Monday, August 24, 2009

Oh, Yes, I Did That

As I wrote in a post that I decided not to post (some of you saw it - but I decided that I didn't want to be that bitchy about this thing, for I really don't feel as bitchy as what I wrote), I am obsessed with Major University-Wide Curriculum Issue (MUWCI). It has captured my imagination and my energy as little else has done, unless we think about the way that reforming my major captured it last semester.

I love thinking about and helping to design curriculum. It is like my absolute favorite thing that I get to do, I think. Yes, I think I actually like it more than teaching or research. It has all of the benefits of syllabus design, which I love, (the hope, the planning, the managing - and actually, this is the part of doing research that I love, too, as opposed to the execution of the thing) and none of the grading that results from the construction of a syllabus (or the writing that has to result from the ideas in research). (Though I suppose that assessment is the thing that curricular design produces, and that's a whole lot like grading or actually writing an article, except not, as I'll never be responsible for doing all of the assessment or all of the writing, whereas I am responsible for doing all of the grading with teaching or all of the writing with research.) And also, another thing about doing stuff with curriculum is that it's by its very nature collaborative. This actually makes curricular design better than designing a syllabus or doing research, as it means that you get to hash things out with other people who are just as invested as you are and that means that you get even BETTER ideas than you'd have on your own. Instead of having to revamp two or three times before you get it right, there is totally the opportunity to get it right the very first time. (Not saying that always or even often happens - just that the opportunity is there, where I don't feel like it is with a syllabus or with an article or a book.) Actually, you know why I love the curriculum stuff so much? Same reason I love designing a conference panel and giving a paper on it. It's a one-off deal where you just get to be awesome.

I have often thought that if there were a job out there where one could just design curricula and not have to do anything else that this would be the perfect job for me. The problem is, jobs that pretend to be about curriculum only also involve lots of administrative crap that sucks. I don't want to do that administrative crap, so really, being a faculty member - and most especially a tenured faculty member - is totally the best job ever that I could have.

So anyway, today I needed to present what my group did regarding MUWCI to our faculty senate. Oh, and the provost and the president were also there. And let me tell you, I spent lots of time this weekend thinking about what I was going to do with that five minutes. I was uber-prepared (the only person who showed up with a handout, and we all know that Handouts Signify Preparedness) and I was... well, I was amazing.

Yep, I'm just going to put that out there. I was freaking awesome. You don't believe me? At one point I responded to a question from a member of the senate, and my response produced both laughter and applause. That's right - some people clapped! And everybody laughed! At a meeting on the first day of classes and it was after 4 PM. And though the other representatives from the working groups could have had their moment after my little speech, they all were like, "how can we follow that?" And they offered nothing! NOTHING! And after the meeting, lots of people came up to me to tell me how well I did. It was awesome!

Now, I don't know whether what I want to happen really will happen with this MUWCI. Miles to go before we sleep and all that, and it may well be that I can't charm people into doing what I want them to do. And even if I can, there is going to be compromise (which I'm fine with, actually, as much in the way that I will do nearly anything that a reader's report tells me to do in order to get a publication, I'm pretty much willing to do anything that makes a curriculum thing go forward as long as my "vision" is still clearly visible.) Compromises are good, ultimately. What matters is the spirit of the thing, and I feel like the fact that I'm wicked-enthusiastic and a believer in compromise means that I shall prevail! Prevail, I say! The spirit that I believe in shall indeed be preserved! (And yes, I've got spirit, yes I do, and lots of beat-down faculty at my institution don't, and I do think that I'm excellent at winning people over because I really actually believe in and care about the stuff that I represent. Imagine that.)

The reason tenure is so important to what I did today was that I ultimately said what I really wanted to say, and not what I thought I should say or what would be good to say - especially given that the provost and president were in attendance. I kind of dissed a couple of things that I know both of them see as of primary importance, and I in no way held back when I responded to questions. Now, I've never been much of a holder-backer, but that's also why I couldn't do this sort of service pre-tenure, and why I avoided it. I knew I'd say what I thought regardless, and that would have been stupid pre-tenure. And my senior people in my department knew it, too, and so that is why they always steered me in other directions. But now? I am free. I am free to say exactly what I think and to contribute in ways that really mean something.

And, I suppose, I'm free to be myself. So what if I look like I'm an undergraduate (got carded at the wine store today - somebody new was at the counter) and so what if I tend to be sort of... informal (read: not boring)... in the way that I approach these sorts of conversations. So what if I tend to say "like" a lot, and so what if what I believe in doesn't please people who are so entrenched that they would rather we are entirely directive to students because they, ultimately, believe that our students are profoundly stupid. The best I can do is to say what I really believe and to sell it the best way that I know how.

And here's the thing. I sort of like the selling part of things. And I'm sort of good at it.

When I was in my freshmen year of high school, I had this awesome Latin teacher, and within the first month, he began referring to me, each and every time he called on me, as "Dr. Crazy, Star of Stage and Screen." This is a thing about myself that I've often had to try to cover up (although to be fair, I'm not sure how successful I've been) throughout graduate school and throughout my time on the tenure track. One isn't seen as "serious" if one is a performer, an entertainer. But today I let those parts of myself shine through, clearly. I didn't worry that I wouldn't be taken seriously if I sold my work, and ultimately, it was my job in this context to sell my work (and the work of my group). What was needed today was a performer. A performer who could answer questions and be smart and thoughtful at the same time. And I delivered on all counts.

The other groups? They need to worry. Because I accomplished some things today that they just did not accomplish. If they really care about their proposals, and if they really want them to get a fair hearing, they need to regroup. Seriously.


KK Hake said...

So cool to hear about your presentation! It's as if, in your FREEDOM, you are real - in your thoughts, words, energy. And we all need more REAL. It's contagious and it's how good things get done.

Anne said...

Oh, Crazy, you rock! But we know that.

Not surprised, but delighted and proud.


Belle said...

How very very excellent! I know what you mean about designing stuff; I love that part too. Only I know that good design is based on knowledge gained via assessment, and I hate that. Not the assessment (as I totally see the utility if done right) but the politics that come with those do-not-teach types.

I'm not surprised you rocked 'em - As Anne said, we knew that!