Category Archives: Teaching

A Time for Boldness

Last week, I held a video conference with one of my distance learning students to discuss her last two papers for the writing course she was taking from me. One paper instructs the students to write an analysis of a word’s origin and history, the other is a traditional research essay. In discussing the etymology of her word, American, she said that she was interested in the changes to the concept of nationality as an American, particularly in context of immigration. I nodded enthusiastically, and then I made a fateful statement: “You could also think about this in the context of the phrase ‘Make America Great Again,’ particularly because we’ve come to see that it’s really referring to white America.”

My student nodded, and I could see the wheels turning. “Do you mean I can talk about politics in my essays? I’ve tried to avoid getting too political in my essays.”

I replied, “Absolutely, you can.” I paused for a brief second, weighing whether or not to say what I really wanted to include. I try to be neutral, I try to be nice to students who fall into different political camps, I try to keep communication open, and I try not to ignite inflammatory sentiments from unstable students in an effort to preserve my life and those of my other students. But sensing that my student had a need, I decided to forge on. My intuition told me that this was no time to be afraid. I added, “I don’t see how we can avoid politics, especially in this administration.”

She gave a quick laugh, and then she launched into what she was really thinking about for the paper: the idea of “American” and the racist ways in which it has been configured, especially recently. It was a terrific argument, but I was completely startled. Where had this been? Would she have mentioned it if I hadn’t said anything? It makes sense, though. She is a woman of color, and I am a white woman. 55% of white women voted for Donald Trump, a statistic I will bear with shame for the rest of my life, even though I ardently voted for and support Hillary Clinton. There is a major power inequity between us, not only because she is my student and I am her professor, but because I am white and she is dark-skinned. By virtue of my skin color, I hold social capital that she must fight to possess—and, frankly, may never possess for reasons that are never her fault. Because I am her professor, I can exploit her race and mine and cloak them under excuses: “insubordination,” “disrespect,” and other disgusting terms that hide fragile hurt feelings, guilt, and defensiveness.

Therefore, it is up to me to bridge the divide and invite her freedom of expression, even if—especially if—she disagrees with me.

And this is why I spoke up. I felt that it was crucial to let her know that her ideas have a place at this table and that it is my responsibility to hear them with professional respect. The rest of the conference was an eager and engaged dialogue about how she would organize her ideas. We ended with a brief note about the research essay (problems in bullying) and how much I looked forward to reading her final work.

Today, I read her research essay. From the very first page, she discussed the way Donald Trump bullied women, the way he bullied Hillary Clinton. Sexual assaults by Bill Cosby and Brock Turner. The way men bully and abuse and exploit women for their own gain and get away with it time and time again. It was a powerful moment of reckoning, because it relayed the routine contemporary injustices that she faces, that we face, as women. I don’t think I’ve read something this angry before—but what a genuine, necessary anger it is. It’s anger at being held hostage to fear, anger at mistreatment, anger at the minor and major injustices enacted against women by virtue of their gender. How long has she had to hold on to this anger alone? How long must she have hidden behind a “brave” face, because she knows the retributions for expressing herself are swift and brutal and even more damaging than hiding?

I never understand the power that vulnerability holds until I find myself in conversations or situations in which I make a choice to be vulnerable (often at very little cost to myself) and then invite my students to do the same—knowing that the stakes for them are much higher than they are for me. I remain respectful when they do not reciprocate, because I can only guess at the kinds of social and cultural chess matches in which they are enmeshed in all their personal and professional relationships. But when they accept my invitation and share, I have learned to sit and hold their words, because it is the very least I can do.

I write this, because it’s reminded me of the solemn duty I must acquit every day as a Christian feminist professor: to treat other students with fairness and respect and to cultivate a safe environment in which to invite their intellectual honesty, even if, especially if, it makes me uncomfortable.

In the weeks following the 2016 Presidential Election, I careened between fear and hurt. I sobbed over stories of naked bigotry and racism, over the hurtful words of a minority white population who had spent eight years being angry that a black man became one of our most beloved and popular presidents of all time. I worried over my safety and that of my fellow women, cis and trans, straight and queer. I kept my tone in class as politically neutral as I could muster, venturing to make a few “safe” statements in the spring. But I knew, somehow, that it wasn’t enough. It’s taken me a long time to emerge from the fear and face it without flinching, but what has awakened me is seeing other women, less privileged women, dealing with that same fear at far greater cost to themselves and with greater consequences than I would face. Surely I cannot leave them to carry this fight alone.

