Center of Excellence for Teaching & Learning

CETL Podcast - Episode 10 - Kyle Bishop

Tony Pellegrini: Good morning, friends! Tony Pellegrini here. Thanks for tuning in to another session of teaching and learning at SUU. I've reached out to Kyle Bishop, one of my dear friends and associates here at SUU—a fantastic teacher—and we'd like to pose a few questions to him about his teaching and learning here at SUU. Kyle, would you take a moment or two and tell us a little about your background, orient us kind of on your passions in regards to teaching?

Kyle Bishop: Absolutely! Hey, thanks for having me on Tony. I love to talk about teaching; it is one of my great passions. I come from a long line of educators, so in a lot of ways teaching was a kind of a family business—it was almost an inevitability. My grandfather taught at SUU, came right after World War II, taught animal husbandry, and biology. And then his oldest daughter, my mother, she went to school, came back and Bonny Bishop taught in home economics, child development; she taught here for many years. And then she and I were actually here together for a brief period of time, and so now I'm here. And so, one of my great pride and joys is that I'm a third generation educator at SUU—to my knowledge I'm still the only one. And on my office wall I have a little shrine of legacy: I have three distinguished educator Awards, one that was given to my grandfather, one that was given to my mother, and one that was given to me so I'm very excited.

TP: You should be, how exciting! But this in an unfair question, but it is kind of part of the conversation: what is the next generation of Bishops going to be?

KB: Yeah, I would love to see one of my children teach, I would love to have them stay here: they're still a little young so jury's still out. But they're both planning on attending SUU at least that's a good start. And then I have a whole bunch of new kids in my life, now as I remarried, and we're gonna try to get as many of them over here as well. And I think education is really important for families, for people to encourage each other. Obviously not everybody needs to go to college or should go to college, but I think those opportunities should be afforded to anybody who wants them, and I'm just passionate about that.

I joke with my students that one of the reasons why I'm a college professor is that I just never wanted to leave college. I just keep going. I go on, I graduate, and I go again, and I graduate, and I go again, and I just stayed. And I think it's because there's a certain energy and dynamism on a college campus, particularly in a college classroom, where whether you're a new student, or a graduate student, or a teaching assistant, or a student teacher, or a seasoned faculty member—every day is different and every day affords the opportunity for everybody to learn something new. New about themselves, about the world, about other people and I don't think we should ever, ever think that our education is done, that we're finished.

TP: We're never there, we're always—there's always something more we can learn. Kyle, I love that term used: dynamism. In your experiences here at SUU, can you give us an example or two of those dynamic moments that really inspire you to move forward and keep learning?

KB: Oh sure! One of the things I do love about teaching here is we are given a lot of opportunity and a lot of encouragement to try new things, to explore our teaching assignments, our pedagogy's, our approaches in the classroom. And it's not like there's one set system that everybody has to follow. And part of my attempt to keep my classroom dynamic, but also my crew dynamic, is to try new things, to invent new things come up with new classes to experiment with different delivery methods. And this is my 18th year teaching, and I have taught face-to-face, I've taught online, I've taught in an ed-net classroom on a camera, I've taught in field, I've taught abroad, I've taught in airports, I've taught in trains, I’ve taught in city parks. And I just—I love the opportunity to deliver material in different ways and to engage students in conversations in different ways.

And one of the things I'm really deeply invested in is kind of a pedagogy of place or place-based education, and it's similar to space based education. So one is that you have a dynamic classroom that you have modular furniture, and overheads, and whiteboards, and you move things around, and you put students in groups, and you use the space to the best of its ability. But the other is using non-classrooms as classrooms, and I think—the main answer to your question is that's my favorite thing. My favorite thing is to have teaching opportunities that are not traditional spaces; they're not traditional places where we consider ourselves in class. And that's why I often do a study abroad program in the summer, a two-week program. I’ve been to England many times, been to New Zealand, I've been to Germany, and Switzerland, and I love taking the students out of the, kind of, hallowed halls of the traditional university, and just teach them! Teach them wherever and teach them based on what is happening or what we see or what is working at the moment.

TP: Kyle that passion for teaching surely comes through; in part, I'm sure that's the content that you teach. Can you take a moment or two and just inform our listeners about the content that you're particularly passionate about?

