As I mentioned in my first post, one of my goals during my sabbatical has been to begin reconnecting with my passion for teaching. I’m now in the second phase of my career, that huge void between being a beginning professor and nearing the end of one’s career. I don’t want my teaching to become stale. As a student, I saw many professors in this second stage lose interest in teaching. I want to imbue this next part of my career with passion. I love teaching and I love most of what I teach; I want my students to see that love, even if they don’t always share it.

Until recently this process of reconnecting has focused on specific teaching methods and assignments that I would like to integrate into my classes. For example, when I teach Restoration and 18thC classes in the future, I would like to assign my students to keep commonplace books; I then want to connect their commonplacing with reflection on processes of self-fashioning and self-discovery in the period and in their own writing. I also plan to have these students use Johnson’s Dictionary to keep track of key words from the period on a weekly basis. (These words may also lead us to potential topics for their commonplace books.) In other words, I want to synthesize the kinds of assignments I require my students to complete with the kinds of texts and issues generated in the period we’re studying.

Now I’m moving into a second phase of my thinking about my teaching: reading and reflecting on published pedagogical work by other scholars. So, this will be the first of perhaps many posts about teaching. (Of course, once I return to the classroom in late March these posts will probably be less theoretical and more about the day-to-day aspects of my teaching experience, but we’ll see.)

I’ve just finished reading Gerald Graff’s “Toward a New Consensus: The Ph.D. in English,” which is included in a collection of essays entitled Envisioning the Future of Doctoral Education: Preparing Stewards of the Discipline, Carnegie Essays on the Doctorate. This collection is the outgrowth of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. My attention was brought to this particular essay because I am looking for potential articles to propose for my department’s new colloquium on teaching series, which will commence in January. I also know two faculty members at Texas A&M University who have been participating in the Carnegie Foundation’s initiative on the doctorate.