Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back to SLAC

Back at SLAC


There's an odd trischotomy* between the conference me and the blogging me and the SLAC me. When I am at a conference, especially when I'm presenting, I feel at ease. I'm really worried -- no doubts about that. After all, I'm getting up in front of my peers and, to be realistic, people who are much more advanced and polished than I am. But you know, this time, I felt more comfortable with presenting myself and my work. I was pretty sure that my paper, if not earth-shattering, was solid scholarship. I'm still a little intimidated, of course -- some of these people know a hell of a lot more than I do, at least in the sense that they seem to have more details at their fingertips than I do. But this time, I felt surer than ever that my thought processes and foundation in the field are sound. It helps when people tell you you asked good questions! But anyway, I've got to the point where I feel less like a fraud, and more like someone who needs to work her ass off to keep up. That I can do. I suppose it also helps that LDW and an awesome colleague who specialises on John Chrysostum have helped get it into my head that my knowledge may be shallower, but I really do have a broader range that I shouldn't be ashamed of.

The blogging me, as you may have noted, is both pretty confident and not afraid to be insecure. Frankly, if you know me IRL, you know that I am not all that different in person. At least, I don't think I am. On the other hand, I don't go out on quite as many limbs here as I sometimes do at work. And in some ways, I probably go out on more. But mostly, the blogging ADM is a lot like the SLAC ADM, I think. Maybe more outspoken in terms of length, but less confrontational than I am in faculty meetings.

The SLAC me? that's the me that struggles to reconcile all the parts. SLAC is a teaching uni, but one with a requirement for publication. It's a campus that accepts a wide range of student abilities, and where I am expected to be a generalist. At the end of my first year, I think I have realised that I have more potential as a scholar than I gave myself credit for. I've also realised that I have underestimated the difficulties involved in working as a generalist while trying to maintain the specialist part of my career. I've also been trying to reconcile the different messages that I've been getting from colleagues and administrators on standards and teaching.

As with many campuses in the country, and especially those in transition, trying to become more competitive, faculty often have to negotiate the very grey areas between doing whatever it takes to retain students and maintain standards that are -- or should be -- transferable to any other college or university. Today I had the idea from several of my more senior colleagues that I was mad to try to demand the kinds of work I demand. To be honest, I'm not always sure my standards are high enough in amounts of work, but I feel comfortable with the level of work I assign, and the kinds of analysis and writing my students have to do. Whatever. Despite the feeling that my colleagues rather disapproved of my expectations, I don't see how I can compromise. This evening, I think I found some confirmation that I'm not completely off track. I checked my enrollments for fall. My upper division specialty course is filled, and at least 6 of the students have taken courses with me before, so they know what to expect. A couple are majors, but most aren't. In fact, one is in a very demanding professional program. The student took one class with me to fulfill a requirement last fall. S/he doesn't need any more history classes. This will be the third class the student has taken with me. My other UD class, which is a service class for the major, has all the majors who have not yet taken it. One of my surveys is 2/3 full, and the other is 1/3 full, and freshmen haven't finished registering yet. So it occurs to me that, unless my colleagues are horrible people who scare off all the students (and they're not), my teaching must be all right, because students are taking my classes despite the fact that they complain about how hard they are. Maybe pushing ourselves and our students is a good thing. Who knew?



*I don't know if it's a word. I wanted something that had three poles, rather than two.

11 comments:

Jonathan Dresner said...

This is going to sound terribly cynical, but listen to your senior colleagues. They're the ones who will be evaluating you -- imposing and enacting all those gray areas and rising expectations which they never had to deal with -- and if they feel like you are not open to their suggestions, they will punish you for it. If you can't compromise in the classroom, at least sound like you're compromising, until they tenure you or it's time to move on.

You're absolutely correct about the generalist-specialist tension, about the problem of schools in transition. Nothing we can do about that, I'm afraid.

medieval woman said...

How about "triumverate"? I think it does sound like you're making the right teaching choices, but one portion of Jonathan's comment might be good - i.e., let them *think* you're taking their suggestions. Even paying lip service to something can placate them sometimes. It sounds like they might be wanting your standards to conform to their own - were theirs compromised at some point? I think the student response speaks for itself!

Yay to the many faces of ADM!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I get the feeling that there's a fair amount of 'old faculty' vs 'new faculty' tension because the old faculty did have to compromise a lot.

Steve Muhlberger said...

Re your high enrollments -- maybe you are just unbelievably charming.

I have a colleague who is tough, demanding, and wildly popular. Charming, too.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Well, The students do seem to think I care about them. I suppose that might have something to do about it.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

OH -- MW -- it can't be triumvirate, because, well, no triumvirs, and also, the idea of a triumvirate is a concentration of power in the hands of three, whereas I am looking for three points pulling in different directions ...

Jonathan Dresner said...

trilemma?

Another Damned Medievalist said...

That might work!

Kelly in Kansas said...

This was a great synthesis of the various tensions all good academics face. However, I do agree with Jonathon to be careful about not appearing to take your senior colleagues opinions seriously. There's a fine balance between appearing to listen to them and then doing what you think is best - especially given that they vote on your tenure and promotion. It's part of the game we all have to play I'm sad to say. Great news on the enrollments!

Anonymous said...

I don't remember the priest telling me when I went to Confession when I was a kid, "Well, Lance, it was wrong of you to disobey your mom and talk back to her like that, but since you set the table every night and do your homework and sent your aunt a birthday card, what the heck! You're a good kid. Your sins are forgiven automatically. No need for you to do any penance." 文秘 心脑血管 糖尿病 高血压 糖尿病 高血脂 高脂血症 冠心病 心律失常 心肌病 心肌炎 中风 偏瘫 脑出血心律失常 什么是心力衰竭 神经衰弱 心肌梗死 心脏瓣膜病 先天性心脏病 动脉硬化 风湿性心脏病 脑瘫 癫痫 羊角风 老年性痴呆 低血压 急性感染性心内膜炎 雷诺综合症 脑血栓 血栓闭塞性脉管炎 周围血管异常 肺心病 什么是心绞痛 脑梗塞 And maybe it's happened a few times and I haven't heard about it but I can't recall a judge ever letting somebody walk on the grounds the crook was a good guy and his friends really like him.

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