Bread Loaf lessons brought back to Tufts
Each summer, Kevin Dunn, dean of academic affairs for Arts & Sciences and associate professor of English, heads to Juneau, Alaska, to direct the summer graduate program of Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English. An avid hiker, Dunn spends much of his free time exploring the countryside, getting closer to nature.
Sometimes, he gets a little too close.
"I took my students on a hike this summer, and we got a good look at two grizzly bears," Dunn says. "I quietly tried to move the group along, but I don't think they were quite aware that things could go bad. But even though it was a potentially dangerous situation, it was such a magnificent thing for my students and me to see."
As director of the Bread Loaf summer graduate program, which is run out of the University of Alaska Southeast, Dunn is responsible for everything from delivering speeches to making sure that there is enough charcoal for student cookouts. "I'm the ceremonial head, so I give the opening and closing speeches, but I also handle the public relations and make sure we have food and accommodations for our many events," says Dunn, who just completed his fourth year in Alaska.
He also teaches a class on the Bible each summer, similar to the one he teaches at Tufts. "It's a little tricky teaching the Bible as literature because you have to steer clear of some sensitive areas," he says. "I try to avoid going into theology as much as possible since the questions that are asked could go on forever."
The Bread Loaf summer program is unique in its focus and intent. The majority of the students are full-time teachers during the year and work toward an advanced degree during the summer. The program not only strives to help these teachers develop as educators, but it also aims to create educational communities through the Bread Loaf Teachers Network. "The teachers network helps these teachers join their classrooms electronically, so students on a reservation in New Mexico can communicate with students from Providence, R.I. It gives students an opportunity to talk about their cultural experiences, and it also gives them an audience to write to, which is important."
Dunn says Bread Loaf also has helped him hone his own teaching skills. "The kind of feedback I get is different from reading an evaluation at the end of a semester and saying 'I should have done this differently.' By speaking with the [Bread Loaf] students about my class, I can make a lot of micro-adjustments. For example, I found that people who didn't grow up with the Bible are afraid to ask questions because they don't want to look foolish. But from my teaching in Alaska, it became clear that students did have questions, so whenever I teach the Bible at Tufts or in Alaska, I open each class with a question-and-answer period. This is just one way the program has helped me become a better teacher."