Oh, my darling readers. I apologize. Right now. For the fact that I will probably post every Tuesday night while I try to unwind from my truly and objectively insane Tuesday schedule. See, it turns out that as much as I’m yawning and exhausted, I can’t just collapse into bed. For my head is too filled with all the things.
And yet, because my head is too filled with all the things, I can’t really get it up to do any sort of actual post with a topic or anything. I’m just going to have to tell you about the day. So let me give you permission now to skip these posts if you don’t want to hear the ramblings of an exhausted lady who is sipping on some wine.
Today was, in my humble estimation, an excellent teaching day. In part, this is because I’m so terrified of my Tuesdays that I am doing a rockstar job with prepping. (I make no promises about what will happen when it comes time to grade student work.) In an equal part, this is because I am so excited about everything that I’m teaching. It turns out that when I’m really excited about the classes, I can suck up the schedule. Not that I intend to do this particular schedule ever again, but for what it’s worth, the classes do at least to some extent make it worthwhile. And the students definitely do.
So my day began at about quarter after five because I had some reading to finish this morning before I went in. And I was rewarded! See, The Today Show, which seems to have as its raison d’etre to proffer offensive and stupid segments, had an interview with Paula Deen about the SHOCKING! fact that she has Type-2 Diabetes. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??? Well, on the surface what it means is that she has made this part of her brand, that she’ll now be shilling for a pharmaceutical company and that her sons will be doing a show on the Food Network that is all about doing “lighter” and “healthy” versions of Paula’s famous recipes, and that she and her sons are now doing a Type-2 Diabetes “support” website, so that she has “something to put on the table” for her “friends” in the audience, “hope,” the thing that she’s always offered. Suffering from agoraphobia, now the Type-2, blah. Um. Whatever, that’s fine. But what was totally mesmerizing was the fact that they had Gastric-Bypass Al Roker do the interview with her, and she kept talking about how she’s “always” eaten in moderation and that people have to be “responsible” about the food that they consume and how as she said those things the images on the screen were of her gleefully frying things, dumping pounds of butter into pans, and frosting a gigantic cake. Visual rhetoric anyone?!?! And also, the awesome way in which she created a binary between “healthy eating” and “wonderful, yummy, Southern food”! It was like I was visited by a composition angel, a composition angel that gave me a big fat fried doughnut sandwich with a fried egg, some sausage, and some bacon as the filling. I couldn’t have invented this as an exercise for talking about denotative and connotative meanings if I’d tried! And also the shaming! And the equation of things that are “bad” with pleasure and “good” with abstinence! All. The. Things!!!!! And then we began talking about the novel that we’re doing. Truly, it was an inspired comp class. And also, my students: only day two and they’re talking! And interested! And animated! In a class that they don’t want to take! HUZZAH!!!!!
Fast forward 10 minutes and I began teaching Infamous 18th Century Pornographic Novel in my next class. Again with the smart and interested and invested students! Animated discussion! Awesome insights! And I even lectured a bit in ways that were productive! What is literature? What is high culture vs. low culture? What is the history of the novel? Why does it all matter? Are we offended? Why/why not? Why are we reading this smut in the first place? Let me expertly put your comments together, for I am an expert! At the end of the class, Delightful Quiet Student (for yes, she shall be known as DQS from this point forward, as I’ve had her before and I feel like there will be more about her and she is so smart but so shy, only now that she’s had me before she talked on the second day instead of waiting until like week 9 – and said such great things!) came up after class to tell me something entirely unrelated, and that was great because last year at this time, she would never have trusted me enough to say something that was off-topic – or even something that was on-topic – after class. All in all, I have such high hopes for this class!
Fast forward another 10 minutes and I’m in the undergrad required theory course. And they were a little quiet at first. Huh. That was weird, after my morning of animation and whatever, but not surprising, really, as the reading today was the first “real” reading of theory. So I began to walk them through it, and everybody except for that kid with those funky earrings that make giant holes in your ears in the back was animated! excited! intrigued! Even the girl who was texting at first stopped and started taking notes!
And so then I had my 5-hour-ish “break” in which time I had to prep for the grad class. Which involved writing a presentation and handout so that I could demonstrate for them what they should do. And then I went into class, and to my surprise – AMAZING! Great discussion! At a couple of points it went a little… passionate… but now I know who will do that. And I reined it in, and I did that connecting the dots thing again! Because I’m a professor! Who knows her shit! Even with really fucking complicated theory that she had to reread like a maniac in order to give a presentation on it because she’d not read it since graduate school when she slammed it on that syllabus!
So the long and the short of it is this: it really matters to teach stuff that you’re passionate about to students who are engaged. But also: I think that I’m being a better teacher this semester precisely because I’ve made a conscious decision that this matters more than the university politics crap. If I’m going to phone it in, it shouldn’t be on teaching, even though I have more control over teaching than over any other thing that I do. And further, I think that my commitment to not phoning it in on research matters as well, as the research totally makes the good teaching possible. I need to phone it in on service. Because, in all reality, nobody fucking gives a shit if I’m an exemplary servant.
At the end of the day, it’s the students who matter. And I can’t do my best job for them if I don’t do my best teaching, or if I don’t do the research that qualifies me to be their best teacher. It’s really quite simple. Funny how I didn’t realize that until I got smacked in the face with how much I wasn’t valued for the service that I was doing.