I have been working as a 9.5-month Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Theatre at Acadia University. While this past semester has been one of the busiest in my life, it has also been one of the most rewarding. The faculty I work with are excellent and have made my transition to Wolfville seamless and comfortable. They have welcomed me into their community and been an invaluable resource in matters relating to pedagogy and research. This was particularly important over the past semester as I was teaching three new courses. As expected, each course offered its own unique challenges, thrills, and rewards.
My main purpose for coming to Acadia was to teach an upper-year postcolonial studies course on Settler Colony Literature from Australia and New Zealand. While the postcolonial component was something that directly related to my research, I found myself returning to the notes and articles from my Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination at Wilfrid Laurier University to help plan lectures related to New Zealand and Australian literature. This experience was a helpful reminder of the value of keeping detailed and organized research notes. Although the material from my exam formed the framework for my course, the texts I selected largely differed from my Ph.D. reading list. Developing a course syllabus that included a mix of poetry, film, short stories, and novels from Australia and New Zealand meant a broad spectrum of genres and perspectives could be discussed in the course. The texts that seemed to resonate most prominently with the students were Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, Doris Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Taika Waititi’s film Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
The other two courses that I taught were introductory classes on academic reading and writing. Both were comprised of a diverse group of students – ranging from first to fourth year and originating from various departments at the university. The challenge teaching these courses revolved around maintaining student interest and appealing to a wide range of skill levels. Organizing these courses around a student-centred approach to education helped to keep everyone engaged with the material. Many of the course assignments involved collaboration, detailed classroom discussion, and in some cases peer review assessment. In an effort to lead by example, students in one of the courses even had an opportunity to critique an essay that I had written during my undergraduate degree. This helped to turn a session on basic essay writing strategies, which can occasionally come across as tedious, into a lively debate when students were asked to grade the paper. Helpfully, as a new instructor, this exercise allowed me to show a degree of vulnerability and illustrate to my learners that good academic writing is an ongoing learning process.
Aside from my teaching, I also managed to publish a short article titled “Acting Out of Discontent: Satire, Shakespeare, and South African Politics in Pieter-Dirk Uys’s MacBeki: A Farce to be Reckoned With and The Merry Wives of Zuma” in Shakespeare en devenir’s special edition on Shakespeare and Africa. This achievement, combined with my service as Arts Representative on the Ad Hoc Senate Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, has meant that I have had little time to explore the surrounding area over the past four months. I am looking forward to a reduced teaching load this coming semester and, with it, an opportunity to further connect with the wonderful colleagues and community around me. In particular, I am especially looking forward to meeting fellow Laurier graduate Dr. Justin Shaw, an Assistant Professor at the Université Sainte-Anne, for what he promises will be a demanding winter hike along the coastal region at the bottom of the Annapolis Valley.
Coplen Rose, ‘16