Friday, January 25, 2008

Aw! Sometimes they're nice to me.

Field College has begun holding campus visits for "my" job--or, rather, the tenure-track version of my job. (My interview/job talk aren't for two weeks, thank God--I need a break!) So in my survey class today I mentioned to my students that they should consider going to the teaching demo this afternoon; they need students to attend these things, and it might be interesting, and they'll have a say in who gets hired, etc. Now, they all know that I'm interviewing for the job too; the chair has sent emails to the campus about the search process. When I'd concluded my announcement, one student asked if I was going to go to the talk, and I said, "No, that might be weird," which provoked some laughter. (The survey is the fourth class I teach MWF, so by then I'm a little...looser? than I normally am when I teach. So far I think that this has served me well: they laugh at my jokes! And we all know that that's the ultimate goal of any teaching situation.)

Anyway, after class, as they were sort of wandering out of the room, one student remarked, "I think it would be cool if no one went to any of the other candidates' presentations but yours was standing room only. It'd send them a message about where we stand."

"Well, thanks," I said, "but you should go anyway."

And another woman came up to me after everyone had left and asked point blank, "Are you leaving?"

"It's all up in the air right now," I said (or something to that effect).

And then she told me that she'd switched majors (which I think she'd been considering doing anyway) so that she can take an upper-division course with me next year.

How touching! I was touched. And a little conflicted. But mostly that felt good--because I got my course evaluations yesterday, and true to my way of doing things I find myself absorbing the negative comments first (I'll get around to the positives in a couple of days and wind up feeling perfectly good about myself; no worries--this is how I process things, for better or worse), so it did make me feel that my teaching is actually meaningful and productive and that I'm not just on some endless comp-grading treadmill.

On the subject of course evaluations, though. I was struck by how well some of my students seemed to have me pegged, particularly in comp. The evaluations were generally positive, I think, the lit classes much more so than the comps (which didn't surprise me at all, and was totally in keeping with my sense of how the semester went). But a few of the comments from the comp evals were interesting. For example: that I seemed unsure of myself and afraid to stand up for my views. Or that I seemed nervous. And yes, I was nervous in comp, precisely because I was unsure of what I was doing and uncertain about whether I should agitate for my interpretations or just let the students talk (because the content of the course wasn't particularly interesting to me and wasn't actually relevant to the goals of the course, I thought). Fortunately, this semester is all about what I like, so I feel a much greater degree of ownership over the material and I don't think that uncertainty will be a problem. Plus I'm not scared of students any more.

Annnd on the subject of the Field search: It's a little awkward trying to avoid running into the job candidates, especially in SUCH a small department. All kinds of weird complications. Further complicated by some general weirdness surrounding the job search about which I'm not going to blog. It'll be nice when everything is settled--for a lot of reasons.


Notorious Ph.D. said...

Wow. That would be an awkward situation. But how nice to have the support of the students. That's gotta be a real confidence boost when it comes your turn.

And, I wonder: How does it feel to be in the rare position of knowing exactly who the other finalists are? Does that make things better for you (psychologically speaking), or worse?

heu mihi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heu mihi said...

I wasn't feeling particularly intimidated until I saw today's candidate--who is *incredibly* together-looking. And tall. Yes, quite tall.

Sisyphus said...

Yay! They like you! Repress all memories of any bad comments and just bask in the positive side for a bit. It's tough to do, but good for you.

Fretful Porpentine said...

I'm in almost exactly the same situation myself, as you probably know, and I hear you about the weirdness.

And, I wonder: How does it feel to be in the rare position of knowing exactly who the other finalists are? Does that make things better for you (psychologically speaking), or worse?

I can't speak for Heu Mihi, of course, but speaking as someone in a really similar position ... I think it's worse. I Googled the other candidates, and I really wish I hadn't. Two of them have teaching awards right and left, and seem to be brilliant teachers, whereas I'm merely adequate. And I keep hearing snippets of conversation in the halls (what did you think of her? did you like her) that I'd much rather not overhear. All in all, I think there's a lot to be said for ignorance.

heu mihi said...

Fretful--I can imagine.... Since this was only the first candidate and nobody was talking about her yet, I haven't quite faced what you're dealing with; I've been able to ignore the whole situation thus far. But that won't last. Ugh--I think ignorance must be better, since you can imagine people screwing up much more easily when you haven't met them. (Usually.)

Sis--I'm trying! It's a lot easier today than it was yesterday, in the immediate aftermath of the evals. But it's amazing how two students' approvals can mean more than a slew of (perfectly acceptable, but less shiny) comments and rankings.

medieval woman said...

Yay for you! I'm so glad they gave you that encouragement...good luck dodging those candidates!!! :)

undine said...

They like you! They really like you! (to quote Sally Field). It's nice to hear that from the students.

And now a mantra: Tall doesn't count, except in basketball.