I’m going to be teaching an extra class next week. One of the adjuncts that Joe hired to work this term has just discovered that he is gravely ill and, as a result, has had to abruptly quit. Joe asked me to teach this man’s class on Monday while the adjunct who’s going to take it over observes: he’s a new instructor who’s never taught public speaking before, and Joe would like me to be a sort of mentor to the guy.
I’m both honored and a little freaked out that Joe asked this of me. I like to think of myself as calm and competent (and, even when I’m not, I can put up a good show). I’m personable and organized, and I am pretty good at taking complicated things and making them accessible. I’m thrilled that Joe thinks highly enough of me and my abilities to ask me to coach a new teacher, but let’s be honest here: I’ve been teaching in this setting for less than a year. I’m not sure I’m qualified to be anybody’s mentor.
I’m planning on telling my charge this when I meet him on Monday. Yes, there are a lot of things I DO know – I know how to post attendance on the portal, I know how to keep a class moving in tune with the schedule on the syllabus, and I know how to assess student progress in ways that are meaningful to the college. I also know quite a few important and helpful people in the ranks, so I know where to go when I DON’T know something. It may well be that these are the only things this new adjunct needs from me. Any advice beyond these mechanics will have to be delivered with a pretty big disclaimer that I’m still figuring stuff out, too. I’m hoping to develop more of a partnership relationship with my charge and less of a mentor-student relationship.
My plan is to go in on Monday and teach the class with as much enthusiasm – and structure – as I can. The class is a hybrid, which puts the new adjunct at a disadvantage from the outset: hybrid classes in our college tend to be populated with slightly less than motivated students, and I’m hoping to give the new guy a bit of a head start by telling students, very clearly, what’s expected of them. I’m going to get them moving and talking and thinking, and I’m going to send them home with a boatload of homework to get them caught up to week three (which, as hybrid kids, is where they’ll need to be). I’ll bring in copies of some of the speeches that I’ve used in the class with great success, along with some ideas for class activities and homework, to give to the adjunct. I’ll also make sure he has all my contact information, in case he decides he does need me for something.
My own classes will be getting to look at some important speeches this week. We’ll be talking about ethics, so I’m going to be bringing in some essays and articles about Imus and the First Amendment, and we’ll discuss how easily a seemingly innocent comment can go over very,very badly (believe me, I know this first hand, as does Trent Lott). We’ll talk about political correctness, we’ll talk about creative/artistic license, and we’ll talk about plagiarism. It’s going to be a busy week.