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.

  5. I absolutely love that you're taking this class with us, your passion for learning is truly inspiring! I am so sorry to hear about your father but what a blessing that you're able to still be with him and pursue your passions. You clearly have a good ear for music, I've seen the Pentatonix twice in concert and if you ever get the chance, their harmonies are even more breathtaking in person. I used to adore the Brer Rabbit tales, although I do recall one story where in some rats baked someone into a pie and that one terrified me. I hope that I have a chance to see your project on African and Native American story telling, it sounds fascinating!

  6. Hi Laura!

    Although this class was more work than I had anticipated, I am actually really starting to enjoy it. I greatly appreciate your way of teaching because you have taken the students' lives into consideration. For instance, I am a full time bank manager working from 8-6 everyday. This class allows me to work at my own pace, on my own schedule, and learn about subjects I genuinely want to learn about. I definitely appreciate the academic freedom and hope more teachers turn to a learning-based structure rather than grade-based structure in the future.

  7. Hi Laura! I am really looking forward to this course this semester! I had heard so many good things about you as a professor and I like that you are so flexible. I have never taken an online class structured this way before, but I like it a lot. I think I am going to learn a lot as well as grow as both a student and a writer as well. I feel that because of the way this class is structured, it leaves a lot of room for growth. I also have a family member who is sick and I am from the Dallas area as well. I try to go home whenever I can, but being in 20 hours makes it really hard because there is always something to do for one of my classes. This class is a lot more than I expected, but I do appreciate the flexibility because of all of the things that life has thrown at me already. I am sorry to hear about your dad, but I love that you got to spend a lot of time with him and that you are able to go back and forth when you need to. I love Pentatontix and Christmas in general. It is my favorite time of the year because I get to be with family! I really admire you and hope to get to know you better throughout the semester! I am looking forward to keeping up with your stories and love that you are taking this class with us as well!

  8. Hi Laura!

    So far, I'm really enjoying this class, and the amount of flexibility it is giving me to get things done in the lab. I think it's wonderful that you're taking this class as a student, because believe me, student's always appreciate it when the teacher has done all of the work they are assigning and made sure it's reasonable. I'm very sorry to hear about your dad, and I'm actually in a similar situation with my father, who also has stage four cancer. He's doing well right now, but I've spent the past two years driving back and forth from Texas to Oklahoma a LOT, so I really do understand how difficult it is. Best of luck with this semester and everything else!

  9. Hi Laura,
    It’s really nice to meet you. So far, I am really enjoying this class. I love learning about the Indian epics as well as the storytelling portion of this class. Also, I really like your style of teaching. Since everything is online, it makes it really easy for me to get assignments done and learn everything on my own time. Anyway, I hope you have a great rest of the semester.

  10. Hi Laura,

    It is so wonderful that you are taking on the student's perspective in the course. I think it definitely provides some insight on how to improve or alter it. However, I think the course is wonderful as it is! It is so cool how you have been studying Hanuman. His adventures are just as exciting and important as the others. I do hope that your father is still doing well. Your bravery and kindness is so honorable. I hope that this semester goes well for you!

  11. Hey Laura,

    I am so sorry to hear about your father. I am glad that you do get the opportunity to spend time with him. I think it is really cool that you will be taking this class! I have never learned Latin but always wanted to study it because as a Catholic and future doctor, these both have a lot of Latin words or root words and would be helpful to know. Why do you not teach Latin anymore? I also like how you chose Hanuman as your inspiration for the class project, he is a really cool character! Hope to read your project soon!

  12. Hi Laura,

    I do not think it is weird at all that you are also participating as a student this semester. I think that would be such a beneficial thing for all professors to try at least once in their career! Maybe they'll catch onto your trend?? I really appreciate how much hardwork and dedication that you put into this class. It is evident in how the weeks are structured and how much thoughtfulness I can see went into what we are assigned. I cannot wait to read some of your projects!

  13. Hey Laura!
    I am so sorry to hear about your dad. I am glad you got to spend time with him.
    I love Latin too! I am in my fourth semester currently and if I wasn't graduating in December, I would likely get a minor. I love how Latin affects other languages and I like to see how its words have transformed in the past like 1,500 years ish to our current languages.(This is why I chose Italian to be my Modern language.) Why did you stop teaching Latin?

  14. Hi Laura!

    This class has truly been awesome. Thank you for putting it all together. I am sorry to hear about your dad's illness. I am glad that you get to spend precious time with him. You all will be in my prayers.

    I think I need to complete a tech tip on adding videos to a blog post. I loved listening to all the clips you attached.

    We are a little over halfway through the semester and I am grateful for all of your help with my writing. I look forward to reading your stories!


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