Category Archives: teaching


I don’t understand people. Especially when you think you have someone relatively figured out, they appear stable, and then they do something completely out of the blue that makes no sense, essentially ruining themselves in the process.

As I am tabulating final grades, I have several students who have been diligently coming to class, doing all of their work, earning good grades, did well on the final, but have not submitted their final papers. Papers were due last week, and depending on the class they are worth 20-25 percent of the final grade. I even sent out a mass email last night to all of my students stating that I will give them until Sunday to turn in any late work for partial credit.

Why would someone expend this much energy all semester, only to totally drop everything at the end and receive a C in a class where they had an A in the week before?

I have some students that have been on and off all semester, turning in some things but not others, and then at the end they came through and managed to pass the course. None of that was terribly shocking.

But a couple of the students I am referring to are exceedingly bright, write very well, understand the concepts, and as I have to enter a C on their final grade it makes me cringe. Which is basically why I emailed everyone giving them until Sunday night to submit any late work. I am really hoping they take this very last chance to produce something grade worthy.

I knew grading would be stressful (and so far has been my least favorite part of teaching), but no one warned me it would be emotionally draining as well.

I Really Like This

I teach different things in all of my classes, but the result is the same. Last night, talking about teaching, I realized how much I like it, and why. They want to understand. They are all so attentive, full of questions, ready to make connections. A classroom full of bright eyed bushy tailed kittens. And this is no small feat since according to one of my friends I teach “too late” and 7-10 classes are “for vampires.” Cute. Except even if I had a choice I would still prefer the current schedule. It is not the horary that takes its toll.

Yes, teaching is exhilarating, but it is also very draining. With every three hour lecture I feel spent. As if a part of me has been pulled out, a spool unraveling bits at a time as I deliver the information. It regenerates, but constantly taxed.

My voice is also improving. The first week and a half, after each session my throat would be soar and my voice would turn a little raspy. So far this week it hasn’t happened at all.

I just collected the first set of mini papers, and they were overall really good. Even when they didn’t understand the concepts, they showed effort. Apparently one of the examples I used in class two weeks ago really stuck since almost all of them referenced it. At least they are paying attention. I am just happy I picked works that my students seem to have a genuine interest in. Especially the novels.

As for my one class that seems to have turned into a theory course… well, I have to bring that one back on track. Rime of the Ancient Mariner next week will serve well. Although I think I have inadvertently moved from theory course to Romantics course with the next several weeks going from Coleridge to P. B. Shelley to Keats. Thankfully I have also thrown in some Goethe and Chaucer for good measure, along with a few other fun things.

I have already been told which classes I am teaching next semester and I am excited. But I have to pace myself. One thing at a time. The easy way would be to recycle a lot of the material. It could easily be reformatted into a new syllabus. But there are so many other things I want to play with! Stories and poems like toys to be probed, prodded and explored!

And what better way to do it than in front of an audience?

It Was An Accident

My teaching style happened accidentally. Before I started teaching I didn’t know what it would be like. I thought it would be like giving a really long in-class presentation, but I would be the only one presenting. I had ideas gathered from previous professors, but no clear outline of what I was going to do. While everyone has been extremely helpful/supportive/encouraging, you can’t really teach someone how to teach. Not really.

I knew I wanted to have a lecture type setup because that worked best for me when I was a student. I know the material, and more or less what aspects of it I want my students to learn about. I have plenty of notes. But then it came time to actually teach.

The idea was terrifying. Minutes before class I sat in my office wondering what I had gotten myself into. How can I be responsible for the academic career of so many other people?

Also, what was I going to do up there for three hours? I had notes, I had what is in my head, I had the books, but what was I going to do up there for three hours?

In my first class on Monday night I have my youngest students, so they don’t really know any better. I described the course, went over what will be taught, and expected. I showed them which books we will be reading, went over a little intro, and sent them home. Not so bad.

The entire one and half hours they seemed absolutely mesmerized (or terrified, take your pick).

Second class didn’t go too badly either. Different course, harder material, and more reading. For the most part they were just as enthusiastic as the first group and had all sorts of questions. One girl got up and left fifteen minutes into the lecture, before I even finished going over the syllabus. Extremely encouraging. I spent the rest of the evening writing terms on the board, introducing them to the connections between the texts we will read, along with the theme of the course.

Yes, all my classes are themed. Not only does it make it easier for me to organize my texts, but this method lends itself well to intertextual studies. So I teach the way I enjoyed being taught.

By Thursday I found a method of lecturing that wasn’t just successful, but felt natural. It wasn’t intentional, hence my teaching style happened accidentally. But instead of teaching, I had a (quite lengthy) one sided conversation. My lecture became the equivalent of a very long verbalized blog post.

I don’t know if I will keep this format, but for now it seems to be working for me. The students seemed genuinely interested, taking copious notes, and I felt casual. So far, so good.