After sitting on the other side of the podium, several Truman State University students have had the chance to precept a class of their own and learn how difficult and rewarding teaching can be.
Senior Ben Wallis has been leading a new course called IDSM 240: Marxist Theory of Capitalism alongside senior Will Chaney.
Wallis said the course has been running smoothly so far with a lot of student participation. He and Chaney structured the class around readings, discussions and three large assignments but have been trying to cut back some of the readings to increase discussion time.
“The discussion has been extremely good in class to the point that oftentimes we will assign 35-40 pages of reading but only get to discuss 20-25 pages,” Wallis said. “Because like, the class takes a concept I might think is tangential or marginal to the overall theme and just runs with it, but it is very productive.”
Wallis said he now views many of his instructors’ teaching methods in a more critical light as he continues to lead the course. He empathizes with professors who give pop quizzes for readings because it is a force of nature that students need an incentive to read their textbooks. He’s also learned to appreciate good syllabus construction after making his own for the course.
Wallis said he is active on campus with Students for a Democratic Society, a multi-tendency leftist political organization. He’s been reading Marxist theory for six years and pursued it in context of his history major. Marxist discourse has shaped a lot of his world view, and he said he’s acquired enough knowledge to become critical on the subject.
“I have seen Marxism presented in a lot of my political science and history classes, and I understand that teachers are really juggling for space in many cases,” Wallis said. “But I’d like to present a comprehensive, deep and sympathetic view that gives justice to its rigor which I think is almost unsurpassed.”
Senior Julia Goldman has also been precepting a class on grassroots environmentalism.
Goldman said she has learned it can be difficult being a mentor to her peers and staying professional with people she knows and sees outside of class. She said it was difficult to get herself on track at the beginning, but now she is more organized.
Goldman said her class has had multiple speakers, like Brett Wiley, who was an original founder of the grassroots environmentalism course. She said the class had a Skype call with Wiley who discussed his experiences and where he went with environmentalism after Truman.
Goldman said she wanted to precept this course because she took the class two years ago and noticed a disconnect between Truman students and the Kirksville community, while the original purpose of the course was to bridge that gap.
“I think community is very important,” Goldman said. “I think knowing your community and being a part of your community is very important. I think, as Truman students, we get locked down in tests and grades and meetings and clubs and doing things that are expected of us as students, but being part of a community, being part of a city, is so important to being a human being, having feelings and having a sense of self.”
Goldman said she wants to go into environmental advocacy after she graduates in May.
“I want to be the bridge between science and people, between climate change and people,” Goldman said. “I think the scientific community and the research being done is important. The people that live in the world matter.”
Senior Hannah Conner had a similar experience, however, she has been precepting her course in components of global health by herself after her co-preceptor backed out.
Conner said this task has been stressful because she has to be prepared for every course discussion and participation. She said biology professor Laura Fielden has helped whenever she’s needed it.
Conner said she has been revamping the reading materials by choosing more current events articles to get students interested.
“It’s really hard to get people to talk and to get people to care, so you have to get creative,” Conner said. “I haven’t quite figured that out yet, and I’m still working on it, but if you give people the right environment and make them feel comfortable, they should be able to talk.”
Conner said she wanted to precept the course because it’s not a perspective people get to see regularly. She said she became interested in global health after attending a conference her sophomore year with a group called GlobeMed. Inspired by another conference she attended in Chicago, Connor decided to pursue the health management field.
“Oh yeah, I love it,” Conner said. “I think it’s super interesting. Eventually I would like to go into it. I’m going to try and study epidemiology after Truman which studies diseases and distribution of and solutions to [diseases], so I’d like to go into that and maybe apply internationally with different grassroots organizations, so that’d be really cool.”