For only my second time at RU, I'm teaching two sections of the same class: Shakespeare's histories & tragedies. And until we hire a second Early Modernist, this is likely to be my future.
I don't wish to do this for too long, both because it hamstrings my schedule (preventing me from offering as full a range of classes in my specialty as I normally do) and because it isn't in our students' best scheduling interests, either (when only one person teaches Shakespeare, the sections get taught on the same day, usually back-to-back, and we aren't able to offer both Comedies & Romances and Histories & Tragedies in the same semester). In the short term, though, it's agreeable enough. I only have two preps, and one of them is a course that, at this point, is more like half a prep: after teaching Shakespeare every semester for seven and a half years, the class comes out of the box fully assembled. All I have to do is re-read the plays (and in a tough week, even that isn't necessary). And yet it's a reliably rewarding class to teach.
Despite these advantages, teaching two sections of the same class back-to-back is weird, at least for those of us who don't do it routinely (as I know many of my readers do). So far I haven't had trouble keeping track of where we left off in each class during our previous class meeting--that's something I make a conscious effort to remember--but I'm completely unable to remember any other differences in class discussion. Which section did I talk to about Early Modern sodomy laws? No clue. In which class did someone ask me about the origin of the title "Prince of Wales," and I promised to look up its history? Couldn't tell ya.
I'm also more likely to fall into that self-alienated space where I feel I'm watching some wind-up version of myself run through a predetermined series of rhetorical and pedagogical jumping jacks. And sometimes, auto-pilot takes over entirely: yesterday I began my second section, like my first, by saying "okay! now before we turn to the text, let me collect all your papers--" and only when half the class visibly blanched did I remember that, oops! My first section had papers due, but the second still had another week. (And then it took me many precious minutes to calm down the ensuing collective freak-outery.)
But there are also ways in which teaching two sections of the same class can keep one on one's toes. It's fun to see what two different groups of students will respond to in a given scene, and sometimes the readings go in interestingly different directions. It's also fun, in a way, to try to maintain the integrity of my lesson plan--which is to say, to make sure I hit a few of the same major points--in classes that may have wildly different interests or that move unevenly through the same material: one of my classes is always running long, which means I usually have to cut or summarize on the fly, while the other class often runs a little short and so gets spontaneous additional discussion. I like the puzzle-solving element of that: trying to keep both on the same reading schedule, covering the same big ideas, while responding to whatever arises organically in each one.
Do you teach multiple sections of the same class? What do you see as the advantages or disadvantages?