Why I Don't Blog Much Anymore
Weekends and evenings are full of preparation for my Western Civilization class. In case you wonder how much time goes into preparing a community college class (the first time): I spend typically 10-14 hours preparing a PowerPoint presentation and notes for three hours of lecture, and about an hour preparing the weekly quiz. I spend another hour grading and entering quiz grades.
For preparation, I pick what I consider the most important themes from the week's assigned chapter as the heart of the lectures. Of course, since the assigned reading is typically 20-35 pages, I have to focus on the most important themes--and hope that the questions that I pick for the quiz prod students into doing the assigned reading with some care.
To prepare my notes, I start with what I learned in undergrad and graduate history classes, as well as my reading outside of school. But as I prepare my presentation, I also verify that:
1. My memory hasn't betrayed me.
2. History hasn't changed!
In some cases, there are gaps in my knowledge that I need to fill in--and by verifying important facts against not only the textbook, but a variety of other sources, I often discover gaps in my knowledge that I didn't even know were there! The old saying, "The best way to learn something is to teach it" has a certain truth to it.
I also sometimes find that recent research has either changed the emphasis of particular points since I was an undergraduate, or has discovered new data that significantly changes our understanding. For example, the massacre of the survivors of Jerusalem during the First Crusade has benefited from research done in Islamic sources in the period after World War II. The research isn't as painstaking as when I'm researching a journal article--but I do try to find at least two sources for any significant fact that I use in a lecture.
I am now up to the Reformation--a rather grim time, all the way around--but since the class ends with the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648, I will be done soon.