Over-Preparation is the Foe of Inspiration. Yeah. Right.

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millerBy Melissa Miller, Ed.D., M.Ed.

There are two kinds of people in the world: planners, and those I like to call, “crazy people.” I am a planner. I am what my husband and friends affectionately call “Loveable Type A.”

Okay, I made up the “loveable” part.

As an educator, I always thought planning was an asset to my profession. When I taught elementary school, we were trained to over-plan and over-prepare. This served me well and suited my own personal organizational style.

Teaching in higher education, however, has been a crash course in trying to figure out the balance between over-planning and under-preparing. My greatest fear while teaching my first course was that I would not have enough material or enough talking points. Would I get the timing down correctly? How would I pace myself? Does this get easier? Luckily, I had classroom experience, but standing in front of fifth graders and teaching a room full of college students was a whole different ball game.

In order to ease my anxiety, I like to over-prepare. I like to have a list of talking points, to have the power points slides laid out, and to have the syllabus down cold. Students generally respond well to this.

As luck would have it, I’ve begun writing this blog, which entails (and forces) self-reflection and analysis of my teaching methods and strategies. I’ve begun to think about the benefits and consequences of over-planning and under-planning. Those professors who under-plan are quite foreign to me—another species! They strike me as fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants people in their private and professional lives. I picture them walking into class, straight from their walk across campus, and beginning a lively discussion that engages and challenges young minds. Straight out of Hollywood. (Yeah, right.)

Then there is me, Professor Miller: I practice my discussions and anticipate questions. I record previous sessions so I can listen to them and reflect. I wonder if I will always do this, or if it is because I am a New Adjunct? So why do I play it safe? It is partly personality. I am a planner in my personal life. It’s October, and yes, I have the majority of my Christmas shopping completed. I’m one of those people.

But as far as the classroom goes… Maybe I over-plan because I lack confidence and experience. Will I always feel this way? Someday, will I have the confidence to push my lectures outside of my comfort zone? Hopefully. I certainly see the benefits to this method of discussion. It can be very student-directed, and the unexpected can lead to interesting places.

“Over-preparation is the foe of inspiration,” according to Napoleon Bonaparte. Of course, things didn’t work out so well for the General, So I’m not sure if I want to follow his advice. After all, I’m looking to vacation on some small island in the Mediterranean, not be exiled to one.

About the New Adjunct: Dr. Melissa Miller completed her Ed.D. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She holds a M.Ed. from Mary Washington University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. Dr. Miller’s professional and research interests include adult and online learning, professional development, and literacy. Presently, Dr. Miller works as an adjunct instructor and an evaluator, while also enjoying her role as a wife and mother.

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