Thursday, March 24, 2011

In appreciation of my students HIST 3805 and 4505

Some weeks are better for a teacher's morale than others.

This last week or so has been one of the good ones.

The first big boost took place in my 4th-year seminar on Chivalry.  It has been going well, and my students seem to be pretty interested.   That's a big plus, but my 4th-year seminars are usually successful.

No, what caught my attention was that finally, finally not one but two students used French as though it were the most normal thing in the world.

Now given that Nipissing University is in a region with a large Francophone population, you might think this was no big deal.  However, it's been my experience over 20 years that students who might be Francophones, who have French last names, either have no French or no confidence about using it in a public space like a classroom.  It's not like we had an actual conversation in French, but the sheer undramatic normality -- ah! Maybe someday Northeastern Ontario, Ontario as a whole, might really start exploiting its potential linguistic advantages.

Now that's just crazy talk...but it's fun to dream.

The other thing was the reaction to Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Teheran in History of Islamic Civilization.  For a second term essay, I gave the class a choice of one of three books to evaluate as windows into the struggle of Middle Eastern societies with modernization.  One was Reading Lolita, about a university professor in Iran whose study of English literature affected her attitude to the Islamic Revolution and its aftermath.  Although it is beautifully and profoundly written, I thought my students might struggle with it -- especially if they weren't very familiar with the English novels discussed in the book.  But I offered it as a choice, with a warning as to its challenges, in the hopes that it might make a difference to one person.

Well, I got the papers back last week and...quite a few students got quite a bit out of the book.  I am glad that I took a little risk and that they did, too.

Made me smile. :-)

Image:  Azar Nafisi, smiling, from her website.

No comments:

Post a Comment