Thursday, June 26, 2008

Done Except for the Finals and the Tabulation of Final Grades!

And, I've got to say, I'm feeling very pleased. Very pleased, indeed. And not just because I'm done (or will be done tomorrow, for real).

The one course that I taught was one of the best I've taught ever. And what's so exciting was that the students thought so, too. Comments as they turned in their finals included thanks for making the class so fun, happiness that they stayed in the class even though they were afraid at first that I was expecting too much, the usual comments I get about how I made them see the point of poetry and enjoy it and there should be even more on the syllabus (which is totally weird as I'm not a "poetry person" and so I don't get why they love the way that I teach poetry so much, given the conventional wisdom that students typically hate poetry - and note, one of the poems that I teach is Pope's Eloisa to Abelard, so it's not like I'm teaching them a bunch of 4-line poems that they don't have to work to get), thanks for my enthusiasm and introducing them to stuff they'd never have picked up to read on their own....

Note, not a one of these students is a major. Most are in majors that are probably the exact opposite of an English major. And yes, I take more pride in the work that I do teaching these students than in preaching to the choir of students who already likes reading, who already likes writing. Ultimately, it means more, I think, the work that I do in courses like this. Not that I don't love teaching majors, which I do, but, well, they'd be into it even if I sucked - at least minimally. The thing is, a course without majors is a course that I've got to rock in. And I love the way that they inspire me to rock and the way that I have new ideas about how to bring material to students because of their perspectives.

You know, I've fought for a long time against the notion that I "belong" at an institution like this. But I totally, and happily, do. And I even belong not just at an institution like this but also at this particular institution. Thank god I fucking feel that - finally. It's been a long road coming to realize and accept that, not in the least because I had to learn to shut off those voices in my head of mentors and colleagues who told me that I could - should - "do better." You know what? I do awesome work here. I do better work as a teacher than I could possibly do at another kind of institution, and I do very good work as a scholar. So screw those voices in my head that say this shouldn't be where I am, that I'm better than where I am. No, the fact is, I'm great where I am. And that rules.

That's not to say I'll never go on the market again, but it won't be because of what other people think if I do. And it won't be because I could "do better." You know what? I think that what I do here is my absolute best. And I care about doing my best for these students.

I do have one student that I'm anticipating a grade challenge from (not from the Best Class Ever, but from the Other One), but I'm hopeful that I'm just being paranoid. If not, though, I've got a paper trail to support my position, and I'm not too worried about the outcome.

But so yeah, I'm feeling good, and I'm looking forward to finishing grading and to turning in grades tomorrow. I'm finally done, people!!!!! Summer teaching is for suckers. (And for people who are financial idiots who refuse to give up extras in order not to have to do summer teaching.)


Artistic Soul said...

Your laments about the voices that tell you what you "should" be vs. what you feel happy doing really resonate with me as I've been having the same sort of identity crisis as of late. I'm happy where I'm at, but it makes me feel like a failure since those voices keep saying I could "do better"'s an annoying part of academia.

Doctor Pion said...

Hey, I love summer teaching, especially the first session. I find that a single course is a nice way of tapering off after the madness of spring semester. It makes me go in the office, and once there I can use the excess time to clean up from spring or prepare for fall. Like you seem to have done, it also gives me a chance to apply some new ideas that might have shown up during the past year of teaching.

I'm not surprised that you are finding a home there. As an outside observer, your personal background brings something to your classroom that the infamous Prof X (The Atlantic, June) never knew existed. Now find a way to bottle what you discovered in those two spring classes so it becomes an investment that makes your fall teaching load a bit easier.

I can totally understand why students might enjoy learning poetry from someone who is not into poetry. My perception is that I do the best job teaching the parts of my course that I didn't like so much as a student. I had to work hard to learn it, and even harder to learn it even better to be prepared to teach it, so I have a lot of insight into the different problems students are likely to encounter.

It is hardest to teach something that you totally understand, particularly if you have an almost unthinking, organic understanding of it.

(Random thought: That is where writing a dissertation can make the PhD useful even when it is not required, since a good diss has to verbalize things that you might never have tried to put into words. That exercise is good prep for teaching something you know but have yet to explain.)

PS - Congrats on the proofs!

Susan said...

I remember discovering Pope's Eloisa to Abelard when I was in high school, and I just adored it. It's soooo cool. And I didn't even have a smart teacher helping me. That would have made it even better!