This year we’re introducing some changes to the blog. We have invited five recent University of Chicago Divinity School alumni to engage with this year’s Craft of Teaching programming and contribute their insights from the experience of being a new faculty member. We’re excited to roll out this initiative by introducing a new member of the alumni blogger cohort each day this week.
For Day 2, we’re happy to present Lauren Osborne (2014), Assistant Professor of Religion at Whitman College.
CoT-What was your area of focus and year of graduation at the Divinity School?
LO-Islamic Studies, 2014
CoT –What was your most memorable teaching experience while at the Divinity School? Since moving on?
LO-My most memorable teaching experience was probably just the first time I got to put an entire class together and teach it myself. Of course I look back at the syllabus and I’ve made a lot of changes as I’ve learned more about what works in the classroom and what doesn’t, but just being in front of a class for the first time felt surprisingly magical.
Since moving on from the Divinity School, oh there are so many! One of the most memorable might be when I had assigned a chapter from an ethnography where the author talked about her position vis-à-vis her research, including discussion of what it was like doing ethnography and bringing her infant daughter along. In class, I asked the students what had surprised them about the chapter, and little did I know I had a student in class who had grown up with the author’s daughter. It was a hilarious moment in discussion, and a great example of how often student reactions and connections to readings are not at all what you would expect.
CoT–What do you most wish you had learned about teaching while you were still a doctoral student? (and/or) What surprised you the most as a new faculty member?
LO–Before I started teaching I thought a lot about authority in the classroom, and constructing one’s authority before a class. It’s not that this was irrelevant, but it didn’t really play out in the way I expected. On a day to day level, I’ve found that walking into a classroom and teaching as an authority figure isn’t really the hard part. Authority issues certainly crop up from time to time, but it’s not in the ways in which I would have expected.
CoT–Briefly describe a course you’ve never taught but would like to.
LO-In the Whitman Religion department, we’ve been working on redesigning our major, and part of this includes adding a mid-level theory and methods class. (We currently teach this as a senior seminar as students are also starting theses.) I’m really looking forward to being able to design and teach such a course. It will almost certainly push my boundaries and give me the opportunity to read outside of my area of specialization (something for which it’s so hard to find time, especially in the early years of teaching) and keep me up to date with the field of religious studies, rather than just Islamic studies.
CoT–You’ve been bitten by a radioactive kitten and your new superpower of pausing time has instantly made you a more effective teacher.