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.