that there were students in the class who had read the material. I’m still shimmying up a steep learning curve, but the lecture was solid and we had a decent discussion. And it was fun.

So, that’s how it’s going. I have probably about two more weeks of heavy time consumption to get on top of things, then hopefully things will settle into a routine and I’ll be able to turn to a couple other projects that were planned for the fall.

5 comments:

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

Pho said, " . . . the Constitution gives each branch power, but also highlights that the power is limited, that the government has only the power granted by We the People. And the body of the Constitution establishes the system of checks and balances that has kept us a free and vital people for over two hundred year."

I've been preaching this very topic lately, because it seems, at least in Lorain County, that just as soon as we elect somebody, they try to push government out of our, the people's, reach. I'm starting to get frenzied over this, I'm afraid, and starting to sound like a broken record.

Dave P. said...

Good luck with the class. My class got off to a good start this week, but it's a bit overwhelming to deal with so much newness -- new facilities, culture, rooms, etc. -- all at once.

As for the blog, I'm on the fence about mentioning mine up front or just letting them find it.

matt r. said...

class sounds very interesting. you should probably mention to the students that all of that separation of power and checks and balances jazz is steadily eroding day by day. gotta go they have my cable line tapped.

sab said...

What an interesting time to be teaching this class. Everything I learned about con. law around 1980 seems to be totally out-of-date and irrelevant now.

BuckeyeStateBlog said...

Congrats Pho