Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 23:
“Teaching preparation takes up all my extra time.”
A common complaint of academics is that teaching preparation takes up the time they had hoped to use for writing.
Certainly, preparing for class can devour time, especially if you have rarely taught before and want to avoid appearing like an idiot in front of thirty undergraduates. There is always more preparation and reading you can do for any class. Teachers in the humanities can easily spend a forty-hour workweek just on meeting with students and grading.
The best solution for this very real problem is to set limits on your preparation time. If you are a graduate student, you should learn to do this if you plan a career in academia. Preparation will be an ongoing reality.
First, schedule your writing time before your teaching prep time. For instance, do not start to prepare for class until you have done half an hour of writing. That way, teaching preparation cannot spill over into your writing time. Now that you know that writing does not have to take hours and hours, and can be done daily, you should be able to fit writing in before other tasks.
Second, do not schedule writing right after giving feedback on student research papers. Moving from critique to creation—that’s too tough for anybody.
Third, the research shows that the more students do, the more they learn (Boice 2000). In the classroom, focus more on uploading knowledge from students than downloading knowledge to students (Freire 1970). Make them prepare and present 2 minute summaries of the reading; make them read outlines of each other’s work; make them prepare arguments and lead the discussion for ten minutes. Make them teach each other. They will learn more; you will do less.
Finally, if you are dedicated to being a good teacher, you should know that, among untenured faculty, having a commitment to your students correlates positively with higher rates of writing productivity (Sax et al. 2002). Being well-rounded matters!
Boice, Robert. 2000. Advice for New Faculty Members: Nihil nimus: Allyn & Bacon.
Freire, Paolo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Rev. Ed). New York: Continuum, 1996. Orig. 1970.
Sax, Linda J, Linda Serra Hagedorn, Marisol Arredondo, and Frank A Dicrisi III. 2002. “Faculty Research Productivity: Exploring the Role of Gender and Family-related Factors.” Research in Higher Education 43 (4):423-446.
Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 22, one of the distraction obstacles listed on page 32 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).