Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The wo that is in lecturing

Once a year I manage it. I work hard the night before a lecture, typing up bits of text I want to focus on onto the Powerpoint slides, uploading pictures and links to break up the sound of my voice (a 90-minute lecture slot to 80 students) ... and then I leave the disk or memory stick at home. Today I didn't even download it from my computer. So there I was at 9.30, with nothing. Zip. Talk about self-sabotaging behaviour.

As I was preparing the slides last night I was thinking it was a bit wasteful of time to be typing up or uploading text when the students have the books. But since I don't really have notes any more when I lecture (on medieval literature, at least), I have come to depend on the slides as an aide-mémoire. But when you don't have notes or slides, it is certainly that much harder.

I thought about jumping on the bike and racing home, but it would have been a bit tight, and the wise Annemarie counselled me against it. So I sat in my office, found a link to an online Chaucer edition and a couple of manuscript pages I wanted to look at, and made myself a few notes.

It was ok. It wasn't great; it was a little short (for which I'm sure everyone was grateful). It wasn't brilliantly organised. But it was on the Wife of Bath's prologue, and while it shouldn't really surprise me that this should happen, I found myself more than once just mentally reeling at the genius of this poetry, the play of voices and textual traditions. One line jumped out at me today, in particular.

But — Lord Crist! — whan that it remembreth me
Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote.
Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
That I have had my world as in my tyme.
But age, allas, that al wole envenyme,
Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith.
Lat go. Farewel! The devel go therwith!
The flour is goon; ther is no more to telle;
The bren, as I best kan, now moste I selle;
But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
Now wol I tellen of my fourthe housbonde.

It's that second-last line, with its determination to be merry — the willed nature of the emotion here, that leapt at me.

I was pretty tired the rest of the day: a couple of meetings with students, a Faculty meeting, a talk I had to give (how's this for irony?) on teaching practice, and then a seminar to go to on Coetzee's Disgrace.

But now I'm home. I have prawns marinating in ginger and garlic and dollops of all kinds of delicious sauces in the cupboard. I'm going to fire up the rice cooker in a minute and then sit down with Joel for a couple of episodes of Scrubs.

Hey, maybe one of the reasons I'm so tired is the single parenting I've been doing for five of the last seven weeks. J is no trouble, and helps with cooking, etc. but there's no doubt the household runs more smoothly when there are two adults in it. Just a couple more days and P is back.

(There's some weirdly ironic thing going on here about marriage and the Wife of Bath and P being away, but I'm too tired to untangle it.)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

We generally upload powerpoint stuff onto the "Learning Management System" in advance of the lecture: so students use the slides as framework for their lecture notes, I gather. The advantage is that if you turn up to the lecture theatre sans memory stick you simply log on to the learning management system in the theatre and open the powerpoint from the web.

In fact, given the amount of viruses that seem to circulate on lecture theatre computers (I've never caught one from my home institution's theatres, but as a guest lecturer at Melbourne Uni I took away a contaminated memory stick) this might seem a more sensible way of proceeding in any case.

But I do obsessively check for memory sticks when I set off for any lecture

Stephanie Trigg said...

Well I guess that makes sense. Though I have huge difficulty loading large files with images onto the LMS, and end up saving them as rtf files, which are decidedly unpretty to project on a screen. But encouraging students to expect the lecture notes before the lecture seems to me just another source of stress: it's hard enough to finish the lecture as it is without trying to do it so the students can download notes before class. And frankly, I don't like the idea, somehow.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

What a great post, covering all the bases of life. The Chaucer is just stunning, isn't it. I'm reminded of a character in an Amanda Cross novel who turns 58 and says 'If I'm going to be 58, I want to be gloriously 58.' She gets murdered almost immediately afterwards.

David Thornby said...

I've been in your classes, Stephanie, and therefore I thought it was odd to read that you thought you went in with nothing...'Zip'. You had a great text, a firm and knowledgeable love of it, and an engaging manner; the rest is just props. I've shown a lot of powerpoint slides to a lot of people, and if I've learned anything, it's that they are absolutely window dressing.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

I have self-sabotaged like that many times! Sometimes it leads to a great class, and at others I am treading water for 75 minutes and attempting not to be pulled beneath.

Our kids are not high maintenance but they (like us) have busy lives, so I am sure Wendy is very very tired right now as I prepare to fly back after being gone for a week!

Pen said...

Reading the Wife of Bath in your class is one of the best and most vivid memories of my life, Stephanie. It was most certainly pre-PowerPoint because it was quite a very long time ago. So I imagine it will be the same for your students today.

Stephanie Trigg said...

What a generous comment, Pen. Thank you so much. This is a lovely birthday present for me today!

all the best, S.