Here's Your Degree, now Teach!
We are so excited to begin posting new entries from Professor LeBoeuf's Hindue Goddess Worship class! Below is her introduction to series and we here at the Engaged Gaze want to congratulate her on completing her dissertation and officially becoming Dr. LeBoeuf!
To become a professor, to hold a doctorate requires years of study and years of reading and writing. For all the education that professors go through to become experts and distillers of knowledge, it is very rare that professors take
courses on how to become quality educators, at the beginning of their careers. This could be different if you are getting a degree in education – but for many other disciplines in the Humanities and Sciences, those that are getting ready to becomes college professors are not required to take courses on how to teach, nor do they have to take a test, like high school and elementary school teachers do. Many universities have supplemental programs that are available for students but very rarely are they required. Many graduating masters and doctoral students receive their degrees with having only minimal amounts of training in the classroom.
Big universities do have systems in place which allow for their graduate students to become RAs, TAs, and even lead introductory courses. Even in these classes, there are hardly full instructions on how to prepare for teaching. I had the privilege to be both a RA and a TA where I got to observe and participate in varying ways on how to construct a syllabus, how to run class discussions, and how to maintain class engagement throughout the semester. But what I wasn’t prepared for, what wasn’t taught to me was the role I would play in maintaining students well beings, in making sure my emotions and energy wasn’t bogging down a lecture and class environment. That reading your students is just as crucial
as getting through the material.
There is value in learning while doing, that there are some nuances that can’t fully be expressed and taught until you walk through it. But there are still a lot which people looking to get into higher education should be taught. I’ve learned through answering email upon email that no matter how much time you spend in the first weeks going over the syllabus or how many places you post it, students will always ask you time and time again for the dates of tests, when your office hours are, and what readings are due for the following class. I’ve learned that when you are a professor to a freshman, it is imperative that you reach out to them if they start to struggle, miss an assignment, aren’t making the full grades because for many of them – they went to a high school where resources were not really given to them. They didn’t realize that in a college setting, they can do a whole lot more and have a whole new arena of resources available to them. That by being the professor that takes a little bit more time, could potentially shape the rest of their college experience.
I was fortunate enough that when I started to adjunct, I had sat in and participated in over 5 different courses in all aspects of how courses are run. The first few weeks of teaching was filled with experiencing eyes constantly staring at me, in question and in wonderment. Resting with the knowledge that my course could be the only way they experience the subjects of Asian Religions. That what they learned in my classes might in turn be told to their family and friends. And while it was an adjustment, it also was an affirmation. Affirmation that this path I had devoted myself towards, the countless hours of reading books, writing papers, and sitting in classes was leading me to this exact moment.
On the cusp of my second semester of teaching, I was approached to take part in the flagship program that was developing at Claremont Graduate University. The Religion Department had secured funding to establish the Wabash Teaching Fellowship. This fellowship would take both Masters and Doctoral Students and pair them up with senior professors at one of the adjunct Claremont Colleges. It would provide mentoring and shadowing in the class setting. I was extremely fortunate to be paired with one of the most effervescent and leading scholars in the Hindu Goddess field, Dr. Cynthia Humes. It has been such a delight being able to get to know such a renowned scholar and seasoned professor. We both came to an organic decision that since I was ABD and teaching at another institution that we would run her course as co-instructors; the course Hindu Goddess Worship has been such an interesting endeavor.
The students in this course are all extremely dedicated, focused, and driven in learned all different aspects that reside in Hindu Goddess. So much so that Cynthia and I reworked the syllabus to match up to more of their interests. The students in this class are undertaking a final research project. One of the exercises for this preparation was writing a blog post were their explored and detailed their journeys in finding a research topic, why they choose it specifically, and the complexities and nuances that resides in thousands of years of worship. Their upcoming blog posts will reflect all manners of how this class has unpacked, reworked, and explored Hindu Goddess Worship.