German 232: Queer German Cultures (Spring 2017)
The “crown jewel” of my teaching experience as a graduate student, I had the privilege of designing as the instructor of record a fourth-semester, content-based language course, the first in my department dedicated to LGBTQ peoples and cultures. I designed the course from the ground-up with an eye towards student input, inquiring both before and during the semester of students’ interest and learning goals. I built this information into my overarching philosophy of accessibility and relevance. A loosely chronological course, we covered LGBTQ histories, cultures, and societies since the 1860s, ranging from the private letters of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the “first” modern homosexual, to the erotic lesbian paintings of Jeanne Mammen during the Weimar Republic to the first-person narratives of recent queer Arab refugees in Germany. I combined these textual, audiovisual, and digital materials—to capture a wide array of interests and learning styles—with advanced grammar and vocabulary instruction, pairing, for example, a week on 1920s gay nightlife in which we created digital maps of gay and lesbian infrastructure in Berlin and wrote fictional accounts of our “nights out on the town” with practice with directional vocabulary, prepositions, cases, the preterite tense, and descriptive language. With a passionate group of ten students, this course gave me the opportunity to experiment with pedagogical methods and to enrich my teaching. Students came away with a toolbox of lifelong, adaptable skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing as well as in global and intercultural fluency.
German 101-102: The Language Sequence (Fall 2015 – Spring 2016)
In the first two semesters of language instruction, I taught the basics of German vocabulary and grammar to both undergraduates and graduate students. In smaller sections that met daily, I led my course with a communicative approach to language acquisition, one that foregrounds active student learning and participation through interactive lectures, ample pair work, and a mission to practice grammar and vocabulary through maximal student speaking in the classroom. The intensity of teacher-student interaction and the constant and varied activities, ranging from roleplaying to interactive grammar practice and field trips to local museums, was something that I immensely enjoyed and which further fed the flame of my passion to teach. I relished the meta-thinking about the my pedagogy, continually seeking to refine my teaching to better suit the needs of students and enhance the educational process. For example, to make the learning process productively challenging yet transparent to students I explained to them my “n+1” model of language acquisition, with “n” being their baseline knowledge and the “+1” a step above that challenges them to make the next move in their learning. This method sets students up for success by training them to be active, autonomous learners.
German 386: Fairy Tales (Fall 2014)
As a graduate student instructor (GSI, equivalent to a TA) for a large, English-language lecture on fairy tales, I led three discussion sections with over sixty students. Since the course was designed as an introduction to European and German culture, history, and literature in the form of a humanities requirement for STEM students, I was challenged to mold discussions and design assignments to capture the interest and meet the learning goals of students who were largely unfamiliar with the course content and the basic skills of a rigorous humanities education, such as how to interpret a fictional text or how to write literary criticism. I thus strove to make my class as inclusive and accessible for these students as possible by organizing in-class workshops to learn, model, and practice how to close read a text or write a literary essay. With the help of the university library I taught them how to find and cite reputable sources and how to use research databases. As we covered a wide swath of material from ancient Greek mythology to Mozart and Goethe to Walter Benjamin and recent feminist scholarship, I made sure that students were in a productively safe environment to ask questions, engage with complex and at times controversial issues, make errors and correct them, and practice their newly acquired knowledge and skills, always providing opportunities for feedback and its implementation in learning from their mistakes. Although at first rather challenging teaching this type of course with these many students during my first semester of graduate school, I found the experience very rewarding in opening dozens of students’ minds to culture and literature that many of them would have never been exposed to, while also exploring for myself what kinds of teaching approaches bet fit my own desires and goals.