Teaching Experience: An Inventory

The following is part of my A Troubling Teaching Portfolio. I’m continuing to work on it, but I’ve spent most of my time crafting it within a master pages document.

Small Graduate Seminar Classes that I Developed and Loved Teaching:

  • Queer/ing Ethics
  • Feminist and Queer Explorations in Troublemaking (taught two times)

Classes that I Taught that Were Out of my Research Areas and that I Didn’t Know Much About Before Teaching Them*:

  • International Feminist Theory: Feminism from a Transnational Perspective
  • Introduction to GLBT Studies
  • Queering Desire
    *In order, from least to most knowledge prior to teaching class

Classes that I Taught that Were New to Me But that Quickly Became Central to my Research, Teaching, and Writing:

  • Feminist Pedagogies (taught three times)
  • Queering Theory (taught three times)
  • Contemporary Feminist Debates (taught five times)

Classes that I Taught as a Graduate Student at Emory University in Which I Was Mentored, Payed Well, and Not Exploited:

  • Introduction to Women’s Studies (Sole Instructor, taught two times)
  • History of Feminist Thought (Teaching Assistant)
  • Women and American Identities (Teaching Assistant)

The Biggest Class that I Taught that Forced Me to Realize that I Despised Big Classes in Auditoriums and that I Was Not Cut Out for Managing 120+ Students, 2 Teaching Assistants, and a lot of Blog Assignments:

  • Politics of Sex

The Class that I Taught in which I Scheduled a Screening of Nine to Five that I Didn’t Attend So That I Could See John Legend and Corinme Bailey Rae in Concert:

  • Popular Culture Woman

The Class that I Taught in which I Encountered a Student who Despised my Teaching (more than any other student I had ever had) and then Forcefully Requested that I Allow Her to Take my Feminist Pedagogies Class the Following Semester*:

  • Rebels, Radicals, and Revolutionaries: History of Western Feminisms
    *Request denied.

The First Class that I Taught at the University of Minnesota, where I Met One of my Favorite Colleagues/People Ever and in Which I Got to Teach Halloween on Halloween:

  • Feminist Thought and Theory

The Class That I Taught About 5 Hours After Finding Out That My Mom Had Died From Pancreatic Cancer:

  • Feminist Pedagogies

The Last Class That I Taught at the University of Minnesota, and the Last Class That I’ve Taught Since Fall 2011:

  • Queering Theory

How to Teach Almost Three Quarters of the Department Course Offerings When You Only Have “Expertise” in One Quarter of those Courses:

  • Be creative and crafty in finding ways to connect the topic to your research and teaching interests
  • Be open to expanding your research interests
  • Be willing to learn with students, not just teach them
  • Read a lot, really quickly
  • Embrace the feeling of panic and uncertainty that you will feel the entire semester as you frantically try to stay (at least) a few steps ahead of your students in reading the material and understanding the concepts
  • Don’t try to be the Expert
  • Take a lot of deep breaths

How to Endure But Not Survive a Class That You Despise, One Approach:

  • Have someone* create a private webpage with a countdown, right down to the second, of time left in the miserable class
  • Have them include an animated gif of Homer Simpson repeatedly waving his middle fingers that you can look at as you prepare to walk across the bridge, enter the auditorium-sized class, stand at a podium, and speak into a microphone for 50 minutes to (mostly) apathetic students
  • Check the site after the final class and watch in surprised delight as the countdown clock explodes and transforms into a video, with shooting rainbows, of Cee Lo Green singing “Fuck You”
  • Laugh and celebrate
  • After you stop laughing realize that this class, and the larger trend towards “more butts in seats” destroyed your passion for University teaching
  • Stop teaching
    *For me that someone was my awesome husband.

Class Location:

  • 3rd floor classroom with individual desks, in building under renovation, occasionally without heat, a 10 minute walk from office, which seemed much farther on days when it was -20 below and snowing
  • Seminar Room with big table, frequently overheated, occasionally double-booked, no built in projector, about 50 steps from office
  • 1st floor classroom with individual desks which we would move into a circle every class period and then move back at the end of class because the next professor liked neat rows of students facing forward to look at them as they lectured or (probably) gave endless power point presentations, in same building as 4th floor office
  • 1st floor classroom with big table, no built-in projector, frequently locked, requiring that someone hunt down a maintenance worker to unlock the classroom, in same building as 4th floor office
  • 1st floor classroom with individual desks, in adjacent building to office, a 2 minute walk from office
  • 3rd floor classroom with individual desks, in adjacent building to office, a 2 minute walk from office
  • 1st floor classroom with individual desks, a 10-15 minute walk from office
  • Auditorium with fixed seats, maximum capacity 246, located across the Mississippi River, a 15-20 minute walk from office


  • Creating courses that met the official requirements, as dictated by the department and the University, but that reflected troublemaking values and fostered undisciplined practices.
  • Constructing reading lists that attempted to prioritize inexpensive materials and focused on unsettling students’ common-sense assumptions.
  • Training students how to use and mostly enjoy, but occasionally despise, blogs and twitter.
  • Developing assignments with detailed instructions that were intended to provide guidance while encouraging creative experimentation, but were sometimes excessive, causing students to feel overwhelmed and resentful.
  • Introducing students to the virtue of troublemaking and the importance of cultivating a feminist curiosity, which was liberating, but also confusing, occasionally disheartening, and exhausting.
  • Avoiding giving lengthly lectures or writing on the board because I strongly disliked both.
  • Uttering repeatedly “this just made my brain melt” or “this is a chewy bagel” during almost every theory class.
  • Assigning topics and readings that were unfamiliar to me in order to learn with students and to experience uncertainty with them.
  • De-centering self as teacher by repeatedly encouraging students to serve as expert guides within class: sharing their knowledge and perspectives in online assignments, mentoring other students on using blogs and twitter, reporting on resources related to the class, and leading class discussions online and in class.
  • Ending the course with more questions than answers.