I come from a lineage of teachers. My parents, aunts, uncles, and paternal grandfather all taught, from kindergarden to community college level. One of my strong memories is my mother grading the exams of her high school economics students at our kitchen table before dinner. She would engage in a lively conversation with the exams, reading answers aloud and commenting, occasionally voicing surprise at an insight but more often expressing frustration when the students did not do as well as she expected them. She tried to adjust the grading to reflect what she thought the student was capable of. She would revisit earlier assessments in light of what other students did, sometimes becoming more lenient as the pile of papers shrunk, at other times downgrading because other students got it right. Since she used a red pen, her grades often were two-three numbers crossed out before she settled on a final score.
I teach mainly medical sociology courses and research methods courses. At the graduate level, I taught fieldwork methods, often with Jack Katz, one of the most creative sociologists I know. We start our two-quarter course with observational exercises where we send students into the stores of Los Angeles and have them check out items, shadow a shopper, and interview an employee. Then, we expect students to work on their own research projects. Most of the class time we use students' projects to develop a theme such as temporarily, intersubjectivity, interactional processes, or sampling ecologies. It's a theory class masquerading as a methods class.
The medical sociology course is an eclectic set of discussion readings centered around contemporary themes. Here is the syllabus.
At the undergraduate level, I have taught courses on death and dying, medical sociology, and an introduction to research methods. The medical sociology course is particularly rewarding because I attract many former premed students who are still deeply committed to a medical career but are a bit at a loss after a bruising encounter with organic chemistry. I show the students how the experience we have as patients and healers is very much influenced by the structure of the health care system. They realize that there are many more routes to health care than medical school.
The course on death and dying has left a big impression on some students (also a great reason for keeping written teaching evaluations):