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!


nicoleandmaggie said...

I think “make sure you give away your authority so that they trust you” works for older tall white men.

undine said...

Nicoleandmaggie—wise words! I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you’re right.

xykademiqz said...

"Show up, be respectful, and be done"

God, isn't this the truth. I have a stupid number of committee assignments this year, all with homework, and for some reason they're supposed to be mostly in person. Last year I tried to just show up and be a mushroom (as one colleague says) -- sit there and do stuff on my computer and be quiet unless asked. It was pretty awesome.

I'm entering this semester pretty exhausted (I taught all summer) and I have teaching overload and a bunch of papers to write, plus I'm on too many committees because our chair is insane and everyone is over-committeed (the extra e intended), so I'm not putting in more than the absolute bare fucking minimum in service.