The first week of school is done at the Nova Scotia Community College where I teach in the Screen Arts program. It is always a busy and exciting week with the incoming learners getting up to speed and the returning filmmakers who are beginning their final year. Luckily I’ve been teaching for a while now and it gives me the opportunity to build upon what I’ve done and improve things every year.
Last year we started back in the new Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth along with all of the challenges of a new building that hadn’t been filled with people yet. This year everything is pretty much up and running smoothly, so the focus is on teaching and learning much more than figuring out how to connect things and which classrooms are on what floor.
I really need to have a structure with things organized, so I was very happy to have the whole term organized with Basecamp. Each course that I teach is project and all of the assignments, exercises and quizzes are milestones. In my Google Calendar I subscribe all of my Basecamp projects, so the deadlines all show up on my calendar. Each of the evaluative tools are stored as Writeboards, which lets me revise them before I lay them out in Pages in an assignment template that I’ve created. For support material I usually will have some presentations in Keynote (and I try to make things as visual and not text-heavy as possible) along with handouts or pointers to web resources.
For each class I have lesson plan that I create in OmniOutliner Pro that keeps me on track as I have tendency to drift. But I usually have a detailed course outline that breaks down all of the major topics as well as any readings. I’ll print out the outline that keeps me on track and I keep the paper that I use organized in file folders (green for year 1, red for year 2, and purple for the class that has both year 1 and 2). Every year a new Moleskine pocket notebook is used for notes and a pocket agenda (that is red) is a paper backup for my schedule (which I copy in to it from my Google Calendar).
With the systems that I have in place now it keeps me focussed on teaching and less on figuring out what I need to do. By having a solid support structure it opens the possibilities of improvisation as even if I get completely lost, there is an underlying structure and flow to the term that I can always fall back on. It’s fun to teach after you have everything in place.