Mira Seo

Associate Professor of Humanities (Literature)

What is special about teaching at Yale-NUS?

Seo:  Yale-NUS students are incredibly generous and considerate with one another; in our small classes, students can see what a difference it makes when we all help each other with difficult texts and ideas.  I appreciate the camaraderie and the investment that every student makes in the classroom.  As a Romanist, I really enjoy sharing many different ancient worlds with students who have not encountered these traditions before.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Seo:   Coaching!  I’m realizing now what an impact playing sports has had on my approach to teaching: I expect every student to want to develop his or her own talents, and to work together as a team in class discussions.  For me, learning involves both individual practice and working with others, teachers and classmates.  I know I can be tough, but I think my students know I care about their progress, and I am their biggest cheerleader when they challenge themselves.

Can you recall a moment when you knew your class was going well?

Seo:   My best moments are when students are engaged with each other and not looking to me for guidance or affirmation: this only happens when everyone’s prepared, and each individual can contribute his or her own relevant insights, evidence, and questions.  In electives, this is a lot more common, but LH seminars are where my students learn to find these moments of collective flow for the first time.

What have been some of your best moments teaching at Yale-NUS?

Seo:   I really value how much I’ve learned in Literature and Humanities: I have discovered new questions about texts I’ve taught a many times before (the Odyssey!), and come to appreciate works that I had never read before.  I love it when a student asks a question that blows my mind and makes me think about something I thought I knew in a completely different way.

What is the biggest challenge in regards to teaching?

Seo:   I always want to set a good example by being at my best every class, every day.  The semester has its own rhythms and we do many other things besides teaching: I find it difficult to balance my high expectations for myself and my students with the realities of other demands.

What do you wish you knew about teaching when you started that you know now?

Seo:   I’m now a big believer in “productive floundering”: students need to struggle with confusion and aporia in order to appreciate that not all problems have solutions. Intellectual discomfort is healthy, because it tells you that there’s something more to learn.