Sunday, January 9, 2011

Teachers as Scholars

On Friday I attended my first ever Teachers as Scholars seminar.  Teachers as Scholars offers 1 to 3 day content based professional development seminars.  It was started by Henry Bolter, and has been around for 15 years.  The seminars are led by university professors and are available to both public and private school faculty and administrators.  Teachers as Scholars is a bit different from other professional development seminars because it's content based.  A lot of professional development focuses on curriculum, which is important, but sometimes it's also good to just go and learn something new, or get to talk about something you care about with other people.  Teachers as Scholars offers many, many different seminars each year, on every topic you can think of.  Science, history, math, English, arts, architecture, local interest, tons of stuff.

I'm lucky that I'm at a school that is very supportive of professional development.  There were a number of openings and I was able to get one.  The way it works is you select three choices, and you'll end up with one of those three, but not necessarily your first choice.  I'm not exactly sure how it's weighted.  First come first serve?  Seniority?  Not positive on that.  The first seminar I signed up for was "The Right Book at the Right Time: Quality Fiction in Children's Books," but I didn't get it.  I was disappointed, it had sounded really good.  I got put into m second choice, which was "Pleasure Squared and Squared Again: Rereading Austen's Emma."

The Emma seminar was being lead by Marcia Folsom, a Professor of Literature at Wheelock College.  She's an Austen scholar and has written a number of publications on the topic.  From what others said at the seminar, Marcia has taught multiple Teachers as Scholars seminars on different Austen books.  There were about 15 people, all women except for the one token man.  Marcia started off with some background information, but for the most part, we just went chapter by chapter talking about the book and characters and action.  9:00-3:00 might seem a long time to talk about one book, especially since you'll be going back for the same amount of time the following week, but it wasn't.  It flew by.  We had only gone through volume I, we'll do II and III next time.  We'll have to talk very fast!

I've read Emma a number of times.  It is my second favorite Austen, after Sense and Sensibility.  I always thought that it was kind of odd I liked it so much, considering what annoying pain Emma is.  She's bossy, full of herself, and overbearing.  Usually when the main character is unpleasant, I don't connect with the story very much.  But for some reason it doesn't hold true with Emma.  I certainly wouldn't want to be friends with her in actual life, but she's also kind of funny.  Even when she's being terrible and screwing up people's lives, the situations are so funny I care what happens to her.  Very clever Jane Austen.  Very clever.

Emma is interesting also because it's different from all the other Austen books.  Emma is the only female protagonist who is rich, satisfied, beautiful and beloved by everyone at the very start of the book.  She's totally happy and has nothing to worry about, which is a considerable contrast to every other book written by Jane Austen.

I'm looking forward to the second and final class next Friday.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to do this.  If your school provides opportunity to Teacher as Scholars seminars, you should definitely do it, and if your school doesn't, you should suggest that they do!

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