Teaching as Students and Studying as Teachers: Dual Roles and the Liminal Graduate Student

deadline for submissions: 
June 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
PAMLA Conference 2019 (Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association)
contact email: 

This roundtable will explore the liminal role of graduate students who teach or TA courses while also working on their own graduate coursework. In particular, this session will examine the way that engaging in and constantly switching between these two classroom roles may cause qualities from each role to interpenetrate with both positive and negative effects on the graduate student. This session welcomes shorter 10-minute presentations of academic or nonfiction meditations on graduate students who negotiate their teaching and studying roles. Possible paper topics may include: the pedagogical benefits of teaching in an inquisitive student-like manner, how teaching methods rise out of classroom experiences, how teaching may alleviate imposter syndrome in graduate seminars, how the blurring of teaching and studying may harm one or both roles, or how mannerisms from one role carry over to the other role.

This roundtable will explore the doubled roles of graduate students who often teach or TA undergraduate courses while also working on dissertations and graduate coursework. In particular, this session would focus on the ways that graduate students’ simultaneous teaching and studying may cause these two roles to interpenetrate and either mutually benefit or adversely impact each other. In the face of either advanced coursework or new teaching responsibilities, graduate students may experience “imposter syndrome,” the feeling that they do not belong or know enough about their field to speak authoritatively on it. While impostor syndrome has a harmful impact on graduate student confidence, there is some benefit to seeing the classroom less as a place to display mastery of the material and more as a collaborative space lead by teachers’ ongoing desire to increase their knowledge. In his essay on teaching Walden, Frank McGill observes that his initial focus on directing his students to specific readings of the text also foreclosed alternate interpretations he wouldn’t have otherwise considered and limited the class discussion significantly. Similarly, Millicent Bell encourages those who intend to teach Moby-Dick that they should allow doubts and enigmas to enter the class discussion instead of imposing a false guise of overconfidence. Both of these writers advise the pedagogical benefits of working through puzzling material alongside students in a manner closer to an inquisitive student than a performative instructor who “knows all the answers” about the material. For graduate students, this pedagogical method could easily develop from merging aspects of their academic pursuits into their pedagogical methodology. Also, graduate students may gain skills from their pedagogy that could benefit their experience as students. For instance, the authority and accountability that comes with teaching may allow grad students to combat imposter syndrome by reminding them that they have valuable knowledge to contribute even if the class content isn't specifically in their areas of expertise. This panel would welcome the reflections and perspectives of GTAs and TAs on the ways that their experiences as students has seeped into their teaching and the way that teaching may enhance or otherwise impact their experiences in the classes they are taking. Additionally, this panel would welcome the wisdom of faculty who have reconciled these two states or insights on how they continue to do so when they balance their personal scholarship with their work as professors.

The Conference will be held in San Diego, CA from Thursday, November 14 until Sunday, November 17, at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside hotel. To propose a paper to this session please go to https://pamla.ballastacademic.com/home/cfp and create a user account. Once you have created your account, you can scroll through the list of available panels and submit your proposal to the Roundtable.