Conversing with young women (and women of color especially) has taught me that in order for them to be safe, I must not be safe. I must take enormous risks for them, because they cannot and I can. I must take up the torch for those of my friends who are in much more vulnerable positions than I, and so I must make the most of my cisgender, able-bodied, straight white privilege and channel it in ways that help people who are not me. Crucially, I must do so without fanfare or acclaim, because acknowledgment of my part in this fight is not the point of fighting. I cannot be silent, and so, I am moving into this next semester with fearlessness, determined to be as judicious and fair, yet vulnerable and honest, as I can possibly be.

This, my friends, is a time for boldness.

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*If you are white and would like an excellent resource, I highly recommend Robin DiAngelo’s What Does It Mean To Be White? which helped me frame and understand my privilege in the classroom.

**If the concept of female “anger” is uncomfortable to you, I urge you to read Laurie Penny’s essay, “Most Women You Know Are Angry–And That’s All Right.”

***You may notice and want to point out that I do not address male students in this post. I absolutely do engage with male students in respectful and open ways and wish to address this, but that’s a completely different post and requires a different kind of focus and vulnerability in light of gender power dynamics. What I’m saying is, stay tuned! I’m already thinking about the next post. 🙂

****Finally, for the sake of disclosure, I do monitor my comments, because this is my private blog. I accept respectful conversation and disagreement, I do not accept trolls or porn bots.

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Filed under Faith, Feminism, Outlook, Teaching

When God Calls: An Academic’s Experience

Almost three weeks ago, my denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, voted not to let major regional divisions decide whether or not they had the authority to ordain female clergy. I won’t waste time on the semantics of this vote, because the vote itself is not the point of this post. Rather, I am thinking in particular about one speech that caused me a lot of inner reflection. It is the speech of a young woman in a position of leadership, a young woman that spoke out against the ordination of women in ministry. It is a speech that has caused me to rethink what we mean by “calling.”

Brief disclaimer: I have decided, for the sake of Christian fellowship and transparency, to include the transcript of her speech, but not identify her or include the YouTube link to this post. I do not wish to shame her publicly, nor do I wish anyone reading this post to shame her publicly. Her opinion is her own, and I respect her right to her privacy and her opinion. If you, however, would be interested in watching the video for your own edification, indicate so in the comments or message me, and I will gladly share the YouTube link at my own discretion.

This is what the young woman said as a rationale for her NO vote to the ordination of female pastors in the Seventh-day Adventist Church:

  1. I want to speak on behalf of thousands whose voices are not being heard in my division. Thousands of NAD members do not agree with women’s ordination, and the initiative bringing it to the front has served not to unify but to polarize this division. As the president of GYC which has the largest annual youth and young adult conference in the Adventist church, I hear from those within the NAD who feel their voices have not been heard or at least not acknowledged. There are those in this division who believe that we should be considerate of the world church and what regional beliefs will mean for our unity rather than feeling the world needs to be considerate of us. And if our division has not acknowledged all the convictions within their own division, how can we anticipate that they will be considerate of the world church family on other issues when we once set a precedent that each locality can decide for itself?
    2. I am a young adult, a young woman, an ethnic minority, and a leader of one of the largest youth movements in Adventism, and Mr. Chair, God has already called me to work for Him and that is all the calling I need. Not all young people, not all young women, not all North Americans, want our church to be divided for the sake of having someone lay their hands on us. And while people recognize my work as the president of a young adult conference, they should give more recognition when I become a wife next February and a mother after that, since the Spirit of Prophecy says that position is higher than the minister in the desk or the king on the throne. We should focus on giving that the dignity and honor that it deserves.I say no to the question, no to dividing the church.

It’s this question of calling that caught my attention. This young woman asserts that, despite her position of leadership, there is no higher calling than becoming a wife and mother for her. Her confidence in God’s will for her life is inspiring, and I applaud her for it.

But does this apply to all women? Should her calling speak for all of us?

That’s the question I find myself engaging to this very day. The implication (given by many people, and not this young woman specifically)—that there is no higher or better calling for a woman than to be a wife and mother—suggests that unless a woman is married and has given birth, she has not fulfilled God’s calling for her. I am uncomfortable with this idea. I know many fulfilled women who do not have children, or who have not married. I myself did not always know if I would marry. And by the time I did, I had already discovered God’s calling for my own life. Yes, I am still a wife. I love my husband. I have grown closer to God as a result of my marriage. But there are many components of my life that I juggle, and it feels odd to chuck one of these pieces in favor of a calling that does not resonate with my own experience.

