I am the colleague that my chair might call on to teach extra courses, outside my area of expertise, when a colleague is hospitalized, all while serving as president-elect of the University Senate. I do not see myself as a naturally gifted teacher, but I am passionate about developing new courses and enriching the education of my students, as well as pitching in times of emergency, as I did when my colleague had to stop teaching for the rest of the semester.
A few of my courses have been particularly innovative:
•A capstone course on oral traditions in the Hispanic world, my “refranero, romancero, cancionero” class provides a way of looking at anonymous “texts” from the middle ages to the current day in both Spain and Spanish America. In this class we examine proverbs (refranes), ballads (romances), and short lyric poems set to music (canciones). The advantages of this material are multiple: it lends itself to audiovisual presentation and cuts across temporal and geographical barriers. Students in this course are encouraged to undertake innovative projects and to post to the course blog. While I first developed this course before my last promotion, it continues to be a mainstay of my teaching. I gave it last in Spring of 2010 and hope to cycle it back into my courses very soon.
•My course on translation has evolved through the years. I have given it twice since my promotion, most recently in 2013. I have found that translation provides a unique way of seeing the intersections among the three major areas of teaching in our department: language, literature, and culture, in fascinating ways. It is not merely a course on how to translate, but an eye-opening exploration of this “intersectionality.” One traditional idea of teaching foreign languages is to attempt to make the language learner into a quasi-native speaker who does not have to depend at all on her own native language. This approach is not only unrealistic, but also neglects the advantages of bilingualism. A course in translation exploits the advantages of students who are fluent in their first language rather than seeing the first language merely as an obstacle to be overcome.
•My graduate course on Literary Theory emphasizes the reading of the primary texts of theory rather than secondary guides that give potted and inaccurate summaries. My students emerge from this course with a solid grounding for their dissertations. I have given the course twice since my promotion (including this current semester).
My “philosophy” of teaching is to give my students the most of my own talents and expertise. At the undergraduate level, I work a lot on my students’ Spanish and want to give them a well-rounded though not particularly complete vision of Spanish literature and culture. At the graduate level, I feel that our task is to prepare students for a brutally competitive profession by giving them rigorous training and feedback.