Tuesday, April 13, 2010

First, the high schools. Next, world domination.

Although I certainly believed everything I wrote earlier this semester about the ways in which professors serve as "public intellectuals" in the classroom, as well as about the peculiarly valuable mission of teaching terminal M.A. students, I must admit that what happened last week in my graduate Milton class surprised me.

The high school teacher among my students--a smart, soft-spoken man of about my own age--announced that his departmental colleagues had been asking him about the course he was taking this semester, and one by one expressed first envy that he was studying Paradise Lost and then regret that they had never had the opportunity to do so.

So he's now leading a weekly discussion group, for service credit, to guide his entire department through the poem.

And okay: I'm surprised that so few of his fellow English teachers had read Paradise Lost before. And I'm a little freaked out by the thought that some version of my take on Milton will shape the way one high school's entire English department understands the epic. But I couldn't be more pleased.


Historiann said...


This is such a great story. Hey, guess what? education works--pass it on!

And I bet you and he aren't using clickers or Twitter or any neato-whizzbang gadgets, but rather are convening small groups of people together for conversations about books you've read alongside one another.

You should be proud. You've been such an inspiration to your student that he's turning other teachers onto Milton. And guess what? This is going to benefit their teaching more than any seminars by consultants, more than any "center for teaching and learning," and waaaaay more than the frapping tests they have to administer to their hapless students.

Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes to SALUTE you, madam!

Anonymous said...

Clicking through from Historiann==really beautiful. Just the story I needed to finish the semester. Thanks for sharing! AgnesW

Flavia said...

Aw. Thanks, both!

And yep, Historiann: just books and article print-outs and the occasional chalkboard diagram. Lots of talking and reading aloud. Super low-tech.

(I do benefit from JSTOR and Project Muse and the ability to set up an online coursepack of secondary readings--but that's about it).

Doctor Cleveland said...

Bwa ha ha!

Congratulations on the completion of Phase One!

Susan said...

The revolution begins. Good for everyone -- you for inspiring your student, but also for his colleagues, to want to learn more. This is just the best story in the world.

Dr. Crazy said...

There's nothing but good about this, babe. Bask in the glow!

grafton said...

What a wonderful story.

The Bittersweet Girl said...

Love this story. Most of my grad students are also current teachers of middle and high school -- and it is one of the primary ways I justify to myself the seemingly out-of-touch work I do: because they turn around and apply what they learned in their own classrooms.

And, of course, the benefits flow the other way as well, because I learn so much from my "teachers on the ground" -- they are heroes to me.