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Header: Jess Anderson in Madison Wisconsin
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Russian Teacher
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I started teaching the week after I got my B.A. Wisconsin offered an intensive Russian language course in summer sessions, and my first experience in the classroom was as a teaching assistant in that course. The course was paced at four times the normal speed: the students spent seven hours a day in class. What a whirlwind it was, two semesters of college Russian in only eight weeks!

In following years I had more nearly normal classes to teach. There were some wonderful students. Only a few didn't do well. Russian is a fairly difficult language, after all, at least for average native speakers of English. Students who were just looking to fill a foreign-language degree requirement didn't sign up for it.

I quickly decided that students fall naturally into three categories: slower ones, average ones, and brilliant ones. The teacher's challenge, as I saw it, was to devise one lesson that would inspire and uplift the slower ones, give good solid instruction to the middle ones, and keep the bright ones thoroughly entertained.

I like to think I managed it fairly well. The students liked me, because I was very active in class, fielded their questions well, stuck to business most of the time, never cut anyone down, and taught them the major dirty words. (Teacher evaluations hadn't been invented yet, or I would certainly have gotten in trouble for the last of these.)

The second-year literature courses were the most fun. Our readings were excerpts from real Russian literature. One assignment was to recite aloud from memory a short love lyric by Pushkin. I was really surprised by how well they did. They understood the poem and delivered it with great passion and intensity. What a wonderful reward that was, to have brought the students to such great material!

After three years of teaching, I didn't qualify for more financial assistance (I was working in computing the whole time, too), so my classroom teaching ended there, except for a "Russian for Travelers" course I gave in Sheboygan for the UW-Extension one very snowy winter.

Many years later, I was asked to teach computer-related short courses. I did it, but I didn't like it: much too linear for me.

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