De arte docendi

Or, "Reasons that I really love my job."

Here's the latest: like most of us with a two-class teaching schedule, I have one sheep class and one goat class. Not surprising, the goat class is the (insanely) earlier of the two, and while it does have its moments,* it's largely a dud. Enter the second class, whom I dishonor by calling sheep.

We're discussing a moment in the Tale of Genji today in which Genji demonstrates that he's grown (Chapter Four, for those of you following along at home). In the first class, I can't even get simple answers to questions like, "what happens next?" In the second, however, they sidetrack me into a discussion of aesthetic vs. intellectual knowledge, followed by an attempt to read Genji's actions as having roots in his childhood, which means I have to derail that branch of psychoanalytic criticism with the Bookerian "literary characters don't have minds" explanation. Neither discussion was expected, but both were rewarding, and I was pleased that when they didn't understand, they asked me to explain until they did (or until they got tired of me talking, but don't burst my bubble).

That's the kind of teaching I like. Give me juniors and seniors in the humanities every time!
* One of my favorites occurred this past week. It's the first day back after Spring Break, and we're doing The Tale of Genji, and they're all huddled in the back. So, as you do, I walked in and said, "Neither Genji nor I will bite. Why are you huddled in the back?"
"We're afraid of you," said one.
"We're afraid of your talons."
Mind you, these are college-age kids, and this guy's a good 20, 21 maybe. "What talons?" I say, looking at my hands.
"I've seen Wolverine. I know how it works."
Flash forward to Wednesday, when this person's sitting up front. "Ah," I say, "you've more courage today."
"No," he says, "I just have my sword and shield."
See? Precocious--but not educationally speaking.

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