Teaching your own undergraduate course at BU is a great learning experience. You make your own syllabus i.e. make students read whatever you want, whatever you think is good literature and worth learning from. Hearing their thoughts on the assigned reading is also rewarding. But first you have to make sure that they are actually doing the assigned reading. What works best is to have weekly or surprise quizzes. It is a bit difficult to get the students talking, so what I found most helpful was coming up with lots of questions on the reading assignment and the workshop stories. Another thing I found was you have to be strict about attendance and about turning in stories in time. Don’t let them turn things in via email–otherwise they will all turn in stories the day before, which means that many of them won’t even read their peers’ work. Also, they prefer more in-class writing exercises. Opening the class with a writing exercise, followed by a discussion on the work can be a good ice-breaker. This also makes the 3 hours go by more quickly. Also, we are asked to introduce our students to the 3 different genres–fiction, poetry, and playwriting. For those of us unfortunate enough to be experts in only one genre, one way to work with this requirement is to bribe one of your classmates. I asked a poet and a playwrite to guest-teach in my class and this was a big hit with my students as well as the guest lecturers. Other than that, I think this is a wholly rewarding learning opportunity, not to mention how good it looks on your CV.
Shilpi Suneja is a graduating MFA candidate in fiction [and a very fine writer—ed.].