By Lance Eaton
Some friends often knock me for constantly checking my email, but the habit isn’t born of bad manners; it’s a necessity for Freeway Flyers. Opportunity knocks via every email. Most recently, that fact was reinforced when I received an email from a department chair looking to staff a course at the lat minute—last minute as in the email was sent out mid-Monday and the class started Tuesday evening. Sound familiar fellow Freeway Flyers? If I weren’t so obsessive about checking my email, I might missed the opportunity. As a freeway flyer, we live and thrive by making sure we’re connected.
It was a course I had taught before, so I was comfortable taking and running with it, but even if I hadn’t have taught the course before, I still might have considered it. Crazy, you say? Like a fox, I say.
What does it look like to accept a course at the very last second?
First up was a change in plans; no movie-going that night, but booked it home began my planning. Since the next day was the first class meeting, my priorities were syllabus, introductory lecture, and clear outline of course readings. Introductory lecture was fairly easy. I would just borrow and tweak slides from previous introductory PowerPoints: introduction, ice breakers, syllabus discussion, outline of the semester; introduction to the literature we’re reading. The syllabus consisted of my usual template with a few tweaks for a summer course. Laying out the readings was the most difficult. A literature class during the summer is always a challenge in terms of how much reading to assign.
Doing this for a class previously taught, it’s pretty easy to prepare on the fly, but stepping into a course that one hasn’t taught before can be a challenge. The first time that happened to me was the first semester I began teaching. I was interviewed on Monday for a class that started Wednesday. Crazy as it was, I found my rhythm. Now, I have a range of templates (syllabi, assignments, readings) set to go at a moment’s notice. Stepping in at the last minute for a class I’ve never taught before isn’t something I like to do, but if the class is interesting enough and opens up new opportunities, temptation wins out.
That’s something the Freeway Flyer learns to do—move quickly and seize opportunities that for some would seem a bit crazy. Teaching brand new courses on insanely short notice is certainly a challenge, and can be anxiety-inducing. It is also beneficial since it puts one in the good graces of his or her chair or dean, which is useful. The other benefit is that agreeing to teaching new courses at the last moment also opens up new courses for a freeway flyer to teach in the future.
Let’s face it, diversifying is one of the keys to this Freeway Flying game, right?
What are some of the strategies and resources that you use in dealing with last minute courses? What success stories (or nightmares) do people have with picking up a class last minute? Do people find the chair, dean, or admin helpful in getting those last minute courses off the ground and running (such as offering other syllabi, or school resources) or are people left to their own devices in constructing last-minute courses?
Let’s hear your stories about picking up courses at the last minute! The good, the bad and the ugly.
About the Freeway Flyer: Lance Eaton has a Master’s Degree in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston where he focused primarily on Popular Culture and Gender/Sexuality studies. He also has a Master’s in Public Administration from Suffolk University, where his concentration was on nonprofit organizations. He teaches at several schools in the Greater Boston area including Emerson College, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and North Shore Community College. He’s professionally written and presented on topics such as comics, zombies, audiobooks, and adaptation. He also keeps a running blog with his students athttp://hitchhikingadjunct.blogspot.com. When not flying from school-to-school, he also enjoys reading comics, cycling, gardening and cooking.