My department seems to be doing its best to make me a good candidate for teaching positions when I start applying for jobs. In my first year of teaching I was one of three grad students to teach sections of a new course, which meant that we got to have a hand in designing what that course covered. In addition, the course covered some of the best stuff in the literary canon: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Jane Austen, James Joyce (and more!). Given that most schools to which I’ll be applying for jobs want assurance that I can teach “the good stuff,” and not just stuff that falls within my narrow field of specialty, this was a great start to my teaching.
The next year I taught a course that I designed in hopes of injecting a bit more Southern lit. into my students’ diets. Although I can’t say I “conquered” the field of women writers and characters in the South, teaching the course did help me to see just enough to discover that there’s a lot of great material to be read when I get a chance to go back to it. I managed to fit Eudora Welty, Kate Chopin, a bit of Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, and Flannery O’Connor into the course; from them my students got to see that Southern literature isn’t all about delicate women in white dresses!
The recent teaching award I got will enable me to create a whole new course based on a design I proposed to the department committee, and I can expect to get lots of help coming up with material from my advisors and those faculty who were on the award committee and showed interest in the topic. I also have a year in which to design it, so I’m hoping to make preparing for that course my break from dissertation work. The course is supposed to focus on “non-linear narratives,” by which I mean stories that don’t just start from Point A and progress, in normal fashion, to Point B. These stories sometimes start in the present and then suddenly shift to thoughts of the past–and stay there for the rest of the novel. Or they might juggle two stories set in two different times, moving back and forth between the two (much to the confusion of the reader should he try speed-reading the book). Stories like Slaughterhouse-Five or One Hundred Years of Solitude, or any of the stories by Borges. I am slightly daunted by how much more knowledgeable I’ll have to get to teach such a course, but I’m thrilled at trying something that tests my abilities to talk literary style and form with my students.
And I just got an email this week asking if, since I’m not teaching this fall, I would consider being an assistant course leader for a number of new teachers in the department. Basically, for a bit of cash and a title that looks good on a CV I get to observe and guide the new teachers as they teach the same course I taught my first year. It turns out that two of the teachers are guys I know from a reading group, making for a slightly odd arrangement, but it looks like fun: a good way to keep myself thinking about teaching without the major time commitment of teaching my own course.
I’ve also done some part-time TAing on the side, once for a course just on Faulkner and again this past spring for another professor who asked if I’d be interested in doing some more work for him next spring.
In short, I’m pleased with how great the teaching assignments have been thus far and how many different kinds of teaching opportunities have come up. Each new course gives me a whole new set of discussion and assignment ideas (and fun books to read), as well as making it slightly more plausible that I will actually know what I’m doing by the time I leave here.
I suppose that it’s now up to me to make sure that my research is just as fleshed-out as my teaching resume . . .