I’ve talked about the process of getting my PhD on this blog, but I’ve never shared how it all began. This is a story that goes twelve years back, though I had no idea at the time it had begun to unfold. About two days ago, I discovered my Senior English Portfolio, with my collection of writing projects from the course of my senior year. This list I now share, written when I was 18, shows that I had a very specific idea of what my life was going to be like:

Ten Things I Foresee in My Future:

  1. Enjoying new adventures at Andrews University
  2. Travelling all over in my new car
  3. Taking a year off to be a student missionary
  4. Falling in love and marrying a really sweet guy
  5. Graduating with a BA in English
  6. Teaching English at an [Adventist] academy
  7. Having two boys and a girl
  8. Publishing a novel
  9. Living in a two-story house that always needs repair
  10. Growing old with my husband, and enjoying grandkids

At 18, these were my big dreams. I thought in terms of other people: I would teach other kids, I would be a wife, and I would be a mother. These would define my identity and my life.

And then, God called.

My dad took me to my freshman orientation week at Andrews University. He and my mom were so excited for me. Though they are both medical professionals, they have always supported my love of reading, writing, and analysis, and they were excited that I was embarking on an English degree—a world so far removed from theirs. At the parent/student lunch, we were introduced to the Dean of Students, whose husband had been my dad’s dean at Loma Linda University Medical College. She jokingly remarked, “When you get your PhD, you can come back here and teach!” I remember laughing politely and turning to my dad after she left. “I’m not going to get my PhD,” I told him.

My dad looked at me and, with all seriousness, responded, “Don’t count it out.”

Those four words would mark the shift to a future I never even knew existed.

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I had never considered an academic career, and it wasn’t until my junior year in college that I actually returned to that moment and asked myself, “Is this what I should be doing with my life?” In the midst of rousing discussions of John Dryden (no easy feat), Aphra Behn, and Jane Austen in my English Literature II survey, I began to see a new idea and a new purpose.

And yet I decided to be safe and continue on my English education course. I determined to finish my degree as if I was going to teach high school, with an option for graduate school, if I really wanted to.

I forged on with student teaching, on the fence about what to do with my life. But that rigorous semester was fraught with the struggles of balancing preconceived ideas with the realities of high school education, questioning God’s plan for my life, and the simple discouragement from being mentally and emotionally drained constantly. I cried every Sunday night, because that meant school was starting on Monday (The Chancellor can attest to this—he and I had been dating by this point, and he often had to pep me up before the week even started). I had to face reality: this was not my calling. I returned to the fragile, yet growing, idea of going to graduate school, and I decided to take a leap of faith.

I spent money I did not have on the Graduate Record Exam and four MA program in English applications. I asked my professors for last-minute recommendations, which they all very graciously provided. And I waited. After two immediate rejections, I received the miraculous email from Western Michigan University. I was going to get my Master’s Degree in English.

When I began my program, I knew immediately that I had found my calling. I was stimulated by interesting, challenging discussions with my colleagues. I was energized by the diverse capabilities of the students in my classroom. On my worst day, I never felt any regret that I had turned away from my high school dream. I was called.

But at the end of my first year at WMU, I fully began to realize the implications of my calling. If God was guiding me towards a PhD, that would mean a LOT more work. It would mean spending money I didn’t have to retake the GRE to get a better score, spending more money I didn’t have on graduate school applications, getting rejected again, and then, at least four, if not five, years of school, which included qualifying exams and a dissertation to write and defend.

That summer, I had two big decisions to make. First, whether to apply for PhD programs. And second, what to do about my relationship with The Chancellor. I haven’t written too much about the US part of our marriage, for the sake of his privacy and mine, but this actually became really integral to my calling. He had just received his own calling. After finishing his MA at Andrews—where we had met in a young adult literature class—he had gotten an interview from a day school outside a large Midwestern city. I was in agony. I didn’t think there were ANY programs in the area. I began to think that I would have to make a choice: go forward with The Chancellor and give up my calling, or give up The Chancellor. I hated both ideas.

A lot of people in my personal or church life would have told me to get married and forget the PhD. After all, I was 25, not getting younger, and not at an Adventist school anymore.

