Learning from My Students

As this semester reaches the final week, I am, as usual, reflecting on my pedagogical practices of this semester. I was lucky to have the opportunity to teach  the Freshman Honors Colloquium. This  was my last semester of teaching Kent State Honors students and also the best.  Spread over two semesters, the honors colloquium is the ideal course for students as well as the teacher. We start in the fall and then continue the following spring. I think it would be apt to say that this last honors class was my best undergraduate class during my stay at Kent State. Listed below are some, but not all, of the things my these students taught me over this year:

  • It is OK to sometimes dispense with the day’s topic and talk about the world and our place in it. Most of them liked my “tangents” and what they lovingly termed my “rants.”
  • They also taught me that to empower them in deciding the nature of their assignments, without compromising the learning standards, is a more productive way of teaching.
  • That the coverage model is not the best model.
  • That relating our texts to rel-life issues and politics of the world is more important than just teaching the mechanics of textual reading itself–Stanley Fish would hate this!!!
  • That given a  chance, our students can reshape their worldviews even if it asks for a drastic change in their worldview.
  • That teaching should be informed by the needs, aspirations, and motivations of our students and not just be guided by the teacher’s assumptions about what constitutes knowledge.
  • That teaching an ethic of global peace and justice is a not a foreign subject to them and that they welcome the relationship between literature and the outside world and their own place in it.

In this course, while my students read and discussed traditional postcolonial texts, they were also encouraged to think beyond the texts. They also created a blog, as a final assignment, on a subject of their choice. Called the Ethical Footprint, this blog showcases their views on the unethical labor practices of various corporations and informs the readers about the consequences of their consumer choices for people on the other side of global division of labor.

On the whole, this class has taught me that what I do in class does matter and that the best hope for the future lies in letting our students interact with the text and then ground their reading experiences in the real world.

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