15 October 2014

How Gilmore Girls changed my teaching

More than a decade after it debuted, Gilmore Girls is experiencing a renewed burst of interest after arriving on Netflix this month.

When I saw Gilmore Girls, I was impressed by the speed and density of the dialogue. Joke, pop culture reference, joke, joke, pop culture reference... the writing kept coming at you, at a rapid clip.

But it did so in a way that you never lost track of the plot. Even if you didn’t get any particular one-liner, you were able to follow the story. And there would be another clever bit in a minute or two.

It just so happened Gilmore Girls started just before I took up the position I had, and I was teaching classes from stem to stern for the first time. When I started, students were always kvetching about slides going down before they could finish transcribing them. So I ended up going slow.

Watching Gilmore Girls, I realized that people could handle a lot of information quickly. And that I could talk faster. I could put in more jokes, references, tangents... as long as I kept the main point that I was making front and center. If someone didn’t get one reference, I didn’t worry, I just kept on going.

My lecturing strategy become to make a point quickly, but repeat it often, rather than make a point slowly and ponderously just the once.

I don’t know if my lecturing style is better because of Gilmore Girls, but it certainly made it a lot more lively and fun for me. I just hope that my greater enthusiasm is contagious, and that students pick up on it.

Hat tip to Gilmore Girls fan Ed Yong, whose tweets about the show prompted me to write this.

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