Several academic friends and colleagues would have told me to go forward with my career. If The Chancellor did not fit in, he didn’t fit in. After all, this was my career.

The Chancellor had his own say: “If you give up the PhD to marry me, I’m breaking up with you.” This was perhaps the most miraculous intervention I’ve ever had. God did not present me with the “really sweet guy” I yearned for at 18. I mean, The Chancellor is a good and kind man, and yes, he can very sweet. But he’s also tough as nails, an ardent feminist, and a believer in standing up for what’s right and following God’s leading in your life. He’s the guy I needed to have the confidence in God’s calling for me, and for him, as well.

So, in the biggest leap of faith we both took, we decided to make it work. He would accept the job. I would apply to every PhD program relevant to my field (at the time 18th and 19th century British literature) within a three-hour driving radius (as it turns out, there were 11 such programs). And then we would get married in the summer of 2011. We were in this with God—together.

When God calls, it’s really scary. You make choices. You make sacrifices. You make it work.

I was accepted into Marquette University’s PhD program in English, which meant a 90-mile one-way drive. One of my dearest childhood friends and her best friend opened up their home to me, which meant I had a place to live during the week. But that meant being away from my brand-new husband for part of the week.

It was a wrenching and sometimes very stressful sacrifice. My first semester of my PhD was awful, in ways I will not expand on here. But I survived it, and I discovered the field I was meant to be in my second semester. From there, I began to find a rhythm in living two lives at the same time, of balancing my academic life with my teaching, my work life with my personal life, my marriage, and my friends. It was not easy, and it’s still not. Not everyone can do this. Not everyone wants to do this. Not everyone was called to do this. But I was.

Not every day of my teaching career at the college level has been magical by any means. But even on my worst day, I can’t even think of doing anything else. I have found the calling God made for me. I balance it with my daily life, and with my marriage. It is in my marriage that my calling has been strengthened. The Chancellor bounces ideas off me, and I off him. We read some of the same books, provide each other with inspiration, and challenge each other. I could not have done this alone. I am grateful that The Chancellor acknowledges my calling, and I his. We strengthen each other and glorify God together.

Fulfilling God’s calling for my life has meant research and teaching. It has entailed me to use my mind and challenge preconceived ideas with new ones. My calling has asked me to consider new perspectives and possibilities, to read books that challenge my Western ideas of thinking. It has asked me to accept students whose views are not my own and to treat them with dignity and respect. It has asked me to spend summer hours on my dissertation, to forgo pleasure in order to fulfill my role for God. And it has asked me to be open to communicating those ideas in my life, in my church, and in my work.

When God calls, and when you answer, there are beautiful moments beyond compare. I cannot describe the moment in which my name was called, and I walked across an auditorium stage to receive my diploma and have my hood draped around me. It all pales to the moment I heard my family and friends cheering loudly and shouting my name as I smiled into the light. The dream God had given me had come true on May 17, 2015.

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And it’s true to this day. While I do not have a tenure-track job at this moment (I’m on the market, so I hope to be employed full-time next year!), I do have teaching to look forward to. I have faith that God will provide me with the employment to fulfill my calling for Him. I have training, a mind He has prepared, a curiosity to seek knowledge and use it to make others’ lives richer and better.

When God calls…He changes your life forever. But only if you let Him do it. You can choose to follow the path you think is acceptable based on ideas of tradition, or you can accept His calling for you. Sometimes, it is that “traditional” path to which He leads you. And other times, as in the case of a teenaged girl with a third-grade education, He leads you beyond the boundaries of your home to reach classrooms, churches, ministries, individuals hungry for Him. When God calls…what will your answer be?

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Filed under Beginnings, Doctorate, Faith, Family, Feminism, Marriage, Teaching

Why I’m Staying

I’ve tried to keep myself as anonymous as possible on this blog, particularly since future employers will be Googling me to see what I am all about. But today, I am unveiling a bit of anonymity to talk about the university at the local level, because it is symptomatic of a larger issue. And it forms the heart of this post.

While I am not a resident of Wisconsin, I go to school here–not at the UW system, but a private school. As it turns out, I am actually being protected by the un-unionized private school more than I thought, because now all UW schools are under fire. Governor Scott Walker has unveiled a glorious new plan (read: sarcasm here): cut funding to the entire state University of Wisconsin system by $300 million, and provide $200 million so that the Milwaukee Bucks can have a new stadium. The sheer chutzpah of this plan boggles my mind, because you just know that of the $300 million getting cut, it will not be administrators and six-figure salaries, nor sports. Majors and programs are going to get slashed left and right, which means fewer academic jobs for an already gutted profession.

