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Tales from Real Life: Searching for Answers

Thirty-eight years ago I started my first full-time job in academia by walking into my chair’s office. He handed me copies of the common texts for the freshman (it would take me 35 years to call them “first-year students”) english and sophomore Lit sections I would be teaching.

Then, with the admonition, “This first year I want you to be the best teacher you can be,” he dismissed me, and, like the Deists’ god, he was never again visible to guide me through the semester.

On the plus side, I had a passion for the profession and an excellent knowledge of the content of the courses (some admittedly obtained seconds before entering class); but, predictably, I was a terrible teacher.

That sophomore text—I assigned all of its over-2000 pages and was clueless as to why students looked at me through weary and crossed eyes.

So how did I teach those undergraduates? Simple. I replicated my best graduate seminars and copied my favorite teachers.

But, without even the map of a G.A.’s department-required syllabus, I meandered from topic to topic like a blind person trying to cross the Gobi desert.

Thirty-five years later, though, I would win the Acorn Award as Kentucky’s best college professor of 2005. How did I get there? I discovered a compass called a working pedagogy.

—Charlie Sweet
Eastern Kentucky University

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Published In

December, 2008


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  • anc_dyn_linksSpecial Salary Issue 2009
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  • anc_dyn_linksSpecial Salary Issue 2008
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Thriving In Academe

  • anc_dyn_linksKeeping Your Classroom C.R.I.S.P.
  • anc_dyn_linksTales from Real Life: Searching for Answers
  • anc_dyn_linksKeeping Your Class C.R.I.S.P. - A Refresher Course
  • anc_dyn_linksBest Practices: "Finding The Core Of The Idea"
  • anc_dyn_linksIssues to Consider: Overcoming Common Problems
  • anc_dyn_linksReferences & Resources