Note: To see what the 5 Minute Month is all about, click here to read the first post in the series.
After taking yesterday to celebrate 1) being healthy and 2) the ability to actually do some yard work / having a yard to work in, I’m settling back in this afternoon to a little prep work for the upcoming week. My students are starting on Antony and Cleopatra tomorrow, and it’s time to brush up on the talking points and readings I laid out at the start of the term before going into the classroom tomorrow. Hopefully, there’s also a short run in my future this afternoon — headcold + business has kept me out of the gym and off the trail for over a week, although I did a nice hike with a friend this morning to loosen up the muscles. There’s a 5K coming up this weekend that I’m planning to run with my wife and father-in-law, so I need to spend this week getting my running legs back.
The other day, a friend and colleague mourned the sudden avalanche of grading work that had descended upon them and lamented that things were so bad, the only joyful time of the day came when they turned to class prep. Now, this person is one of the most dedicated and talented teachers I know, never a slacker, so let me clarify what they meant (or, at least, I took them to mean): if the class you happen to teach is right at the intersection of your personal and scholarly interests, as is my current Shakespeare course, then you would love to spend as much time as possible just wallowing about in literature and scholarship.
But class prep is something different — class prep is about deciding what you can and cannot cover in a given class session, determining what primary direction a discussion, lecture, or exercise should focus on, and so on. Good class prep requires focus. It’s easy to get caught up in reading the text and thinking of all the interesting research angles you might follow up on had you but world enough and time, when you really need to chop the text down for the purpose of analyzing a specific theme or character relationship, and so on. It’s one of the most pleasurable aspects of the job, and both of us (me and my colleague) come from blue-collar backgrounds, and have done some pretty miserable jobs in our time, so we appreciate the relative good fortune that allows us to grumble about those days when class prep seems frustrating.
However, I’m not complaining here, as I go off to an afternoon of Shakespeare prep. It’s a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon, in my mind, particularly following a hike, as trail dust is one of the necessary ingredients of life, in my opinion. And I’ve never brought Antony and Cleopatra into the classroom before, which is always exciting — it’s a wild play full of larger-than-life characters, quite possibly Shakespeare’s most “epic” play. I tend to think that Shakespeare is at his best when looking inward, putting characters such as the Macbeths and Hamlet and Henry V and Lear out on stage at their most vulnerable and introspective moments. A & C is both less daunting and disappointing than, say, Troilus and Cressida, and it offers a very intriguing female character in the figure (both literal and metaphorical) of Cleopatra, whose power and confidence are unmatched among female characters in the canon, in my opinion. In sum, I’m excited about teaching this play, and even excited about prepping the lessons this afternoon. Should be a good time — now I have to get down to it.
Word count: about 600
Time: about 10 minutes