I just can’t even.

And then, Gov. Walker defended his brilliant plan. I’ve linked to the article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here, but I’d like to leave with this quote. It’s the money shot, in my opinion:

“In the future, by not having the limitation of things like shared governance, they might be able to make savings just by asking faculty and staff to consider teaching one more class a semester,” Walker told reporters at the Madison hotel. “Things like that could have tremendous impact on making sure we have an affordable education for all of our UW campuses at the same time we maintain a high-quality education.”

It is clear that Gov. Walker has absolutely no idea what goes into preparing, teaching, and grading a course, not to mention the committee work, the mentoring, and the research each faculty member conducts on his or her personal time, otherwise, he would not be asking them to add an additional course for no additional pay.

I just can’t even. It’s insulting, and it tells me that my PhD, which I am soon to receive, and which took years of toil, time, and MONEY, is of absolutely no monetary or intellectual value. It makes me so f**king angry sometimes.

But I’m not here to rant. Instead, two peculiar insights emerged this morning.

The first came when I was packing up my lunch. What if, I thought, I’ve been sent here for a time and purpose–like Esther? It was a momentous insight, one that I probably very much needed to gain. I’ve never second-guessed my love of writing and literature, higher education, or the desire to teach others the subjects that help us understand our world in ideological and abstract ways. But I have definitely questioned the sanity of it. I’ve spent years trying not to read thought pieces basically accusing me of being quixotic, of irresponsibly throwing away my economic future for a shadow, a dream. It’s been disheartening. Instead, here are the words that entered my heart this morning:

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NKJV).

Such a time as this. Yes. Perhaps when I felt the call to be an academic, I was meant to enter the storm, not prosper in the calm. Weirdly, I find it encouraging.

The second insight came when one of my students, a total rockstar, had his meeting with me today. Tuesday, we watched Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary Blackfish, which chronicles the sad, sad story of orcas in captivity at SeaWorld, and the violence that has emerged when humans collide with such magnificent and pent-up creatures. He showed me screen captures that he had taken from SeaWorld’s website, which included accusations of a documentary being one-sided (really. You don’t say), and the idea that there may be no zoos or aquariums is just crazy. My student said, of the former, “it’s not like you show Hitler’s side in a documentary about Auschwitz” (I lol’ed at that, but it’s totally true), and of the latter, “If we had things always the way they were, you could make that case about civil rights. And equality.”

My heart grew three sizes today. This freshman in college is making an argument supporting civil rights and equality, and it all started with a discussion about Blackfish. That’s why we need college. That’s why we need teachers who are creative and passionate and innovative.

And it’s likely why I will spend years toiling as a poorly-paid adjunct. Because I feel the need for a good education. Because I had a good education. Because our nation’s children and young adults deserve a quality education.

And that’s why I’m staying.

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Filed under Doctorate, Faith, Teaching

The Fault in Our Nerves

I just got back from the movie theater, and it was a profoundly shocking experience. How can a film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars be so memorable as to obliterate the movie from my memory immediately? Well, for starters, we never got to the end.

My friends F and A and I decided that since we had all read the book, it would be fun to go together. F’s husband J and The Chancellor decided to see A Million Ways to Die in the West, a parody of a Western–so what transpired did not even faze that theater.We were only about five-ten minutes away from the end of the film, when we heard loud popping noises coming from what we thought was the theater next door. It’s pretty typical to hear a boom or two from the theater, especially an action or drama, but it kept happening. The theater began buzzing, as people began looking at each other, the movie completely forgotten. F, A, and I were not sure what was happening.

And then, it happened. A young woman, completely frightened, started screaming, and bolted. What ensued was a theater full of teens and adults pouring out of their seats in droves, exiting the theater and jamming the exits. I didn’t know what was happening. Was there a shooter on campus? Were those gunshots? Was The Chancellor  okay? F, A, and I looked at each other as people began cramming the aisles, and our training kicked in. We crawled down and curled up behind the seats, waiting. Waiting. I felt calm and completely disconnected from my body, my adrenaline surging. I thought of very little except a prayer, that I would be calm for whatever happened next, and that The Chancellor would be okay.

