Archive for the ‘January 2014’ Category

 

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I found this article particularly interesting. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.

Stress Points: Being a Professor is Easy, Right?

 

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Hewers of wood and drawers of water.

I saw a cartoon for some graduate employees’ union with a figure saying, supposedly to the student audience, “Hey, I grade your papers!” (I tried finding this image on google images, but could not do so. It was most telling.)

Thus, I assume the tenure or tenure track professor is too busy with his/her own scholarship to grade the assignments for the class he/she is teaching. If the section is particularly large, several teaching assistants may work under this person. (I am restraining my rhetoric at this point: I wanted to say while referring to said professors, “lofty,” “big shot,” or, here’s the kicker, the word thrown at me when I was rudely rejected by one institution despite a glowing recommendation from a former department head and full professor, “star.”)

I obtained my degrees to a small liberal arts college, not a major research university. I never had a teaching assistant. The teachers graded everything. It was part of their job, Not something to be palmed off on assistants aka hewers of wood/drawers of water.

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And during my brief time doing doctoral work at a prestigious university, the professors graded the papers. In one course, he did have three teaching assistants, but he regraded every paper. Not that he assigned that many. Smart man (for many reasons).

If I were a student, I would be insulted, yes, insulted, that my work is not worthy of review by the person ostensibly teaching the class who officially assigns the grade. Insulted. Why? I would feel devalued, like somehow, despite the tuition I am providing, that my growth as a student is not deemed worthy of consideration. Perhaps some the professors have office hours, if the student wishes to bypass the teaching assistant to discuss a paper. I’ll give them that, but I am fairly certain attendance at conferences and publications take priority.

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I decry the separation of teaching from scholarship. The nuns who taught me were both teachers AND scholars. The could teach everything from Advanced Shakespeare Studies to remedial freshmen composition. They had to. It was a small school. They had to, It was their vocation, and not just in the traditional religious sense.

It appears I have chosen the teaching path. I have not published, I have not finished my doctorate, and I will thus perish. The elite has decided I am not worthy. They are looking for people whom they think will be “stars.” (I won’t get into how this term reflects the corporatization and consumer mentality and narcissism that I naively thought would not be an issue in the academic world. There’s your counterargument. I was naive,)

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I hope the students I teach, who are paying for the professors to pursue their scholarship, deem me worthy. I try and give them what the nuns gave me. I’ll make them feel valued, I, who am not valued. I, deemed unworthy of entering the ranks of the elite.

Oh lost!

After a weekend of debauchery, I begin classes. The policies and procedures (front matter) in my syllabi are nunny, as usual. I’ll post some of my rules (not the doorcheck, as I’ve covered that here and on the college misery blogspot). Let’s just say I know most of the attempts by students to circumvent requirements. For example, you must purchase the books. Google books is not acceptable. Or, don’t even think about texting under the desk. More to follow.

Someone in the composition office said I was his hero. I think more may have been occurring in the conversation (he wanted to know what my hat said, and he told me had owned a hat with a high heel design on it, but he shared that information with me after I told him I knew someone who used to wear a hat that said “cock” on it, and not referring to poultry). I digress.

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Why was I his hero? After he figured out I was the one, yes, I, who was doing the doorchecks in my freshman composiiton classes. The doorcheck. Mother G.’s way to ensure the students do the readings, and I emphasize do. That means annotate, ask questions. In other words, do what perhaps I in my dotage assume college students should or show learn how to do. Engage with text, not fleeting ephemeral  instagrams and snapchats and tumblrs.

Mother pulls a desk into the doorway. Students have to SHOW me their annotations for the assigned readings. On a hard copy. (I may allow laptops, but they are unwieldy for this methodology.)  If the annotations are not done, I send them to the library. Yes, the library. My hero, sighed the assistant director in the composition office in response.

Now, here’s the win-win, nonconfrontational angle on this policy. If they do the annotations, they received one hundred participation for that day. I record that. Plus, I gain the opportunity to give compliments and even chit-chat at the door.

I claim that the doorcheck is a much better and ultimately more productive way to begin a class than many teachers I see who seem to wait until the last minute to enter a room of students vacantly staring into phones. The sage on stage has arrived. Yawn!

Can anyone pull doorcheck off? One of my more argumentative colleagues (I would like to tell him, the order needs inquiring minds, not argument for the sake or argument, Sister, I am quoting Mother Ambrose from that Australian miniseries Brides of Christ) admitted he couldn’t pull it off.

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One finds a teaching style and manner that fits one’s personality. Hopefully the style and personality can meld to create a productive, engaging learning experience for all.

My best teachers were Dominican nuns, great scholars AND great teachers. That’s a combination that seems rare in these days of academic apartheid and the corporatization of the university. These nuns are heroes. I may be a minor league hero compared to them, especially with my nonexistent CV and nonexistent publishing record, but hero I am. I want, I need the students to learn responsibility and consequences.

Here’s a link to a site that focuses on college level teaching issues: http://collegemisery.blogspot.com/

Link to the relevant scene from the movie The Song of Bernadette, for those interested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbLs3iAgr5s

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So said Gladys Cooper playing Sister Marie Therese Vauzous, antagonist of Bernadette in the movie The Song of Bernadette. 

I teach college English and this upcoming semester the Bible as Literature (NTT, much more to follow on that issue), and I have found, despite my leftie leanings, pretty much run my class (and much of my life) like that of a nun, More like a “nuns on the bus” nun, but still, a nun, minus the chastity. And the poverty is not chosen, but enforced (more on that later). Obedience? That has always been a struggle in the workplace. Many employers I have found do not deserve obedience (more on that later). 

Pretty soon the semester will begin and my hands will be gnarled from grading papers. Sister Vauzous said her hands were gnarled from serving God in humiliation. I believe in humility, not humiliation. There is a difference. 

Curious to hear more? Find out about my nunny reputation around the campus. Imagine a desk in the hall. Bring back some  memories?