Teaching Portfolio

My teaching experience ranges across a large number of German language classes (first and second year), advanced comparative literature classes in English and German, and multiple operas I have directed in courses taught through the music department. My teaching and research interests often overlap, as I use music and performance as a way to create a challenging, creative, and friendly environment for my students in language courses, and I direct operas in multiple languages in my music courses. Teaching is closely related to performance for me, not in the sense of a solitary lecturer holding captive an audience of students, but rather as an exercise in communication, improvisation, observation, and split-second recalibration. My approach is extremely student-focused; I regularly ask for feedback during the semester and incorporate it whenever possible, and my student evaluations reflect the abundant enthusiasm for teaching that I daily bring to class. In this section, you will find my complete teaching portfolio, including syllabi I have taught and would like to teach, other sample courses I could develop further, and my teaching statement. Complete teaching evaluations from my students are available on request.

Teaching Statement

Download Complete Teaching Statement

The best directors mostly listen. This lesson has become a cornerstone of my teaching, whether in language, literature or opera classes. Listening is infinitely harder than talking, and it's a particularly challenging kind of improvisational theater to lightly manipulate the conversation, diverting it in the direction the class requires. Reinforced by techniques from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, which I've learned in pedagogy courses at Heidelberg and at Stanford with Elizabeth Bernhardt, my classes utilize the communicative method, which means trying to get students to talk for the overwhelming majority of each class period. I carefully structure lessons so that each activity builds on the previous one and requires minimal directions–this ensures that students spend the most time in any given class in practice and discussion.

While this technique is crucial in encouraging students to produce with language, the method also exposes uncomfortable vulnerabilities for teacher and students across many types of classes. There are uneasy silences to sit through, the need for ridiculous gesturing and charades to get a point across, the repeated mistakes that have to be made into nonverbal jokes before they're remembered and corrected. In literature classes, it means waiting, crafting meticulous questions, keeping an open mind about a work you know very well, and bringing student observations into a clear conceptual arch that deepens our collective understanding of the text. In opera direction, you must take time during busy blocking rehearsals to improvise, watch what students create, and try your best to focus their vision rather than impose your own.

Courses Taught

At Stanford
  • Gerlang 20A, Intro German Conversation, Spring 2012 (no syllabus)
  • Gerlang 1 (Intro German, first quarter) Fall 2012
  • Gerlang 2 (Intro German, second quarter) Winter 2013
  • Gerlang 3 (Intro German, third quarter) Spring 2013
  • German 131, What is German Literature?, Fall 2013
  • Gerlang 2, Fall 2013
  • Gerlang 5C (accelerated Gerlang 3) Summer 2014
  • CompLit 154, Poetic Thinking, Fall 2104
  • Gerlang 21, Intermediate German, Winter 2015
  • Gerlang 20A, Intro German Conversation, Spring 2015 (no syllabus)
Outside Stanford
  • Teaching Assistant, Intensive Introductory German, Brown University, Spring 2009 (I taught a section of 15 students 3x/week, wrote and delivered lesson plans, held office hours, and graded student work.)
  • Elementary School Drama, Oceanhill Collegiate, Brooklyn, AY 2010-2011 (I directed and accompanied shortened productions of Peter Pan, Little Shop of Horrors, and a student improv group.)
  • German Conversation, Fluent City, Spring and Summer 2011 (I developed and taught 5 courses; I also founded the German department and wrote the textbook and curriculum.)

Prepared Syllabi

  • German Comedy from Page to Stage

    In this course, students will study four seminal comedies by German authors: Der Zerbrochene Krug by Heinrich von Kleist, Der Gestiefelte Kater by Ludwig Tieck, Die Dreigroschenoper by Bertolt Brecht, and Die Physiker by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. These works, written between 1797 and 1962, critiqued contemporary German culture through dark humor, absurdity, and the reinvention of theatre conventions. After reading and discussing each work over the first 9 weeks of the course, we will pick one of the four to perform and spend the final 5-week period adapting and rehearsing. The performance will be in lieu of a final exam or essay. There will also be a midterm exam, 6 short writing assessments, and short presentations/active participation required in 5 roundtable discussions. Taught in German.

  • Bach to Broadway: A Survey of German Vocal Performance

    In this survey course, students will do an in-depth study of six major vocal works in the German musical tradition. To facilitate the understanding of German classical music, crucial to understanding German culture as a whole, we will study each of these pieces musically, lyrically, and in their historical context, using letters and writings by the composers, their contemporaries, and later musicologists to shed light on these five major moments in German cultural history. Works include Beethoven (9. Sinfonie), Bach (Matthäuspassion), Schubert (Winterreise), Wagner (Das Rheingold), Mahler (Das Lied von der Erde), and Weill (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny). Could be taught in English or German.

Abstracts of courses in development

  • Word War: Won?

    This course explores the tumultuous literary movements and works that grew out of German–speaking culture around the First World War. Movements/authors include: Dadaism, Expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit, short works or excerpts by Franz Kafka, Robert Walser, Karl Kraus, Ernst Jünger, Erich Maria Remarque, and Expressionist cinema. In English or German

  • Walking, Wandering, and Waiting

    This course examines texts in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries that digress, wander, or wait, in form or content.

  • World Building Across Media

    This course looks at the concept of creative world building and how artists and thinkers conceptualize "building a world" out of their respective media, including language and poetry, utopian architecture, music, epic theater, video games, and computer code.

  • Writing in Miniature

    This comparative literature course focuses on very small pieces of writing and the art of composing them.

  • Reinventing the Picaresque

    This course looks at the early modern picaresque figure in conjunction with late-19th and 20th century theatrical adaptations of those works.

Teaching Evals

Pdfs of student evaluations, received anonymously at the end of each quarter, are available on request (but cannot be posted here due to privacy concerns). Please send me an email at mkagen@stanford.edu if you'd like copies!