Friday, September 5, 2014
September 5, 2014: Fall Forward: A New Teaching Challenge
[As I did a couple years back, I wanted to start the fall semester by highlighting a few of the things I’m working on and looking forward to this fall. I’d love to hear about what you’ve got going on for the final few months of 2014 as well!]
On the class that puts me in an unfamiliar and beneficial position.
Only one of the four undergraduate courses I’m teaching this fall is entirely in my wheelhouse: the American Novel to 1950 (any class that includes Hawthorne, Chopin, Cather, and Faulkner pretty much has this AmericanStudier written all over it). The others are definitely more uncertain: the senior departmental Capstone because it depends entirely on the specific group of students within it; and our gateway course Approaches to English Studies (which I’m teaching two sections of) because it includes a good bit of literary theory, a topic with which I don’t think I’ll ever feel entirely comfortable. But they’re still undergraduate English courses, and at the end of the day, as I enter my tenth (!) year at FSU, I feel pretty comfortable moving into all such courses.
On the other hand, the new course I’ve had the opportunity to pick up as an overload represents something entirely unfamiliar for me. Partly that’s the case because of the program through which I’ll be teaching for the first time: the Massachusetts Assocation of Vocational Administrators (MAVA), which brings together secondary educators and administrators from the state’s public high schools pursuing advanced studies and graduate degrees. But I’ve long taught fellow educators and adult learners in our Master’s and Adult Learning in the Fitchburg Area (ALFA) programs, respectively, so I know such communities of learners pretty well (and respect them tremendously). So the unfamiliarity really lies in the specific content I’ll likewise be teaching for the first time in this course: Introduction to Speech Communication.
I try to include at least one oral presentation in every class I teach, seeing such public communication as an important part of both undergraduate education and critical thinking. But those presentations have always been driven by the content of the particular class (in literature courses) or assignment (in first-year writing ones), and thus graded as such (ie, in terms of their inclusion and analysis of the course or assignment content), and so I’ve never, as I see it, taught speech or communication. So I’m feeling the kind of uncertainty and nervousness I haven’t felt since, probably, my first teaching experiences, as a grad student at Temple University in 2001 and 2002. Which are, I believe, very good things to feel—because they’ll force me to figure things out (including by consulting colleagues who regularly teach Speech, most especially our departmental expert Angela Nastasee-Carter); and because too much comfort, in teaching as in life, is never ideal. As with all these fall plans, I welcome any thoughts of yours, and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!
Crowd-sourced fall plans this weekend,
PS. So one more time: what's on your autumn agenda?