German 232: Contemporary Politics in Germany (Fall 2020)

Branching out to new topics of instruction, I offered another fourth-semester content-based language course in the fall of 2020 on contemporary politics in Germany. Due to the flexibility necessary to adapt to the developments of the Covid-19 pandemic, I essentially designed two original courses as the instructor of record: one for in-person instruction, for those students able and comfortable with physically coming to class, and for those who would participate remotely via Zoom. Thus teaching what I call a “concurrent” class, I approached this course design from the principles of inclusion, accessibility, and adaptability in order to fall students to be able to participate, regardless of their physical location or health status. With the help of technology experts on campus, I facilitated small-group and speaking activities between these two groups of students live during the class period, fostering a sense of community across distance and leveraging the advantages of online instruction to develop new kinds of activities with videos, games, and other tools on the internet.

The goal of this course was to improve students’ grammar, vocabulary, and written and spoken German through study of contemporary politics in Germany. Topics varied across theme and medium, stretching across literature, political science, history, and art and culture, including novels and films, artwork and political manifestos, digital technology and conversations with German political activists. We began with an overview of the history and structures of democracy in Germany, such as the powers of parliament and the role of specific politicians and parties. Students were challenged to think comparatively and globally about different forms of governance and political culture and thereby critically reflect on their own. The course then proceeded thematically, addressing current societal and political issues: the refugee “crisis” and mass migration; racism and religious intolerance; LGBTQ rights; #MeToo and the feminist movement; the rise of far-right parties and extremism; the decline of traditional socialist parties and the welfare state; Brexit and the future of the European Union; privacy, surveillance, and Big Tech; and environmental activism in the Fridays for Future protests and the new power of the Green parties. Through daily small-group activities, classroom discussions, blog posts and essays, and a final research project, in which students created and published their own podcasts on a political issue of their choice, students came away with the analytic tools and linguistic capabilities to speak, read, and write at a high level of German, alongside an extensive knowledge of the political histories and cultures of Germany.

German 325: History of German Film (Summer 2020)

In the summer 2020 I had the rare opportunity to co-teach an upper-level seminar on the history of German film. Taught in German, my co-instructor, Mary Hennessy, and I were given the freedom to design the course from the ground up, selecting the films, leading discussions, designing activities and assignments, and assessing students—all on online with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning on Zoom and Canvas. I was thus challenged to reimagine my pedagogy for remote instruction, generating novel approaches to engage students outside of a physical classroom and cultivate a sense of community among the students and instructors across wide distances.

For course, we explored the cinemas of six different German states spanning three centuries: early silent cinema of the Imperial era; Weimar cinema and the transition to sound film; Nazi cinema; the cinema of East and West Germany; and filmmaking after the fall of the Wall and into the twenty-first century. The course offered students a broad overview of German film history, in addition to providing opportunities for delving more deeply into key historical and thematic units: war and revolution, gender and sexuality, fascism and aesthetics, the city and technology, art and politics, activism and power, race and migration.

In addition to film screenings, students read short texts (artistic manifestos, reviews, articles, excerpts from literature) to place the films in their historical, social, and cultural contexts and to ground our discussions. Students also kept an informal film screening journal to practice responding to films in German and answer discussion questions, both on Zoom and on Canvas. Through a combination of online group discussion, partner work, collaborative online writing and editing, and analytic and creative essays, we aimed for students to come away with a critical toolbox to discuss and analyze cultural objects such as films, images, and texts, in German. In doing so, students acquired more proficient spoken and written German as well as an appreciation of the power of film — in German history and in their own lives.

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.