The Department of Religion at Florida State University recently hosted its annual Graduate Symposium, which always proves to be a good time. Besides the good conversation and the opportunity to meet graduate students working in related fields, the symposium offers an opportunity to try out some of our research in a friendly setting.

At this most recent symposium there was a definite focus on graduate pedagogy, which was downright refreshing. While there’s always plenty of talk about the ins and outs of research practices or navigating the job market, it’s always struck me funny how little attention is normally paid to teaching–ostensibly something we are all doing (or hope to do one day). As a result, Brad Stoddard, Tara Baldrick-Morrone and I organized a panel on how graduate students should go about teaching introductory courses, specifically World Religions (which is a bread and butter course here at FSU). This is something we were interested in for a variety of reasons, not least because (1) the pitfalls in teaching World Religions are many and (2) we all have to do it regardless.

Werkmeister Reading Room, FSU Heritage Protocol Museum, for Alumni Association.

The panel, “Critical Reflections on the Teaching of World Religions” was splendid–and not least because we were in the newly remodeled Werkmeister Museum (seen above). I’ll go into more detail in future posts, but suffice it to say that I’m very grateful to the attendees who stopped by to hear us talk. We were fortunate enough to have one of the early time slots–at that magical moment when academics’ mid-afternoon caffeine is kicking in, yet before their thoughts have drifted towards the catered dinner awaiting them–and we were rewarded with many thought-provoking questions during the Q&A. I think there’s something to be said for settings like these, where can come together and discuss teaching in a way that is mindful of the peculiar pressures on graduate instructors–pressures both practical and political.

I’ll elaborate on these pressures in a future post.