What if you have hundreds of options for African American poems that you can teach but a limited number of class sessions? That's a challenge I've faced at the start of each semester for eighteen years as a literature professor and as someone who has volunteered leading literature projects for over a decade at local secondary schools.
This summer, I taught a graduate course on African American literature and teaching, and we were constantly discussing how time contraints placed a limit on what could reasonably be taught for a class unit or full semester. Somehow, time had not been adequately years ago when I was a graduate student, and in fact, it's perhaps not talked about enough in many scholarly conversations.
I find the issue of time constraints especially important in the context of assigning African American poetry, which includes an incredibly large number of texts. That number is even larger when and if we count spoken word and rap as "poetry," not just conventional print-based works. Deciding which and how many poems and poets to assign for a class, a unit, and a semester becomes something one really has to consider.
And rarely does a class only focus on African American poetry. We're often making places on our syllabi for novels, short stories, essays, and other items as well. So poetry is competing against more than just itself for time in the classroom.Related: