While the subject of my course, Asian American Lit in the Bay Area, does lend itself very well to field trips, I’d also surreptitiously hoped that all these field trips — Angel Island, Chinatown, the Third World Liberation Front Archives, the film archive, the Hearst Museum — would cut down on the time I had to lesson plan and prep. Far from it. It has involved an enormous amount of time coordinating over email with all the people involved, as well as devising in-class activities to coordinate with and “justify” the out-of-class activities we are doing (my guilt complex means that any time I feel like I’m slacking off e.g. going on field trips I have to work harder to compensate for it). I hand-selected all the documents I wanted them to work with at the TWLF archives, I asked a guest scholar to come in and discuss her article on Angel Island, I ran the budget a million times to make sure we weren’t going over, and I was so relieved when no one missed the last ferry or fell into the bay on our field trip to Angel Island that I took myself out for a gigantic seafood dinner on Pier 39 after the last squadron of students Ubered home (on my own dime, not Koshland’s). And all of them are freshmen, so I don’t think they entirely realize that most college classes don’t come with five class field trips. I feel not unlike Jeb Bush imploring an indifferent crowd to “please clap.”
I’m really trying to “teach to the writing assignments,” meaning that I’m cutting down on in-class time reading say, a history of Chinese American immigration in the 1800s over reading sample argumentative essays (thanks to Max Stevenson for suggesting the NYT 1619 project!) and giving them time to workshop their writing in class. I’m torn because it’s antithetical to the kind of education I got in college, where all our seminar discussion were free-flowing and small group discussions didn’t exist (rather like our graduate level seminars here at Cal). I feel almost that I’m doing this — teaching to the writing assignments — as a way to stem otherwise inevitable complaints that I didn’t prepare them enough or scaffold the skills enough. At the same time, I worry that it dilutes the intellectual scope of the class.