Don’t stress the new semester!
Honestly, this week has been a little overwhelming with so many excellent teaching resources streaming non-stop across my screens. Advice on crafting a syllabus abounds (here’s one of my favorites)! And I’m thrilled to see all sorts of new materials to help me teach writing (check out this open ebook Writing for Success from Georgia State’s Perimeter College English Department); make my courses more inclusive (this from The Chronicle ) and student-centered (h/t HASTAC’s Progressive Pedagogy Group); and expand understanding of art history’s breadth and practice (this new issue of Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture!)
Such an abundance of great ideas can also bring a fair amount of anxiety for faculty, who may be passionate about teaching, but forced to balance making course improvements with other start-of-school responsibilities. This stress can be even worse for contingent faculty, who often have little time to prepare for classes, and less room for error given the precarity of their positions. Although it’s mid-August and students are heading to campus, many adjuncts are still waiting for fall contracts to confirm their courses, or they may have just said yes to a chair’s frantic phone call, asking them to take on an additional prep.
So if you’re scrambling to create a syllabus, find useful readings, and develop effective assignments, remember you don’t have to recreate the wheel! Indeed, AHTR originated to address this problem by facilitating the exchange of teaching resources that faculty had found useful to their students. Available on the website, AHTR’s bank of art history lesson plans can be adapted to meet the needs of most intro level survey classes, and they can even be used as points of departure for upper level courses on different thematic topics.
Archived posts from the AHTR Weekly can be mined by clicking on different categories. In addition to obvious categories like Assignments and Tools, also look for pedagogical approaches and class projects in Digital Humanities, Equity in Education, Museums, and Reflections. Lest it seem too obvious, don’t forget to click on the Resources page in the AHTR header, which includes OER-based lessons on such topics as Ukiyo-e printmaking, Public Spaces and Parks, and Kara Walker that were developed by art historians at CUNY.
It may be popular to think of a syllabus as a course contract that’s set in stone on day one, but it’s good pedagogy to involve students in thinking about course design and learning objectives. While some of these elements may already be in place, students–and instructors–can benefit from leaving space in the syllabus for ongoing reflection and course feedback, student-driven discussion, collaborative research, and flexibility to shift or even eliminate planned activities.
Although academics may be cursed with imposter syndrome, it’s important to realize that the best teachers are willing to acknowledge their limitations–it models the importance of life-long learning to our students. It also means it’s okay to tap existing resources and to ask for help from colleagues, including AHTR’s public Facebook group, which is both generous and knowledgable. So please have a great semester with your students, and don’t stress, you’ve got this!