In recent months, we have been featuring guest blogs from participants in the Rackham-CRLT Intercampus Mentorship Program. [Edit 5/13/16: The mentorship program ended in 2016, but that need not prevent graduate students and postdocs from setting up highly beneficial mentoring relationships on their own.] 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 »