One of the things we don't talk about enough as teachers is how much fun (yes, I mean it, fun) it is to prepare for a new class. Just before the holidays, my department chair asked me to teach a class in an entirely new area for me since one of my colleagues and friends will be out on maternity leave this semester (congratulations, Ginny!). Because I had so much grading and grant writing to do, it has taken me awhile to get to class preparation. I conferenced with Ginny getting her advice on how to teach the class, I ordered books, and otherwise gathered materials. But it wasn't until last week while I was on vacation that I was able to really start reading the materials.
So, yes, I was on vacation in Mexico and I read a lot--I read when I was stuck in airports with long layovers. I'd read in the morning when I woke up and wasn't ready to go out for breakfast yet. I'd read at night when I returned to the hotel tired after a long day of doing what tourists do. I even took my textbook down to the zocalo (in Oaxaca) one night and read while I ate dinner on an outdoor patio. And you know, the readings were deeply engaging, interesting, and otherwise enjoyable.
The class that I've been asked to teach is Literacy Studies. Although much of what I do in relation to English education is devoted to how to teach reading comprehension, writing, and literary analysis in secondary classrooms, Literacy Studies is more focused on the effects of literacy in people's every day lives. This morning, I've been reading essays about the history of standards-based education--and how the discipline of English/Language Arts and the basis for standards are antithetical. I've also been reading about how we impose certain expectations about school engagement on adolescents without questioning whether those frameworks are accurate or not--and about the ways that adolescents will assume certain attitudes about school because they think that is what is expected of them. I'm learning about the difference between the autonomous model of literacy vs. the ideological model.
As I read, I take notes on post-its (because one of the books is borrowed from Ginny). My mind keeps making interesting connections. I want to send one article to the Writing Project listserv to see what teachers think about it. I am refining what assignments (both writing projects and oral presentations) I want my students to do. I'm thinking about the questions that will frame how I organize my class. I'm trying to come up with ways to make the material accessible to undergraduates. I still have about a half a book left to read, but I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable about this subject area--and I'm really looking forward to discovering what my students will think of the ideas in these texts.
I'm excited to teach the class--I just hope I can figure out how to get my students excited about this content, as well. Teaching is an intellectual exercise--which is one of the reasons that I love my profession so much.