Rejuvenating Experiences: Tales of an Unlikely Classroom Collaboration

The end of a long academic year is probably the time when we are most open to the idea of a rejuvenating instructional experience. In a recent workshop, I heard two teachers describe just such an experience. They team-taught an introductory English lit course with content that explored veteran experiences. Before the workshop started, it was clear they were an unlikely team. She was the rather typical English prof, a tad disorganized, fussing with the technology, comfortably relaxed before the group. He was a former Marine, standing off to the side, trying to look relaxed but actually more at attention than at ease.
She had gotten interested in veteran literature, reporting being amazed at the diversity of books, essays, short stories, poems, blogs, and websites. She shot him an email. As he was director of Veteran Affairs at the college and with their growing veteran population, she wondered if he might be interested in doing a course that focused on this literature. He shot back an answer, yes. And so their collaboration began. They spent the summer reading potential material and talking about experiences they might include in the course. Planning the course was fun and so was teaching it.
As they described teaching it, the differences in their styles were hard to miss. She ambled along, talking about what they had the students read, how they wrote about it, the discussions they had in class. He chimed in, keeping the details straight and briefly describing how things looked from …