November 07, 2014
Teaching tip from an absent-minded old hand
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

I had to cancel class Monday because of a family emergency.  I taught Wednesday, and was ready at the podium at 2:30 on Thursday. 

I asked the student a hypothetical: "You hold a secret formula and are the minority shareholder.  The majority shareholder wants you to reveal the secret formula to his son.  What are you worried about?"  The student seemed caught off guard, but after a pause he sensibly answered the question.  I followed up with a question about the contract at issue.  More of a pause, and classwide mutterings.

It seems I'd assigned the wrong reading for the day.  I had 6 pages of well-thought-out notes in front of me, and was gazing out at 75 students who were prepared for a completely different set of cases.

What to do? 

My first 2 years teaching, I wouldn't have had a clue.  But it's not my first rodeo.  I said, "Well, let me tell you a story..., summarized the key points of the case, and let the discussion proceed from there.  Not pretty, perhaps, but workable--and actually a nice challenge for a Thursday afternoon.  Any similar tips or stories from old hands out in the blogosphere about getting out of a teaching jam? 

Otherwise, class dismissed.

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