26 August 2006

Heinleinean Approach to Teaching

I've discovered that I am involved in the Heinleinean approach to teaching.

Okay, I'm sure most of you are sitting here going "I know who Heinlein is. I've read some Heinlein, but what the hell is the Heinleinean approach to teaching? Do you create a commune with your students? Introduce them to a sentient computer? What?"

The Heinleinean approach to anything is as follows:
You are in a burning building. The flames are licking at your feet and death is nanoseconds away. There is a window. You are on the 17th floor.
The obvious Heinleinean approach is to jump out the window. Why? Though you may die, you are ultimately buying yourself 15 seconds to solve the next problem. As you go whirring by, there is a rope/levitation device/window washer platform. You grab that because it buys you another few seconds to solve the next problem. Rinse. Repeat.

What I'm doing now with the changes I have to do to my courses because of accreditation stuff going on this semester, because of the delay of some of my supervisors, because of people having issues with basic thought processes... Is the Heinleinean approach to teaching. I'm putting together PowerPoints because that keeps the students entertained long enough for me to identify and start working on a solution for the next problem.

Currently, the next problem is the pre-test for my courses, for which I have not received a solid answer. And the lack of any sort of syllabus for the computer course. And the recreation of a course that "oh, we've had people do this before..."

Now, I understand the desire to have your intellectual property protected, but if you're going to toss someone into a course with weeks before the semester, then you'd sure as shit better have something more than "here's the book, here's the labs, here's the CD, have fun!" And then later say "oh, I have a syllabus provided by the textbook company" (gee, thanks. Mightn't you have mentioned that before I started tearing my hair out over this while trying to get my first week of lectures sorted?) "oh, I have the WebCT shell for the e-course supplement also, would you like that loaded?" (No, I've only had access to the current shell for a day, and now it's 4 days before courses start. I love working under this much pressure. Fucker.)

It honestly amazes me at how the Heinleinean approach to life pops up, and it's usually because of some other person's poor planning or bad act.

Amazingly, it's not my students that piss me off about teaching. It's my supervisors and my peers.

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