Friday, January 25, 2008

Teaching High

So after last semester, when I wondered whether my enthusiasm for teaching was beginning to flag in a longer-lasting way, I was both looking forward to this semester to remedy some of that ennui, and dreading it lest there be more of the same.

When the London Theatre Tour was canceled, I thought that the lighter semester (one survey course, and the grad course directly in my field), would be an opportunity to take a bit of the focus off of my teaching (which is not usually something I'm looking for, but which this semester I welcomed as a change), and focus more on my writing.

And to a degree, that's been true. So far this month, I've finished a draft of an article and gotten to some work on th book project (starting with the introduction, no less). And the reading for the grad class has me decidedly in the frame of mind to work on the book.

What I didn't expect was the way it would have me also excited about teaching.

To some degree teaching this grad class so firmly at the center of my interests is anxiety producing: how to organize so many strands of thought? How to filter out the tiny details of the argument that will distract from the big picture stuff? How to decide whether the reading is broad enough to to engage multiple interests, and also specific enough to get to the core issues?

And of course there's the expertise question: if I can't answer in class questions about the topic I'm writing a book about, then what am I doing here?

Last night's class, though, the first real substantive class of the semester for this group, was not an unmitigated success. It has its challenges with a variety of students, some involving organizing all this material, some with making the fairly obscure material I'm working with seem interesting to Lit, creative writing, and professional writing students alike.

But damn it's invigorating. I cam home and talked at Willow for an hour straight about stuff going on in the class, and the personalities and the challenges and the good discussions that have already come out.

Add to that the fact that the survey class seems to be (knock on wood) seems to be the sharpest I've had in four semesters, and already seems to be engaging the material in substantive ways (who knew that an engaging class on Wordsworth's preface to Lyrical Ballads was even possible?)

So the good news is that whatever else is going on in my head right now, the teaching (as usual), is keeping me on my toes and engaged. So hurrah for that.

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