Nothing Is New

In John Williams’s novel Stoner, the main character spends years teaching primitive beginner courses that a hostile Chair assigns to him until he finally invents the method I came up with in my first semester of teaching.

I knew I was overqualified for the boring Intro courses. So I simply taught them as whatever research topic interested me at the time. Yes, the students were a little confused at first but they got over it.

Want to know what kind of crap I got assigned? Introduction to Learning Spanish. IN ENGLISH. For people in Engineering and Nursing. Not a word of Spanish was supposed to be used in that course. I have no idea what we were supposed to be doing. Chatting in English about how to learn Spanish?

Obviously, I wasn’t going to do that. The first semester, I taught it as “Spain: The History of Ideas.” Then I’d change it up because it bores me to do the same thing. Last Fall I taught it as “Democracy in Central America.” It still has the official title of “Intro to Learning Spanish” but not for long. As Chair I finally can put in the paperwork to change it.

I could have spent years here on the blog wailing about how I get assigned boring courses and how I’m a victim. Instead, I went and did what I needed to enjoy my teaching. And there’s a million things like that. That first semester, the department gave me a syllabus for the Beginner Spanish, said I had to follow it. I binned it immediately, didn’t even read it. Still have no idea what’s in it.

It’s funny to see this method described in a novel published a long time ago. I was so certain it was my know-how.

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