The Registrar has my grades now, so the semester has officially ended for me. Students in my classes end with a “reflective essay” recounting their experiences and learning in the course, so I think it only fair that I too reflect on my experiences and learning this semester.
I taught two courses, one an introductory requirement for first-year students, and the other a topics class on American Sacred Space. In the end, both were successful, although I had my doubts at a few moments about the first-year students. By the end of the term, however, they had risen to the challenge (with one or two exceptions) and performed surprisingly well.
The introductory course includes a semester-long collaborative fieldwork project, and I wondered midway through if it was too much to ask of first-semester students, but for the most part they did well and their comments at the end indicated that, although challenging, the fieldwork project was valuable. So I guess I will keep it in the syllabus for next time.
The Sacred Space class went exceptionally well. The readings include numerous approaches to analyzing and interpreting places regarded as sacred in America, which differed a bit from most of the students’ expectations at the outstart. Several thought the class would be more of a historical tour of sacred places. But they found the materials intriguing and beneficial. They also liked that “sacred” does not necessarily mean “religious,” and they enjoyed studying such places as Manzanar National Historic Site in California, the Lincoln Memorial, Confederate monuments, ancient Native American mound sites, and Elvis Presley’s Graceland home and burial site here in Memphis.
For their final research projects they each identified a “sacred” place to study and interpret; the last several weeks we learned from their expertise as they presented their findings to the class. These projects included such places as the Battle of Franklin Civil War site; Scientology’s Flag headquarters in Florida; the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles; the Superdome in New Orleans; and several Memphis places: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the National Civil Rights Museum, and even the Rhodes College campus.
All in all, this has been another gratifying semester, and I am very pleased to have the privilege to work with such enthusiastic and inquisitive students. But now it’s time to rest.
[Post 096 of 260 in my year-long challenge.] ♨