In recent months, we have been featuring guest blogs from participants in the Rackham-CRLT Intercampus Mentorship Program. You can learn more about the program--open to any U-M graduate student or postdoc--by following this link. In today's post, English Language and Literature Ph.D. student Adam Mazel reflects upon the crucial lessons about teaching that he learned from observing his mentor at nearby Albion College teach Melville's Moby Dick.
I first met Jess Roberts, Associate Professor of English at Albion College, in 2008, when she guest lectured on American women poets in a graduate seminar I was taking here at Michigan. I did not know then that four years later, I would contact Jess to ask her to mentor me as part of the Rackham-CRLT Intercampus Mentorship program. But when I saw her on the list of possible mentors, I was excited. I knew that there was no one I would rather work with. When she agreed to mentor me, I was through the roof.
Since then, our meetings have taken a number of forms: from discussions over coffee regarding how to manage the hardships of the humanities job market, to visits to Albion to observe her teach. I single out these latter meetings as particularly helpful. I entered Michigan’s PhD program in English never having taught—or even tutored—before. For that reason, I have sought out any opportunity I could to practice my teaching. Having already experienced Jess in a Michigan classroom, I knew that I could learn a lot from observing her Albion classroom. I was right.
One classroom visit, in particular, stands out to me. In November 2012, I observed Jess teach Melville’s Moby-Dick to a seminar of freshman and sophomores, most of whom were non-English majors. How was she going to excite these young skeptics about one of the most complex novels ever published, I wondered? Read more »