Tag Archives: students

No velcro for me. Only laces, buckles, or straps.

7 Feb

I almost threw my shoe at a woman today.

(And by “woman,” I strictly mean anatomically.)

But literally. My shoe was in my hand — not on my foot — and I pulled my arm back and began to throw it, only deciding at the last second that having to explain to future employers that the assault charge on my record was for beaming a colleague in the head with a loafer simply wouldn’t be worth the explanation.

The others in the room flinched, fearing that I was actually about to throw a shoe.

As a child, I always took my anger for my younger sister out on her by throwing things. I take full credit for her quick reflexes and our collective ability to reassemble remote controls, hair brushes, and Barbies.

We had a follow up meeting to last week’s meeting (See “Meet me at the flagpole. It’s going down.”), and after the official meeting, a few of us hung around to have a general chat — nothing secretive, just teaching logistics — and two of the anti-side came back in to further discuss things from the meeting.

I tried to leave because I knew it would not generate a fruitful discussion — which I said — but the guy took that as an opportunity to call me and “my survey” passive aggressive. After a long, drawn out explanation and back and forth as to the contents of the survey, I explained that there was absolutely no malicious intent in the creation of the survey, acknowledging that I did not like him (those exact words because I have the lady balls to tell someone how I feel) and that he did not like me, so I took that into account in the multiple drafts, approved by our advisor, so as to avoid any sort of situation where it could be construed as a personal attack as per his accusation that the survey was a passive aggressive attack to call him out.

I then pointed out that any inference of passive aggressive behavior is something that he needs to own in his victimized interpretation and not pass onto others.

It clearly spiraled from there when I nearly lost my shit.

There was also a statement he made somewhere in the hour long post-meeting meeting where he said he doesn’t believe the school should be relied on as a source of income. He sees being a GTA as a line on the CV. I see being a GTA as the beginning of my lifelong career in academics and first-year composition.

I wonder whose course evaluations are best.

(Hint: mine.)

— AM.

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Like a cheap whore on a busy avenue.

6 Nov

One of the most delightful experiences in being a new instructor is the joy of having your superior observe your class, taking notes and scrutinizing on a four-page rubric that decides how well you function as a teacher, how well your students react to you, how well planned your lessons for that day were, and how well you “fit” into their design of the curriculum that you have the distinct honor to regurgitate to (un)willing receptacles of knowledge.

I recently had this exact pleasure. One of the chairs (yes, one of the chairs) sent me an email about a month ago wanting to schedule observations. I know it’s a terrible, terrible habit, but I really have a hard time planning out an entire semester for a class I’ve never taught, let alone at an institution I’ve never taught at. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to cover the necessary topics. I pretty much wing it.

So I was faced with this pressure to come up with something brilliant that usually comes to me as I’m teaching or the day before I teach weeks ahead so my superior can come and tell me I’m good or a gigantic ball of flaming suck. I found a pretty fantastic lesson plan that I managed to tie into the assignment I had to teach, so I prepared for hours the night before, making copies, practicing the discussion in my head, imagining the worst case scenario where the angry racist student throws a chair that breaks into tiny pieces while the guy who hates me for giving him a bad grade pulls out a weapon of some sort — likely his fists — and begins attacking, bonobo style, the students around him out of sheer frustration and rage.

The superior came in and said “Just pretend I’m not here. I want you to act completely natural, completely normal. It’s not like you’ll get axed if today doesn’t go well.”

Yeah, sure. No pressure or anything, but that was basically a “don’t fuck up or you’ll be homeless and jobless next semester because you suck big time and you’ll get to live in a cardboard box and go to the shelter for food donations and all your pretty clothes will be worthless because bums don’t care how you look but the bright side is you’ll probably either get super skinny because you can’t afford to eat or you’ll get pulled into some sex ring where you’ll sell yourself for a quick score and you can die a cold and lonely death.”

Good thing my lecture went AWESOME. Every student spoke, they had smart things to say, they didn’t get side tracked, and most importantly, I didn’t even get yelled at. About an hour after class, I received an email from the other chair saying the chair who observed my class was delighted and my handouts were awesome and would I like to teach again next semester?? (Yeah, two question marks.) I said yes, of course, because being homeless scares me and I really like using make up and soap.

But through this experience, and many, many other days teaching when I had a bit too much to drink the night before/earlier that morning, and even days being a graduate student and asked to sit and write a few hundred pages on the spot to get ready for the upcoming assignments makes me realize just how much teaching/graduate-studenting is like being an actor, always performing.

Or it’s like being a trained monkey. I’m not a trained monkey. I can’t write on command. Actually, it’d be pretty cool to train a monkey to write on command. I’m sure someone, somewhere has done that. I’m sure that monkey could replace the seat of about 78% of my students. But, like a trained monkey, being a graduate student is all about performance.

In the precarious situation I — and all the other graduate student teachers delicately straddling the lines between student and teacher — face on a daily basis is the constancy of being on display, knowing superiors are lurking outside your doors or sitting in the back of your classroom, eagerly gripping their #2 pencils and frantically scrawling notes on a legal pad, or judging every word you put in front of them through papers you hand in or your contributions to classroom discussion.

Like a cheap whore on a busy avenue, the whole town’s watchin’.

–AM.

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