[For this year’s Valentine’s Day series, I decided to share some of my blog’s early Tribute Posts on teachers I have loved. Leading up to a special weekend post on a very special teacher!]
Three things about which I have learned a great deal from classes and students I have taught at Fitchburg State:
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 five sections of the former and at least seven of the latter, meaning I must have read more than 350 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: It’s not usually this clear-cut, of course, but I can trace with exact certainty the development of my second book. 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 the book, and a great many of them were likewise directly situated in FSU spaces (as were, as that hyperlinked post illustrates, my third book’s stages as well!) and profoundly influenced by the voices and ideas of my colleagues and students.
Special tribute post this weekend,
PS. Teachers to whom you’d pay tribute? Other loves you’d share?