Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What kind of fuckery is this?

Today I was scheduled to give a one and a half hour guest lecture in a highly specialized course. The topic: my research and some of the technichal background to how it's done. I have been preparing for this for over a week. I probably could have done with about a month. I have been staying up way too late for several nights in a row, and finally, today was the day.

You can probably guess from the title, there was a problem. My university has a main campus and a medical school, and they are separated by about 30 minutes of travel time. My lab, and the lab of the organizer of the course for which I was to guest lecture, is in the medical school campus. When I was asked to give the lecture, I somehow got the idea that the class was being held at the medical school campus. Turns out I was wrong. The course organizer never bothered to tell me what room to go to, and when I went to find him to ask, he had already driven to the other campus. Without telling me. Or letting anyone else know where the class was. I guess it never crossed his mind that I might need to know where to go. Or that it might be nice to offer me a ride, so I wouldn't have to lug my computer and the whole stack of handouts on the bus. To teach an hour and a half lecture for his class. For free.

I'm not going to try to recreate what I said when I finally found out (he called someone in his lab to ask where I was). I can't really remember. It was loud, though.

I've heard it said that you need about 10 hours of prep time for every hour you will be lecturing. My previous experiences (giving lectures for sections and teaching various tutorial style classes) have been right on that estimate.

So, when I was asked to give the lecture, I said I'd need a week's notice to prepare. Which, of course, was pretty much all I got. I was asked by the class leader twice on a Friday, "So can you do it Wednesday?" The first time, I said no, because I was going to be out of town for a conference. The second time, I said I could do it the next week. Some people I talked to suggested that I was being too nice, considering the amount of work, but I was thinking that:

  1. I didn't want to go back and forth until the end of the semester.
  2. It would be a good opportunity for me to get some serious lecturing under my belt, without taking responsibility for an entire semester-long course.
  3. I was flattered that anyone was so interested in my work my and valued my knowledge of the field.

Well, the 10 hours prep/hour lecture rule did not hold for this scenario. For one thing, I haven't taken courses for a while, now, and I have moved and re-organized, etc. So all the relevant background material was not, as they say, readily at hand. And I have a lot more distractions now than I did the last time I taught. And I just think that rule only holds under certain conditions, which, if not met, result in something more like prep time = 10 (lecture time)^a. I don't know how a is determined. I don't really want to find out.

So, now I have a dilemma: when this guy asks me to give the lecture next week, what should I say? I'm torn between three options:
  1. Sure, no problem. The lecture is prepared anyway.
  2. I'll have to see when I can fit that in. I'll get back to you.
  3. Fuck off, you disorganized piece of...

Maybe I should search through some more Amy Winehouse lyrics to find a fourth option.

1 comment:

lin said...

I would opt for 2.
a. you have invested the time, it is sort of done, isn't it, it was done enough, only give yourself the time to re-read the slides and adjust BIG errors, don't re-do it.
b. you want the experience of teaching, right?
c. add: I need to be e-mailed a day in advance where and when I need to give this (don't knwo what you should do if this doesn't happen....)
(d. as a student I always enjoyed "invited speakers" a lot, the different back-ground, points of view etc, also the thought how to implement thoughts of this lecturer in my own interests/future/plans etc.)