Friday, January 4, 2019

Introduction to a Colearning Teacher/Student

Hi everybody! This is my Introduction post for Spring 2019... and yes, it's me, Laura, your teacher, who is also going to be a student in the Spring 2019 Indian Epics class. I hope that does not seem too weird! In the Fall, I took the Myth-Folklore class, and I had so much fun doing that. I did all the blog posts (Fall 2018 archive) and I also did a project for the class: Chain Tale Anthology. It was really exciting for me to see things from a student perspective, and I also learned a lot... so I am taking the Indian Epics class this semester as a student too.

To be honest, I don't know if I am ready to be back in school yet... the break seemed short. Really short. TOO SHORT, ha ha.

I spent Christmas with my dad, who is on hospice care (he has lung cancer), so that was pretty intense, but he had a great time for the holidays. We listened to lots of Christmas music (for him, music is the best medicine! seriously!), and I made a huge playlist of Christmas music for him, with lots of jazz and Big Band songs. Here is one of my favorite songs from that playlist; it's the Pentatonix version of White Winter Hymnal:

And because I'm a Latin nerd, here's a version of that same song in Latin (yes, I used to teach Latin long ago, and I still love all things Latin):

I'll be going back to visit my dad a few times during the semester; there's no predicting the course of his lung cancer, so I feel really lucky that I have this online teaching job that allows me to go to Texas when needed. For more about my life divided between Texas, Oklahoma, and North Carolina, check out my intro post from last semester: Being in Two Places at Once.

I also started a new project that I am really excited about: Brer Rabbit Stories. I was thinking a lot about Brer Rabbit and Anansi and other trickster stories last semester, and then when school was out, the first book I picked up to read was Chase's huge collection of all the Brer Rabbit tales published by Joel Chandler Harris. As I read the stories, I realized that this would be the ideal way to study something of real interest to me, which is the intersection of African and Native American storytelling.

(screenshot of Brer Rabbit website)

I'm starting on the African side (since the large majority of Brer Rabbit stories come from African sources, via storytellers brought as slaves to the Americas), and then after I finish learning about the African sources, I will start looking at the Native American storytelling traditions that are part of the Brer Rabbit tradition also. I'm having so much fun with that, although I probably won't have a lot of time until summer to work on it. Even so, I got a lot done over the holiday break... plus I ordered tons of used books for learning more about African and African-American stories; even if I just find an hour each day to do that reading, I am going to be learning a lot. I also got a Brer Rabbit poster to put on my wall; it's the original book cover of Nights with Uncle Remus:

Meanwhile, for this class, I am pretty sure I want to do a project about Hanuman, mostly because I really (REALLY) want to learn the words to the Hanuman Chalisa by heart. There are lots of versions of the Hanuman Chalisa that you can find online; one of my favorites is this version by Girish:

Here's a more traditional Indian version, with English lyrics:

So, between my Brer Rabbit work and being a student in the Indian Epics class, this is going to be an amazing semester of stories for me. I hope it will be a wonderful semester for all of us! :-)


  1. I have so much respect for the way you teach, and am so excited to learn from you this semester. The clear love you have for learning for learning's sake is inspiring to say the least, and contagious even through the internet. Thank you for all the work you've clearly put into this class and making sure we each get out of it what best suits us.

  2. You’re absolutely right about the break being too short! I’m still thinking that as I’m finishing my first week on campus. Reminded myself that I now have fifteen weeks left until graduation, but goodness it feels like I haven’t breathed since I don’t know when. You mentioned Native American storytelling, which has me wondering how I can incorporate that into my work for this class? I’ve taken a few classes focused on Native American literature and some of my work in history has been geared that direction. I love learning more about the culture, especially through story and literature.

  3. Hey Dr. Gibbs, I think its super awesome you're taking this class along with us. This allows you to experience the class from the point of view of a student and I think that is really valuable. I also think it shows how much you're truly interested in what you teach and that's pretty cool. I completely agree with Alena, I've never had a professor teach a class the way you do, and I really admire it. Keep doing what you're doing Dr. Gibbs.

  4. Ahhh it's cool to see that I got you after rolling the dice! It's interesting to hear you talk about living in two places at once. My family is in the process of moving from my hometown and this has caused a similar situation where whenever I get a break, I feel like I am heading back to Illinois. Being a student in the class must be fun to see it from the other side and maybe give you new ideas. Just like now I think it's cool to read through a post and then realize "Oh! It's my teacher!" All I hope is that our class can live up to the Myth-Folklore class.


Comments are restricted to Google accounts only. You can also contact me at