Teaching Lessons: Always Be Willing to Try Something New

When I got my first job as an adjunct at the community college where I am now full time faculty member, I was not at all prepared. I learned to be flexible and “roll with it” fairly quickly, but the learning curve was steep to say the least. One important lesson I learned very early on was not to be afraid of new ideas, technology, or formats when it came to teaching. In the year and half I spent as an adjunct (2007/2008) these are some of the “new things” I tried:

  • Blackboard
  • 8 week courses
  • 12 week courses
  • Guest speakers
  • Student Presentations
  • Group Presentations
  • Computer Labs
  • Power Point Presentations
  • Using media in class (video & audio)
  • Using supplemental material outside of the required textbook
  • Using film
  • Becoming a faculty advisor for a student creative writing group
  • Subbing for other English courses/instructors 
  • Incorporating creative writing techniques into my comp courses
  • Copy editing the student lit mag, New Voices 
  • Mentoring new adjuncts 
During this time I was strictly teaching English Composition courses, so in terms of course content I also tried some of the following ideas:
  • Using short stories for the in class essay assignment. Among my favorites were The Lottery, The Yellow Wallpaper and A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • Using Annie Dillard’s opening paragraph from A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to introduce the narrative essay assignment.
  • Using movie/music reviews from The New Yorker to introduce the evaluation essay assignment.
  • Requiring students to pick a local non profit as the subject for their evaluation essay.
  • Requiring students to interview a faculty member to practice interview skills for evaluation essay. 
  • Requiring students to prepare a 5 minute informative presentation over their research paper topic. This included a brief power point presentation, so they could learn what and what not to do. 
  • Using current periodicals such as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Nature, The Christian Science Monitor, etc to find topics for their research paper. 
  • Creating an evaluation guide for online sources (still fairly new territory at the time)
  • Creating APA Guides and worksheets
  • Developing an annotated bibliography assignment
    A Good Man is Hard to Find by Giselle Potter 
Once I was hired on full time, my course load began to look less like a composition hell and more like that of a normal instructor. In other words, I eventually got to diversify a bit in to creative writing courses (my true love), research writing courses and lit classes. In addition to trying new things related directly to teaching, I also go to dabble in the following:
  • Committee work
  • Online classes
  • Academic panels and/or presentations 
  • Participating in some professional development activities (cooking class & faculty book club)
  • Advising for Phi Theta Kappa
  • Working with the Honors College
  • Re-writing English 111 (comp)
  • Attending conferences 
  • Organizing events for National Poetry Month
  • Co-advising for our student lit mag, New Voices 
  • Continuing to advise for our creative writing group, The Blank Page 
Admittedly, I have enjoyed some these new things more than others. For example, I love working with my colleagues on academic projects like the panel I put together for Black History Month or the work I do with New Voices. On the other hand, I’m not as keen on committee work or re-writing course curriculum.

This entire post is sparked by yet another new endeavor I am embarking on this spring. I will be teaching a section of Honors World Lit I on a new platform. This new project is allowing me to design a course using brand new technology, which means I have to learn said technology. Today, I had a meeting with course designer who is my partner in crime on this project, and I left the meeting feeling a tad overwhelmed but mostly I felt excited to start something new.

The face of education is constantly changing, and as a result, the role of the professor in the classroom is also changing. However, I would argue that instead of becoming less important, as some people seem to fear is the case, I think we are becoming more important. That being said, we need to be willing to stretch and learn along with our students. 

Monday (Bread!) Musings

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with a muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let areoplans circle the moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policeman wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one:
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden

I teach A Good Man is Hard to Find in my Creative Writing class, so I may check this biography out:

What makes “Flannery” so valuable is the degree of intimacy with which it captures O’Connor’s sensibility in that story. What creates a gap is Mr. Gooch’s use of the word “so.” There’s something in that “so” that he doesn’t fathom. There’s still a part of O’Connor that we can’t really know.


I made bread this weekend in my new bread machine. It is whole wheat, and it is delicious. I think this bread making is going to be a regular occurrence from now on.