Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Everything adds to being in another world."

The ideal lecture theatre is vast, truly vast. It is a very sombre, very old amphitheatre, and very uncomfortable. The professor is lodged in his chair which is raised high enough to see him; there is no question that he might get down and pester you. You can hear him quite well, because he doesn’t move. Only his mouth moves. Preferably he has white hair, a stiff neck and a Protestant air about him. There are a great many students and each is perfectly anonymous. To reach the amphitheatre, you have to climb some stairs, and then, with the leather lined doors closed behind, the silence is absolute, every sound stifled; the walls rise very high, daubed with rough paintings in half-tones in which the moving silhouettes of various monsters can be detected. Everything adds to being in another world. So one works religiously.

from an interview with a student in Bourdieu & Passeron's "Language and Relationship to Language in the Teaching Situation"

Monday, August 22, 2016

On the eve of a new academic year

1. In college an English professor once told us "papers are a chance to take care of little pieces of your soul." I sort of believed that then. I sort of believe it now. I hope I write now because I want to and because I care about what I write about, not because I feel I have to.

2.  I am not sure I could tell my students what my professor told me, and think they would believe it.

3. Even though I am not evaluated on research, I have been attempted to carve out a small program of it over the last year. It hasn't quite come together right. I've become obsessed, for some reason, with understanding writing and language from what I seem to think of as an "institutional" perspective, even though when I really think about it, I can't imagine what an "institutional" perspective would be. (That in itself is interesting, I suppose). I have been warned away, by multiple people, from doing this kind of research that digs into institutional policies, practices, etc., to avoid stirring up negative vibes. I understand this, and even though I think it would be arrogant of me to assume I'm important enough to be a nuisance to anyone who'd be implicated in this research, my goal really isn't to cause trouble. It isn't to tell everyone that they're doing it wrong.

I want to learn about the place where I work so I can do my work better, and I want to find a way to do this without getting in anyone's way. I'll probably have to think about this for a while longer before I can do it well. I am probably placing myself in the middle of conversations I don't really understand by trying to understand the 10+ year history of my institution's approach to writing and language.

4. This is going to be a much busier year than my first year was. I'm just coming off a glorious summer of parental leave (stressful in its own way, yes), looking down the barrel of a 2-2-1 year with 3 releases for admin work (including team teaching a course in the first semester, so it's really more like 3-2-1) and 4 or 5 conferences I need/want/hope to go to. Time management - never my forte - is going to be more important than ever.

5. I somehow wrote $15,000 worth of grants last year, which is really not bad considering I'd never written a grant before.

6. I also somehow became co-editor of a Canadian academic journal, which is pretty daunting, but exciting. So I'll be doing that.

7. What do I want from this year? To do my job better, to serve my students better, to collaborate with colleagues more on their projects, not mine, to avoid cynicism, to not work evenings or weekends. I don't know how much of all that will happen. Some can, I think.