Faculty Reflections on Teaching, Learning, and Working

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Faculty Reflections on Teaching, Learning, and Working

By Dr. William Caraher, Asst Professor of History

As another semester fades from view and the entire campus community recovers from the scramble of final exams, students tend to turn their mind to summer pursuits. Faculty, on the other hand, often catch their breath by reflecting on their past year’s labors. For first and second year faculty, these reflections often take on a more thoughtful cast as they consider the challenges and opportunities of coming to new and place and encountering new possibilities. Over the past three years, the Office of Instructional Development’s teaching blog, Teaching Thursday, has invited first and second year faculty to present their reflections to a global audience of thoughtful faculty teachers.

First year faculty reflected on everything from the topography to the culture, and, of course, the teaching and learning.

John-Paul Legerski, Department of Psychology

In my spare time I like to watch and study film. Capraesque is a term used in literature and film to describe a classic fish-out-water story, a recurring theme found in many of Frank Capra’s films. Capra, the Italian-American auteur, most famously used this motif in two depression area films, Mr. Deeds Comes to Town (1936) and Mr. Smith Comes to Washington (1939). Each of these films, starring Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart respectively, is filled with fast-paced dialogue and screwball goofery and is near identical in their central themes. They each present a naive protagonist who is forced to navigate the foreign, and sometimes dangerous, big city aided only by their small town values, which are incompatible with the ways of big city life…. Read more from Dr. Legerski.

The journey from leading a profession to bringing that leadership and experience to the classroom is nearly as far as the trip from Delaware to North Dakota and even more rewarding…

Michael S. McGinniss, Assistant Professor, UND School of Law

As I have pulled up along the riverside of my journey as a first-year assistant professor at the University of North Dakota School of Law, I have been reflecting upon the trials (no pun intended) and the triumphs of teaching and learning in a new world of challenges and opportunities. It does not seem possible it is now almost one year since my wife, fifteen-year-old daughter and I drove west from our longtime home in Delaware to stake out a place for ourselves in the Northern Plains. I have taught much, learned more, and feel much wiser from these experiences…. Read more from Dr. McGinninss.

This past year, we have invited faculty who wrote reflections in 2010 to offer some impressions on their second year at the University. The posts reflect the dedication that UND faculty have for their craft as teachers, researchers, and members of the university community:

Paul Worley, Assistant Professor, Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures

Right after I finished undergrad I spent several weeks in Peru interpreting for a group of nursing students on a medical mission. We’d set up a free clinic in a school in a town in the Andes near Huancavelica and had been there for a day or two when a woman who appeared to be in her eighties came in with a newborn baby. She was reluctant to let anyone too near the baby and yet had brought him/her in for an exam all the same. Once she opened up a bit, she claimed to have found the baby down by the river the day before. In the absence of milk of her own or money with which to purchase formula, she had been giving the baby coffee out of a bottle. A veteran of several mission trips and a former refugee, the doctor who accompanied us quickly took over attending to her and sent the nursing students elsewhere. As the interpreter, I stayed…. Read more from Dr. Worley.

These posts also reflect the challenges facing faculty as they seek to maximize both their and their students’ potential…

Casey Ozaki, Department of Teaching and Learning

As Year 2 of my faculty career, in general and at UND, is coming to a close, I was once again asked to reflect on my teaching and, I think, professional experience thus far. Though, I have struggled with this task a bit…certainly more than I expected. In fact, I have had a difficult time trying to write about my experience teaching this year in the void of discussing my broader professional growth and experience. So, I have decided not to try to explicate one from the other, they are too intertwined and affected by one another. I feel I have to talk about my teaching in the greater context of what my world has become…messy. While last year’s reflection was fairly focused, organized with themes and resources, and critically reflective, I ask readers to allow for a somewhat more narrative and personal recounting of my year. In advance, thank you for the cathartic space. I think the best way to set the context is to begin with a story…. Read more from Dr. Ozaki.

Over the past three years, Teaching Thursday has become an important place on campus to discuss teaching and learning across the entire campus. Published each Thursday, it has featured articles ranging from technical and pedagogical tips to passionate reflections on the experience of teaching and learning at UND. Teaching Thursday blog posts are read by a global audience of teachers, faculty, and students and have been linked to from the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker blog.

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