I’m teaching my first real graduate class this week (it’s in a one-week intensive format), and let me just tell you that I’ve been having major imposter syndrome (i.e., that voice in your head that tells you you’ve fooled everyone into believing you’re smarter than you actually are and that the truth is about to come out) all weekend and into today. Fortunately, these graduate students are kind and understanding and (since most of them are graduate student assistants) know something about feeling unprepared to teach, so today went pretty well.
I teach at a Christian university, and tonight I’m having my students write a discussion board post about how their Christian worldview impacts their scholarly career. (These are English M.A. students, many of whom will go on to careers in academia.) So I thought I, too, should do what I’m asking them to do, but since I don’t want to crash their creative party by becoming the awkward authoritative presence in the virtual room, I’m writing my thoughts here.
- How my Christian worldview has impacted me as a writer and researcher. As Gilderoy Lockhart once said, “For full details, see my published works” (flashes award-winning smile). All I mean by that is that I won’t take the time to go into great detail here because I’ve already written about this at length in the introduction to my dissertation. In summary, I said that I’m more comfortable than a secular scholar would be with talking about authors as real personalities, not merely constructs, because I believe that God, a very real personality, inspired the Bible and had a clear authorial intent in mind when he did so. Therefore, even though I know that a degree, perhaps a large degree, of uncertainty is inevitable when we interpret texts (even when we interpret the Bible with our finite rational capabilities), it is imperative that we respect the text–any text–and its author and do our best to understand the intention, even if we don’t agree with it, and even if we see interpretive possibilities that may not have been in the author’s conscious thought. That’s not a popular view in literary criticism, but I think it’s a Christian view.
- How my Christian worldview has impacted me as a teacher. In many ways, I hope! I hope my Christian worldview, along with the Holy Spirit inside me, has helped me to see the value of all students, to be patient with them, and to listen to them before I start telling them what I think they should think. (I don’t always succeed at all of this.) I know my Christian worldview has helped me to see teaching as a meaningful calling, not a frustrating but necessary side effect of being a scholar. My Christian worldview also has a direct impact on what I say in class, something I’ve been focusing on more deliberately in the past few years as I’ve come to realize that not all of my students a) are Christians and b) understand the Bible and their faith well. I teach English, not theology, but there are so many opportunities to speak Jesus’s name and the truth of the gospel in my classes, whether we’re looking at the triumph of grace over law in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or the resurrection symbolism in Much Ado about Nothing. (A lot of the depressing short stories I assigned in English 102 were great purely for their clear demonstration of how badly sin has messed up our world.)
There it is, my discussion board post. I’ve written twice as much as I asked my students to write, but we teachers are known for being a bit long-winded. 😉