Thursday, August 31, 2023

Back in the saddle again, school edition

Gene Autrey’s voice is singing this song is in my head as I write this, so here’s to riding the range once more with reminders I’ve forgotten over the past year. 

1. Teaching

Is it good to be back? Pretty much. 

Did I spend too much time preparing syllabi? Yes.

Too much time writing up a lecture? Yes. 

What is it with power dynamics in the classroom, by the way? If I go in with puppy-like enthusiasm for the subject and with lots of additional information, they respond coolly—“whatever”—as though they know it already, which they definitely do not.  

But if I tone down the friendliness and am more distant and authoritative, they warm up. It’s a power dynamic in classrooms that I forget about when I’ve been away from teaching for a while. Friendliness is fine, and so is the decentered classroom, but the whole “make sure you give away your authority so that they trust you” trend of a few years back always seemed false: you are the authority in the classroom, and to pretend otherwise seems disingenuous, not to say dishonest. The students sense this and respond accordingly. 

It’s a way of showing mutual respect, I think.

2. Writing

I’m excited to get back to writing: I turned in a conference proposal today for research related to my next book. And I haven’t even bought the all-important new notebooks yet, which is sure to create more writing inspiration. 

3. Meetings

Since I’m not doing admin, all I have to do is (1) show up and (2) contribute if there’s something to say. It’s not necessary or desirable for people to hear every thought that’s in my head, nor is it necessary to smile all the time. Show up, be respectful, and be done. 

Here’s hoping you have a good beginning of the semester!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Random bullets of early August

1. New College in Florida is dismantling its Gender Studies program, and West Virginia University is carrying out the draconian cuts promised in this article from June. It's behind a paywall, so I can't see it, but the board doesn't care if it destroys the university. 

2. Nicole and Maggie have resurrected the "life after tenure" meme from 2013 and aww, nostalgia. Here

s what I said then:

Short version: pretty much the same, with more job security. Here are a few more posts about it.

3. Xykademiqz is coming out with a book!

4. I'm once again summoning the spirit of the dog my family had when I was a child:

Our family used to have a dog that did this: If she didn't want to acknowledge the presence of something she was afraid of, like a cat or something she'd chewed up and knew she'd get in trouble for, she wouldn't look directly at whatever it was but would turn away and look at it out of the corner of her eye.

I am that dog, and the semester is what I'm seeing out of the corner of my eye. 

5. It's like living in a science fiction novel, being the last person on God's green academic earth not to be away vacationing somewhere and sending autoreplies in response to my responses to their queries. What did I do? I set one up myself, a perfectly polite one. Only you and I know that its secret message comes straight from my inner Logan Roy. 

6. This seems to be a lesson that I have to keep failing at learning over and over again: if you respond too quickly, or include an answer both to A (what they asked) and to B (the next logical step), it's all so many electrons wasted in the ether. Your reward may be to be ignored, or, worse, lectured about it. I've posted before about imaginary cranky responses to email, but maybe the autoreply and an information diet for the requesters is a much better response.

7. But it's still summer for a few weeks yet. Walking in some glorious cool weather, eating ripe tomatoes, watching the bees in the lavender and bee balm--all are there to be enjoyed now. 

P.S. I haven't seen Barbenheimer (as xykademiqz posted about), but the new season of What We Do in the Shadows has a scene with the energy vampire council that made me fall off the couch with laughter. It's every Zoom meeting ever. Context: energy vampires feed on the negative emotions of others.