GREAT EXPECTATIONS (NO, IT’S NOT ABOUT DICKENS)

My second semester subjects begin tomorrow and I’m nervous in anticipation. Yes, I’ve been a university teacher for almost twenty years but I still have trouble sleeping the night before a new semester begins. The first lecture is always important to set the tone for the whole subject and my nervousness springs from this need to hit it right from the beginning. To this, which is common to all my semesters at UAB, I must add two novelties, one a problem, the other a challenge.

First, the problem. I’m used to teaching smallish groups of 50 students at the most, which is already too big for a second language Literature class which has to learn a language as they learn the content of a particular subject. My 20th century English Literature was last year already too big at 68 students, which is funny considering this time I’ll have 87. Since my usual teaching practice is not based on lecturing but on interacting with students, my main worry this time is my possible lack of methodological tools to give such a substantial class the quality teaching they surely expect. I don’t think I can, at least, not at the same level I usually work. Why the sudden increase? Well, easy: the Facultat has offered new degrees without hiring new staff; the degrees, combining two languages, have doubled the demand for English and, as you can see, increased my workload to absurd limits. Will the students learn as much as promised by the new degrees? No, of course not. I’ll do what I can and explain this to them.

Second, the challenge. I’ll be teaching a subject on Contemporary British Theatre and I have decided to make dramatised reading the main activity in the classroom. This means that students will be asked to prepare particular scenes from a selection of plays for classroom performance (within reasonable limits… we’re reading Sarah Kane’s Blasted among others…) and discussion. With 33 students last time I counted, this seems feasible enough though it turns out only 5 of them are men. The 28 women should be ready, therefore, for plenty of ‘cross-dressing’ I hadn’t anticipated –not to this extent. This might be fun, as it’ll give us a excuse to produce some truly radical versions of the scenes selected. I can’t wait to see Freud in Hysteria, played as a woman…

My great expectations are now at its highest and after months of planning I’m ready to see the faces of my new and old students. I do hope all goes well and that the mood is not spoiled.

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