KB: I'm a teacher of literature, my faculty appointment is American Literature Specialist, and so I do love to teach books and good books and the reading of books. But I have a particular focus on more popular versions—pop culture—so I also teach film. I'm a founding member of the SUU Film and Screen Studies Minor, which is really approaching cinematic texts such as film and television in terms of literature. And I love to get students thinking more sophisticatedly or critically about the things that they're already familiar with and try to show them, “Okay let's take this to a next level. Instead of just being entertained by this text, whatever it is, let's figure out what it does.”

One of my mentors in grad school was Jerrold Hogle, the great American gothicist, and he would always ask, “What does the text do? What work does it do? What work does it do for society, for culture, for the individual, for everybody involved who engages with that?” And that's a complicated way of saying what I do: is I help students to work with texts to figure out what work is being done by those texts. So their lives as a result of coming into contact with those artistic artifacts are improved or better and that they can take those skills after college and continue to engage with great narratives, great stories, great works of art.

TP: I love that quote, you know, “What does it do for society?” Hopefully we're going to have some learners listen to this; why would you encourage these learners to study what you're teaching and to put into practice this “doing” in their lives?

KB: Well, part of it is that escapism via narrative is a ubiquitous part of life. I don't know anybody who doesn't dedicate some portion of their week to the fantasy of an another person's story—if it's through traditional novel reading, or it's watching television, watching a movie, playing a video game, watching a YouTube video, whatever it is—even at the very least just listening to another person's life experience. So I think we all do it, and I'm a very strong advocate of doing what we do better. And so if everybody is already dedicating their lives to a certain extent to narratives, often fictional narratives, then let's make that experience count for more. Let's make it richer, let's make it more—let's help us to get more out of it, let's help us to help others to get more out of it, let's value the art form for what it is.

And on a certain extent—a certain level, I do want to encourage students to pick better materials with which to spend their time but I also want them to learn from those materials, and so any escapist opportunity becomes more than just time filler, that it actually becomes an enriching part of life development. I'm a humanist, my degree’s in the humanities; I'm very invested in what makes us human, what makes us different from the other animals. And I think storytelling and the understanding of those stories is essential to that.

TP: And as you’re, great, Kyle, as you're working with student s on a particular story or engaging them to read maybe better stories. Are there some particular things that you do to really help them see that next step, how they can look and involve themselves a little higher level?

KB: There's many different ways to approach it, so the very basic—but still richest, in a lot of ways—is we just sit down and we talk about what we've read. We kind of do a book club approach where we sit in a circle; people say what they liked, what they didn't like, they ask questions, they ponder, they try to figure out, “How does this apply to me? What can I learn from this experience that's so different from my own?” And that's a very traditional approach that works very well for anyone in any situation. Beyond that, I teach a class in adaptation, so I love to look at the same story told different ways and then get students to see difference and change and how media affects storytelling, how culture affects storytelling, how time period affects storytelling.

TP: Oh, please, go ahead and finish.

KB: Well my biggest passion, and it's the hardest, is the study abroad: I love to take works of literature and go there, go to those places. So we stood on top of the glacier in France and I read to the students the passage from Frankenstein where Victor describes the glacier, and it's the same glacier! It's almost two—well, it's over two hundred years removed from Victor's phony artificial experience, but Mary Shelley's real experience. And that glacier’s still there and we can go there and we can read those words and we can imagine the bleakness of the narrative and the desperation of Victor and the solitude of the creature. And so whenever I can through travel I love to put students in real places so they can make connections between the fiction and the reality, and then they can start making connections with between the story and themselves.

TP: Kyle, you're tempting me to take a class from you and realize—that was just exciting, and I hope our listeners will engage as well with this and maybe we’re recruiting learners to go to the glacier in France with, I'm not sure. I want to tell you thank you so very much for your willingness to just share your passion, your emotions with us. Any last words or things that you—I’d love to have you have the last word with us.

KB: Oh thank you, Tony. I just—learning is so essential, that's really what I want to emphasize, that students need to relish their time in college because they're full-time learners and it's such a great opportunity. But I want to encourage everyone else and other faculty to remember that the best way to teach well is to continue to learn; you need to be your first student before you go and impart that information to others. And as long as we can all continue to maintain our love for learning, we as individuals and we as a collective society will only improve and become a richer world in which to live.

TP: Thank you so much for your time. Friends, please, I would encourage you to sign up for a class with Kyle, and encourage you as well to study abroad with him. Thank you so very much, Kyle, you hang in there and keep doing the wonderful things you're doing, okay?

KB: Thanks Tony! I'm so glad to have been on.

TP: Yeah! Have a good day, bye, bye now.

KB: Bye.