Monday, October 4, 2010

Procrastination and Facebooking Hamlet

I have a lesson plan due for my English class and, like all good procrastinators, I am writing it pretty close to the deadline. My friend and I had a discussion tonight about study habits and he was expounding on his method of getting up every day at the same time and heading to the library to start studying in the morning. He combined this with studying between classes and, thus, he was able to just relax when he went home, content in the knowledge that he'd put in a good day of study.

Well, I'm not like that. In fact, I never have been. And yet, when I teach students about writing, how it's a step-by-step process, best approached methodically and in pieces, with careful review every step of the way, I can't help but feel a litttttttttle bit hypocritical. Not that I let my conscience bother me in that regard or anything. If there's anything that I've learnt from teachers college, it's that different people learn and work in different ways. Now let's just hope that my future students find this and bring it up in class. What an interesting discussion that could turn out to be!!

As you might've guessed from the title of this post, the lesson plan is supposed to be about that old standby, Hamlet. And, lurching around the internet as I have been, I accidentally came across this new article on an  "online classic, Sarah Schmelling's "Hamlet (Facebook News Feed Edition)," a retelling of the Shakespeare play that was published in McSweeney's in 2008". I found it pretty hilarious and I think it could be an interesting exercise to do with students after some modified formatting.

Then again, I was reminded of an online course I took once where one of my advisors cautioned us about using modern styles to "update" classic texts. He cautioned that refashioning the classics like Shakespeare into, for example, a hip-hop cadence, could quickly devolve into hokiness if not done with tact.  The last thing you want to do is appear contrived in front of your students. As my History professor, Dave Hamilton, said: "What are high school kids but masters at telling who or what is and what isn't cool? If you're not totally yourself and you try to fake it or phone it in, they will see through you in a second. And then you're toast.". Food for thought and another hour of my time spent off task!!


  1. Dan, I totally hear everything you're saying here. I used to be you and have reformed, and today I think I'm renegotiating some of those old habits back into my new life.

    All throughout high school and most of university, I was that last-minute-gal who pulled off nineties in a night's worth of work, after spending the day and evening on extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, and paid jobs. And I was proooooud of it. What I discovered in university was that, though I was successful in doing this, I was dang tired all the time. And I also discovered that, as my other commitments became more tasking (shall I say, adult-like? i.e. not the fun commitments I had with all my buddies in high school), I was stressed all day and came home to more stress when I faced mounds of piled-up homework. I thought guiltily of free time and socializing with friends because I knew that I could never reeeeally afford it. Though this didn't stop me from socializing, it rained all over my socializing.

    So, I decided that I wasn't going to do that anymore, and I started mapping out my life better. I find that now I can continue to keep up all my commitments, stay on top of scholarly deadlines, and enjoy my free time because I can afford to spend it. I feel less stressed, well-slept, productive, and social. Win-win!

    The thing I discovered this week is that...if I've completed something days or weeks ahead of time, and then I have to present that thing, it's foreign to me by the time I have to deal with it again. And ticking something off my to-do list feels so good that I may not revisit and revamp it in the interim before the due date. Then, as was the case this week, I'm left with something I'm out of touch with and that I should have been improving with all the extra time I had.

    That's one thing about procrastinating: whatever you do, you live and breath it for those precious few hours before you have to submit/present/defend it. That way, it's all afresh in your mind, and also a reflection of your most recent knowledge and progress.

    Bah! Is there no middle ground, Dan?

    Great blog, friend. So much more to talk about there but I've chatted too long already.

  2. Dan. Rosie.
    I completely understand. I don't have the answer about how far to prepare or "get things done", but what I do know, is that sometimes I spend hours on lessons or units and then when it comes time to delivery, my delivery nothing like what I planned. Perhaps this is because, a lesson or activity depends on so many other factors - who is in the class that day, what happened in the news, what is happening at the school level, what my mood is.... Some of my best lessons were prepared the night before because I didn't "over think". Like Rosie, I think that whatever it is, as long as you KNOW IT and you can DEFEND IT and it is FRESH in your mind - you will execute any lesson with expertise and confidence.