Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Blissed out

I'm sort of following in the vein of Flavia on her post about signs that the semester is off to a good start. I have to rave about the students in my upper level Shakespeare class.

First off, there are 27 of them. And it's a seminar because is upper level and a requirement for the major. So it seems like it might be difficult to give everyone a chance to contribute to the discussion. Secondly, last year I had to teach it in a lecture room with raked seating and me in the pit at the bottom. This made discussion even more difficult, partly because the students couldn't see one another very well. And for some reason it made me lose my confidence which is really strange because I LOVE being on stage and performing and I love lecturing. But this course wasn't really supposed to be a lecture course. Anyway, half of my evaluations said I lectured too much and the other half said not enough.

So this semester I made sure the class was put in a smaller classroom. Colleagues and secretaries looked aghast at me, but they allowed it. Yes, we are all crammed into the room, but we managed to make a staggered circle with the desks. Being literally on the same level with the students makes so much of a difference. Plus, everyone can see everyone else.

Yesterday was our first day with a play, and the discussion of speech and language in Richard II was so stimulating, so exciting, that some of the students followed me into my office after class to continue the line of thought. At least 20 out of 27 students spoke, and everyone had something interesting to say. They also began to piggy-back on one another's observations. In the middle of the discussion when we started talking about flattery as a speech act, I read them some quotes from early modern anti-flattery tracts and when I was finished, about 10 hands went up in the air- they assimilated the historical information very quickly.

I was wrong- even though I'm a poetry person, I do like teaching Shakespeare's drama. Maybe I should write an article on Shakespeare and become a semi-Shakespearean.

The best thing about this group of students is that on the first day a number of them mentioned that they were fascinated by language and Shakespeare's use of puns. I've actually got some budding philologists in my class: Whee!


Hilaire said...

That is great!!! How wonderful. I love the high that classes like that can bring - it's like nothing else.

I'm going to be doing some serious table rearranging in my 20-person third-year seminar, too. I don't understahnd why universities build/configure so many smaller classrooms as rows of desks...

muse said...

Good luck with your teaching too, Hilaire! I know what you mean about the desks. But I think it's just cheaper to keep the desks instead of replacing them with conference tables.