How to Survive When You're Not Prepared for Class

In spite of your best intentions, situations will sometimes arise - illness, family emergencies, overwhelming projects - that prevent your being adequately prepared for a particular class meeting. Formulate now a contingency plan to address this situation when it happens to you. Some possibilities include:

  • Focusing on a critical concept addressed in your previous class meeting, identify a current, relevant example. Then, identify several perspectives from which the issue might be viewed, fostering within students a more comprehensive understanding of the concept. For example, if your Business Law class had studied bankruptcy, focus on a recently announced corporate bankruptcy. Divide the class into groups of three or four students, each of which would focus on the case from the viewpoint of a stakeholder group, such as employees, suppliers, shareholders, the business media, etc.
  • Recruit a guest speaker from your circle of friends or work colleagues, who you know to have made a presentation on a topic of relevance in your course. Ask them to reprise their presentation and answer student questions that might emerge. Take good notes during the presentation, and use these to stimulate further discussion after the guest leaves. Be aware, of course, that you have incurred a significant personal debt, and offer to repay it promptly in a way that would be perceived as valuable to your rescuer.
  • Identify a late-breaking news story. Assign students to one of several key roles, e.g. press, governmental agency investigator, private interest group, etc. to formulate their response to the situation. Ask each group to select a representative to serve on a "Meet the Press" panel to present the case to the public. Debrief thoroughly the points-of-view expressed.
  • Divide the class into groups of three or four students, then ask them to complete a "chunk" of a previously-made assignment, or develop five questions that you would consider for inclusion on the next examination.

Today's students are quite perceptive, so some might perceive your predicament. Most will excuse one less than stellar performance, but not a second or third. Begin your planning for subsequent class meetings earlier than has been your practice, minimizing the chances of putting yourself in this tough spot again.

Shop on line at or Barnes & Noble to get your copy of Dr. Lyons' book, The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the College Classroom.

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