Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dr. Mihi, Thesis Advisor! (And also an update on the Situation.)

So yes, I am a Thesis Advisor! (By the way, am I alone in preferring "advisor" to "adviser"? Is "adviser" really the only correct spelling?)

I'm really excited to be working with this student: she's doing a thesis on a topic WAY the hell out of my field, but she seems very bright and enthusiastic and it looks like an interesting project. And if you're wondering why I'm advising a thesis that has nothing to do with my own work, it's because the English department at Field is tiny and there's nobody else to do it. Normally, VAPs and first-year faculty aren't really supposed to act in an advisory capacity, but the chair encouraged me to take this opportunity.

I feel!

In fact, I'm having a really good week. Nothing especially good has happened; I'm totally stressed and somewhat behind, of course, but that seems to be pretty much normal and I'm learning to live with it. Maybe that's the thing: I'm learning to live with the job. This whole gig does represent a pretty radical change of lifestyle, after all, so it's natural that I'd be a little overwhelmed, or even freaked out, for the first few weeks.

Class today was great, also. I made the conscious decision--and told my students that I was doing this--to relax my hold on the discussion. This is my upper-level course, and I really want it to be discussion-based, but I'd noticed that lately my grip upon the class had been tightening, ever so the point where I was literally back behind the podium. So today I made a tremendous effort, the students had clearly done their work, and I actually didn't even use my notes. Trust me: this is a major breakthrough.

(We'll see how long it lasts.)

Now for the less cheery news: The Student. I'm meeting with him tomorrow; I returned his paper yesterday. I'm not looking forward to this meeting, but I am (obviously) much calmer now, and I think that it'll be fine. I'm going to meet with him one-on-one and start off by telling him that this is simply inappropriate, that racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. speech is not acceptable in an academic setting. Period. And then maybe I'll talk about the issues with audience and voice and whatnot--we'll see. He handed in another paper yesterday that is riddled with sexist stereotyping and generalizations, unfortunately. Fortunately, however, the latter paper in no way addresses the assignment! So, while I've written comments all over the draft (it was just an ungraded first draft) that say things like, "Evidence?" and "This is in direct contradiction to your earlier argument" and "What basis do you have for arguing that all women are like this?" and the like, ultimately the problem, for our purposes, is that he has not done the assignment. Hooray!

One rather amusing upshot of this whole situation (and by the way, this is a comp class; I think I forgot to mention the context) is that some of the other students have started overcompensating for his sexism. As you might recall, he made some unpleasant remarks in class about women (basically that we're all backstabbing gold-diggers, although he didn't use those words), so the rest of the class is aware of his views. For this last assignment--which was to critically examine a social construction (or stereotype) about a particular group of people--I received a spate of "Women are equal!" papers. No, this doesn't really address the question either, and one of the things we're going to talk about when we discuss revision is the importance of adhering to the prompt. Oh well. Anyway. My very favorite one--it made me laugh aloud--came from one of The Student's friends. He wrote about how it's a shame that women are made to feel like they have to be thin to be beautiful, or are treated as though they can't do all the jobs that men can do. Women can do anything at all, he says. And all women are equally beautiful in his eyes.

Ummm....yeah, whatever, dude. I do appreciate the effort, though, even if he is just giving me what he thinks I want to hear; at least he's thinking about his audience!


Sisyphus said...

"adviser" absolutely looks wrong. I only like it spelled with the "or" even though blogger seems unhappy with it.

Tough for blogger. My grad program only uses the "or" version.

And you sound so official! But don't let all the service/advising stuff eat your life ---you've got bigger fish to fry!

Belle said...

I vote for -or. Sounds and looks more learned.

Are you sure you want to meet one-on-one with The Student? If he gets defensive, it's going to be you vs him, with no one to verify your actions/words. Just me, speaking from 'document everything' standpoint.

Good luck with him. Be careful.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

I've been commenting on the previous two posts, very belatedly, and I've gotta run, but I'll just summarize: DO NOT be alone with this kid. Please just don't. Make sure there are other people around nearby, even if the conversation is one-on-one. That's both a CYA measure and a personal safety precaution.

heu mihi said...

Yah, Belle, I know--it's a bit of a worry. (Just added a comment to the previous post about this, actually, but it was quite brief, so I'll recap with more detail.)

First, everyone in the world now knows that I'm meeting with this kid tomorrow, so at least I've got my intentions well established within the department. Second, I'm going to have my door open, and I've checked with some neighboring faculty to make sure that they'll be around (with free license to hover around nearby). That doesn't totally cover me, of course; however, short of having a group meeting with him, I'm not sure what else I can do. Honestly, knowing myself, there's no way I'm going to be horribly confrontational, because I'm a big wimp. But I know that the danger is that he'll accuse me of something.

Well, not much I can do there, short of what I'm already doing: photocopying all of his papers, with my comments; telling all and sundry EVERYthing about what's going on; and hoping for the best.

On a more pleasant note, I'm glad that my slice of the blogosphere supports my "advisor" spelling.

heu mihi said...

AW, you must have posted at the exact moment I was replying. One of the people who has promised to be at hand during my meeting tomorrow is our division chair, who happens to be a very tall man (not that that matters, but he does have a certain physical...presence which is decidedly more intimidating than my own). I'll go in early, too, to make sure that the troops are at hand. Thanks for emphasizing that point, though; it's good for me to remember to take this seriously.

medieval woman said...

Yay for you in your new advisorial capacity! Such fun...

And good luck with the meeting tomorrow - glad to hear that you've got back-up. Keep us informed!

IPG said...

I hate when Word tries to tell me how to spell a word. I know it is lying and it makes me angry that Word acts like it is better than me. :)