It felt like forever, but was probably about the three longest minutes of my life, when several theater officials came in and told us that it was okay. That a hotel down the street had decided to let off fireworks in celebration (of what? we were not sure. A wedding, perhaps?), which caused the loud popping noises. The movie had been paused at this point, and the house lights slowly came on.

As we sat up slowly, processing what had just not happened, I began to cry. The fears and anxieties that surround us when we hear of these shootings, of the violence that sneaks up in our world, had pressed on my heart for a moment, and my mind was filled with images.

Of broken bodies, of blood, of guns, of hate, of terror, of fear.

It was too much.

While we were down, A had quietly called 911, and then explained about the fireworks the minute the theater officials came in. We glanced around the theater, and in the crammed full arena of about 300, only about 20 of us had stayed. The rest had panicked and fled. Had this terror been real, most of them would be injured or dead. That is frightening to me, truly more so than the actual realness of the event.

I am glad that F (a teacher), A (a chaplain), and I (another teacher) let our training and logic kick in, but I am sad that so many followed the herd.

It’s a sign of our times, that when we hear fireworks, we think of something much worse. We panic and flee, and risk trampling each other on our way out the door.

I’m still in a bit of shock, to be honest. But I have resolved a few things: first, to talk to my supervisor about getting some training for incoming teachers this fall and to reinforce safety protocols should this ever happen. And second, to tell my students this story, to teach them not to panic and run and risk their own lives in the process. To be safe and smart in scary situations.

Needless to say, I remember almost nothing about the film itself.

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Filed under Family, Life and Living, Movies, Teaching

Wanted: Your book opinion

Hi, friends. I’m going to buy a book, and I need your help deciding what shape this book should take. By that, I mean: Nook file or hard copy? I’ll set out the facets of my particular dilemma, so you can give an informed opinion. Though a shoot-from-the-hip opinion would also be helpful. 🙂

Okay, here’s the deal. I just finished reading History and Refusal by Stephen N. doCarmo, a fantastic and excellent book on the relationships between consumerism and postmodernism in American social politics, as seen in contemporary American novels. It is one of the densest but best setups of the various debates raging within postmodern literary theory and is going to become an absolute MUST for my dissertation prospectus. Obviously, I need to own a copy so I can desist from marking up my university library’s copy, right? ALSO: the introduction sets up this debate fantastically, and I feel like it would be a perfect companion to a contemporary American class or an intro to literary theory class (either of which I *might* teach, if I’m very lucky in my career). Plus, the chapters on American Psycho and White Noise have some of the most interesting critical analysis on each of the texts and would again make perfect teaching companions for these novels.

So…in checking out Amazon: I could buy a new hardcover for $45, with a used book running about $47 at the cheapest. Google Play does not have an ebook for sale, and the hardcopies direct me to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble has a hardcover for $53, with a Nook file for $30. Ebay has a used copy for $37 (I think), and Alibris.com has a used copy for $37.

I’m honestly tempted to buy the Nook file. I could have it uploaded to my computer AND my Nook. Plus, my bookshelves are double-packed already. Actually, make that bookshelf. My cheapo grad school bookshelf I bought from a shall-not-be-named Stuffmart Consumerist Conglomerate was just not going to survive the move to our new apartment. My Sister and I tore it down with shocking ease, and so now I have a stack of about nine beer boxes sitting in an empty space where a bookcase will eventually stand. So, I’m not *exactly* suffering for books.

BUT: if I buy the Nook file, have I then gypped myself of being able to utilize for my students? My current graduate institution has a fantastic system called ARES, in which you can provide the chapter/book/article, they upload it to a protected site, and they pay the royalties so there’s no copyright infringement. Of course, every institution is different, and some just want you to have the password protected site like D2L or blackboard. My thought is, if I buy a hardcover, then I can make a PDF or hard copies to then share with my students in the appropriate and copyright-appropriate channels. But if the library has a copy of the book, I could just use the library’s copy, right? Of course, assuming the library has a copy of said book and I don’t have to resort to ILL (which is fantastic, but takes time for the requests to be fulfilled).

I’m *clearly* overthinking this, but I want to throw my money at the best long-term solution. So tell me: what is that solution?

