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Posted on Friday 9 January 2009 at 7:45 am

My Rebellious Syllabus (Bad Pun Intended)


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I'm working on a syllabus that I will probably not teach for a very long time. The funding for my next year was at one point not guaranteed and awarded on a strictly competitive basis. Starting this year, it is guaranteed but is still competitive. Everyone gets the same amount of money, but two people get named grants which look better on resumes and one of those grants has you teaching your own class rather than any of the other work options. It is more work than anything else, but again, having taught an additional class beyond the basic intro course looks good on the resume. The syllabus I'm working on constructing is for that application and in working on it I've come to several conclusions. The main one of which is that I am such a grad student and have therefore completely forgotten how undergrad classes work and how anyone else thinks.

I can't decide what is a reasonable work load for an undergrad class. I'm seriously debating having the grades be quizzes, three short papers, and one big paper with no actual midterm or final exams. This class will be an upper-division class, so pretty much just juniors and seniors, but I'm still not sure that is acceptable. I also can't decide how much reading to assign each week. I wouldn't be stressing nearly so much about all of this if I was just going to go in and teach this class since I'd then really only be accountable to myself and sort of my students. But I'm submitting this for review by the grad school committee and I want to submit something that they might actually seriously consider so I can get the grant so I'm stressing out about every little detail, which I don't really have time for because there are other parts to the application that I really need to get done as well.

Also, the class is on North American Colonial Rebellions, Uprisings, Insurgencies, Resistance Movements, etc. and I'm stressing about what to call it, which is where the thinking like a grad student (and over analyzing everything) comes into play. North American Colonial Rebellions, Uprisings, Insurgencies, Resistance Movements, etc. is a bit long for a class title, but I can't come up with one catch-all term that I like. North American Colonial Rebellions is probably the most obvious and snazziest phrase, but it isn't completely accurate. The structure of the class is essentially three thematic units: Native Resistance Movements, Slave Uprisings, and Colonial Rebellions. Every week we cover a different movement, reading secondary sources like articles or chapters from books and various primary documents, mostly first-hand accounts of the movements, and we'll discuss the unique causes, goals, successes and failures, etc. of each as well as looking for common patterns and variations between the types of movements. Many of the Native movements were rebellions in the eyes of the colonists, but according to the Natives they were territory wars between two separate peoples. I'm using "Resistance Movements" for that section because from the colonial perspective the natives were resisting the legitimate government and from the Indian POV, they were resisting the encroachment of their land, among other things. Some of the so-called slave rebellions were discovered before they were out of the planning stages and never got off the ground so they can't really be called much other than conspiracies. Conspiracy isn’t a strong enough term even for some of the other slave movements that I'm covering, though. I'm using "Uprising" as the title of that unit because any time a slave didn't do exactly what he was told, even if he just attended a meeting where things were talked about, it was rising above his station. Pretty much all of the colonist movements I'm covering can legitimately be called Rebellions, so I'm using that term for my third unit, but I'm still not convinced I can use it for the title of the entire class even if I explain in the syllabus or on the first day that the term isn't completely accurate for all the movements.

In case you can't tell, I'm a bit frazzled at the moment. Not to mention the lack of sleep and lack of time to get settled back in here in Williamsburg and that the library is only open 8-5 M-F until the undergrads get back, which is making it very difficult for me to get to books to pick readings to assign for my students and is seriously annoying the crap out of me! So, yeah, I don't know what I'm doing and just wish I had more time because contrary to how this sounds, I loved teaching my one class last year and am really looking forward to any possibility of doing it again and am having a great time putting together this syllabus in particular because I think it is a great topic but I could live without the stress created by the time crunch.

Comments:

Dorothy
labellerose at 2:17 pm on 09 January 2009 (UTC) (Link)
You know to check other syllabi to pace the reading, right?
Special ed doesn't transfer to college all that well, of course but I was a TA once-upon.
I have one suggestions,and that's to create a grading rubric if you are assigning papers. Hand it out with the syllabus and go over it when you do your housekeeping on the first day.
Eliminates LOTS of issues later-wealth of info online.
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 2:32 pm on 09 January 2009 (UTC) (Link)
I can't find any syllabi online for this exact kind of class. It is a weird level. I've emailed someone a couple of years above me who applied for this same thing and taught her class this past fall. Hopefully she'll get back to me soon and give me some advice.
Jules
littlepixiechic at 11:21 pm on 09 January 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Just FYI, I've had plenty of undergrad classes that were graded exactly that way and had that amount of papers. Actually, usually they were 5 to 7 short papers and two big ones (one around midterm, one around finals). And, of course, they were history classes.
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 11:41 pm on 09 January 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Does that mean I'm being too easy and not assigning enough work?
Jules
littlepixiechic at 4:21 am on 10 January 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Nah, I think that's probably a good amount of course work. Just saying I didn't think it was a ridiculous amount for undergrad.
kate_scarlet
kate_scarlet at 8:39 pm on 14 January 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, I'd take your class in a heartbeat! You're covering all the coolest stuff! Bacon's Rebellion! Pontiac's War! Are you squeezing in the Newburgh Conspiracy? Four years ago, I totally would have been one of your students.
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 10:02 pm on 14 January 2009 (UTC) (Link)
I'm trying to limit the syllabus to just stuff before any independence movement. For the east coast, that makes 1775 about the absolute limit so I can't justify Newburgh. The list is:

Anglo-Powhatan Wars
King Philip's War
Pueblo Revolt of 1680
Tuscarora and Yamasee Wars
Pontiac's Rebellion

Less Overt Slave Resistance
Gloucester County, VA
New York City 1712 and 1741
Stono Rebellion
Pointe Coupee, Louisiana conspiracy

Bacon's Rebellion
Glorious Revolution in America (overthrow of the Dominion of New England, Leisler's Rebellion, and Coode's Rebellion)
Paxton Boys
Regulator Movement

I'm offering two options for their final papers, one of which is to do a basic research paper on a movement we haven't covered in class. I'm debating letting them pick from colonial and early national movements for that paper so they can kind of compare the pre-independence and post-independence ones if they so desire. If I decide to allow that, someone could do the Newburgh Conspiracy for the paper.


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