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.
Pushing us over the hump this week is Sam Brody (2013), Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Kansas University. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!
SB-I focused in History of Judaism and graduated in August 2013.
CoT –What was your most memorable teaching experience while at the Divinity School? Since moving on?
SB-I loved being a TA for new MA students in Prof. Robinson’s Introduction to the Study of Religion, which I did twice. But I was also lucky enough to be given the opportunity to design and teach my own course for undergrads, Religious Zionisms. It was an interdisciplinary syllabus and attracted a small but dedicated group of talented students, really the best possible initial audience for the ideas I had for the course.
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?
SB-I wish someone had told me about textbooks, or presented a range of available ones for evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses. Grad students who have just finished their doctorates, and who are lucky enough to find employment in academic religious studies, are likely to find themselves teaching introductory courses. But these newly-minted Ph.Ds, who have just finished an intense period of ultra-specialized research and writing, are often the worst-equipped people in the world to gather and present introductory material to absolute beginners. Sometimes it’s hard to even remember what counts as introductory or basic. You think, haughtily, that you will never resort to something as pedestrian as a textbook, and then you realize that all the great secondary literature you think of as classic is completely inaccessible to beginners in the field.
CoT–Briefly describe a course you’ve never taught but would like to.
SB-Someday I would like to teach, or team-teach, a course on “1492” and its aftermaths. It seems like the kind of course with the power to truly orient young humanities undergrads, bringing together history, religious studies, political science, anthropology, economics, etc. etc. I got the idea from Jonathan Boyarin’s The Unconverted Self, in which he compares the figures of two Christian-European “Others,” the Jew and the Indian.
You’ve been bitten by a radioactive Cheetah and your new superpower of being really fast has instantly made you a more effective teacher.