 

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Filed under Books, Doctorate, Teaching

The Extroverted Academic

I’ve seen a lot of books, social media, and clever analogies devoted to introverts. And with good reason: introverts are deeply intricate, mysterious individuals who can (but not always) keep personality traits close to them until they feel safe enough to be themselves around trusted friends. They are fascinating, exciting people of great depth, wit, and character. I should know: I married an introvert, and many of my family members are introverts, as well. In fact, so are many of my friends and colleagues. I do greatly enjoy reading about the care and feeding of introverts, because it reminds me that Not Everyone Is Like Me. Did I forget to mention? I’m an extrovert with a  capital-E. Really, in my mind it reads more like EXTROVERT!!!! but you get the idea. By the way: if  you’re not terribly familiar with an extrovert, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert yourself, I highly recommend reading this blog on The Care and Feeding of Your Extrovert from an extrovert’s point of view. Rowan, an extrovert, does a great job of explaining the complexity of what has often been seen as a “simple” personality trait.

When contrasted to the many, many introverts in my life, I realize how different I can be and seem. Especially in my profession. As my faithful readers know,  I am a doctoral student in English Literature, and currently teaching courses for the university at which I am enrolled. Many (but certainly not ALL) academics I know tend to be introverts , and if you think about the nature of academia in English Studies departments, it kind of makes sense. Our work involves, with a lot of teaching, a lot of research, introspection, and connection to ideas, theories, and insights. To generalize: a lot of thinking and reading. By stereotypical standards, introverts would thus seem to be a perfect fit.

As an extrovert, I find myself fighting stereotypes over both academia and extroverts. You see, some individuals are guilty of setting up false dichotomies about personality types, with introverts depicting extroverts as shallow, unfocused butterflies who flit from one shiny thing to the next and suck the life out of everything with their obnoxious energy, and extroverts depicting introverts as withdrawn, unfriendly, and selfish. Neither of these stereotypes is fair. But, I’ve yet to see the outpouring of literature that accurately describes extroverts in the way that studies have churned out books about introverts. I sometimes secretly feel that though we perpetuate the myth that the world is made of extroverts, my own life experiences has shown me that it’s just not true.

If you think about the Myers-Briggs Type Indictator (MBTI), you will realize that extroversion is one of eight personality indicators, and those who identify as extroverts come in eight combination types: ESTP, ESFP, ENFP, ENTP, ESTJ, ESFJ, ENFJ, ENTJ. While I often test between ENFP and ENFJ, I really manifest as an ENFJ. The Myers-Briggs website describes an ENFJ as “warm, empathetic, responsive and responsible. Highly attuned to the emotions, needs, and motivations of others. Find potential in everyone, want to help others fulfill their potential. May act as catalysts for individual and group growth. Loyal, responsive to praise and criticism. Sociable, facilitate others in a group, and provide inspiring leadership.” Thus, I am less likely to be “logical” and task-oriented than an ESFJ, but I am highly attuned to the potential of others. In fact, the ENFJ personality type is often described as Teacher, which I think is a fitting nod to my profession.

Academic myths that we perpetuate tend to value the individual over the community, the intellectual thinker over the sharer, and knowledge over people. If you look over the many blogs and articles written about the current state of academia (which I do not urge you to do–it is rather grim right now), you will see that the bottom line and the tenure line takes precedence over building the sort of idealistic communities that extroverts tend to yearn after.

And with these two perceptions, I sometimes find it very daunting to be an extrovert in academia. What follows is a guide that has helped me articulate who I am in my professional environment. If you are yourself an extroverted academic, or know one, I hope this will provide some clarity and insight. Disclaimer: this list is not to be taken as an insult to introverts or a poor-me manifesto, but an exploration of the joys and challenges of my personality type within my particular occupation. This is not a one-size-fits-all list, but rather, a guide that expresses my particular manifestation of extraversion:

1. Human interaction is a basic emotional need for me. I am fueled by my relationships with my friends and colleagues. This does not automatically mean that I looooove going to conferences (they’re just okay) or am awesome at schmoozing (I’m not, and for reasons I’ll articulate in a little bit); rather, I am fueled by my interactions with my colleagues and peers. I am energized when several of us get together and share ideas/stories/critiques.

2. It’s true that I love to talk and will share my ideas, especially if I find you interested and receptive. But I also enjoy listening and hearing your ideas. Basically, if you give me a teaser or introduce yourself in the conversation, I will welcome you with open arms and shut up attentively. But I am not a mind reader. I don’t know if you’re secretly resenting my seeming domination of the conversation, or if you’re just being a good listener (though your body language can certainly help me make that distinction). If you keep listening and I have something to say, I’ll keep talking. But if I have nothing to say, I won’t say it. I don’t just gabble on because I love to hear my voice–I enjoy hearing yours, too.

