Sunday, March 27, 2011
March 26-27, 2011: Student Teachers
Grading papers like crazy this weekend, an activity which is, as I have often said, the only part of this job that they have to pay me to complete. (Probably because of the many difficulties connected to grades, as I discussed in that earlier post.) So for this briefer, combinatory tribute and academic work post, I thought I would highlight three things about which I have learned a great deal from classes I have taught at Fitchburg State—and thus three aspects that make this a job I would mostly happily do for free:
1) American Identities: In two of the classes I teach pretty regularly, Ethnic American Literature and Intro to American Studies, students complete a multi-generational family timeline and analytical family history as a main piece of individual work. I’ve now taught at least three sections of the former and at least five of the latter, meaning I must have read more than 200 of these family projects. And every one has been incredibly valuable—hopefully for the students, but definitely for me, teaching me a great deal about the variety and breadth and challenges and power of American family and individual experiences and identities.
2) American Artists: Since my second-half American literature survey comes right up to the present day (our last class reading is Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake ), for the last two classes I ask the students to bring in and briefly share a work by an artist (in any medium and genre) who has been influential in their life and perspective. I can’t tell you the number of writers and musicians, photographers and graffiti artists, and folks in every other imaginable artistic genre to whom I’ve been introduced through these presentations; but I can tell you that I learn as much about American art in those two days as I did in whole semesters of college.
3) America Itself: I doubt that it’s always going to be this clear-cut, but I can trace with exact certainty the development of my second book, the advance copies of which should be arriving any day. It started during an American Literature I class, as we were discussing Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative and especially the complex middle section where she begins to join the social and economic communities of her Native captors; I linked the section to Cabeza de Vaca’s experiences, narrative, and hybrid identity, and an idea was born. There were lots of stages along the way from there to here, two weeks out from the release date, and a great many of them were likewise directly situated in FSU spaces and profoundly influenced by the voices and ideas of my colleagues and students.
So I won’t complain about the grading—but I should get back to it! More tomorrow, on the diverse and even contradictory yet always very impressive works of one of our first poets.
PS. No links needed here, but any surprising and valuable lessons you want to share will be very welcome!