3. I genuinely like teaching. I’m not posturing when I say that I really like my students, and I find it to be my calling. As an ENFJ, I am peculiarly attuned to the potential that other people house within themselves. Therefore, I make it my mission to help my students unleash that potential. I find a batch of poor grades as much a reflector of my teaching as I do on my students’ performance (though circumstances could tweak that mindset, certainly). Therefore, I find it terribly hurtful when I’ve had colleagues suggest that I am not “mean enough” to my students or that I “give to0 many As.” As someone who puts her heart into making her courses concise, understandable, and meaningful, I find such suggestions denigrate the way I relate to my mentees, and to their potential abilities.

4. I will not be shattered if you offer constructive criticism or legitimate concerns that you can back with specific examples. I *will,* however, be devastated if you are a jerk behind my back, if you attack me for no good reason, or speak badly about me when I have given you no reason to. I have been at the receiving end of backhanded criticism, and I spent HOURS trying to decipher what I’d done. I analyzed and second-guessed everything in my interactions with a few of my colleagues. In the end, I had to conclude that it wasn’t my fault, and all I could do was be polite and respectful to my peers. But I have never forgotten those comments, and I never will. And I think about everything I say before I speak to those individuals.

5. I am a social person, and I realize that I am intense, and can come off too strong. So, I try to control myself, and can often seem shallow because I offer up small talk as a “warm-up.” Listen, I am more than happy to discuss auteur theory with you. But I am equally happy to discuss the Kardashians (and it’s true, I know way too much about that family). See #1. It’s just that I’m afraid to overwhelm you with my intensity. Which brings me to…

6. Though I naturally gravitate towards human interactions, it comes with a nasty companion: constant, social anxiety that can sometimes overcome my joyful embrace of humanity altogether. If you are cold or unresponsive, I am (usually) quick to recognize that and may end the conversation as soon as I can think of it–this may make conversation awkwardly abrupt. I may become afraid that I am boring you and get out of a conversation, even if I’m enjoying it. I may be afraid to approach you, simply because I don’t want to seem like I am foisting myself upon you. My need for human interaction is linked to my need to be accepted and nurtured. Thus, I can’t let some things slide as easily as my more introverted companions. I overthink conversations constantly and cringe at all my mistakes. Thus, I sometimes find it awkward and difficult to schmooze with academics, particularly if I am afraid that I am going to be judged because I like Jane Austen (and seriously, the academic backlash against Ms. Austen is unbelievable, but that will have to be another blog post), or because I listen to Lady Gaga unironically. And not to hate on academics, but seriously, we can be a judgy, pretentious bunch sometimes.

7. Having a cheerful…no, let’s be honest, perky…demeanor often works against me. I am a small-framed, white, blonde, feminine-looking woman with a high voice who dresses in bright colors, and often wears dresses and flip-flops in the summer. I smile A LOT. Kids, I don’t mean to be a Pollyanna. I’m just in love with life, and if it’s a good day, I have no compunction about showing it. Therefore, I have been seen as fluffy, not smart, an airhead, you name it. Being treated this way by men is a grim reminder that the glass ceiling is alive and well. And yet, if I am assertive or aggressive in defending my theory/reading/ideas, I am then called a bitch. I work hard, and my appearance or demeanor does not (or should not) overshadow the seriousness with which I approach my occupation.

8. Sometimes, I become lonely in toxic academic environments. In places that value the individual and unintentionally reward backbiting and other nasty behaviors, I withdraw when I realize that I am not going to be appreciated. I’m not shy, and I’m not a snob. But I can recognize where I will be hurt or unappreciated, and so I take measures to protect myself. But then I suffer, because I crave a nourishing, balanced community made of accepting and loving people with whom I am an equal.

9. Despite some of the posts that jokingly assume that extroverts see a book as a paperweight or a doorstop (really, Tumblr? Really???), I enjoy reading. I’m not a nonstop party, and I like my down time, too. I find that reading nourishes and develops other sides of me. I can sit for hours with a book and be transported into other worlds and ideas. I just might text someone throughout the process, though. Because if I’m engrossed by something, then I have to share it.

10. I can commit to things, and I can follow through on some of my grandiose ideas. It’s true that I’m not the best planner or the most logistical of thinkers. But that doesn’t mean I flit carelessly from one idea to the next. I stumbled upon my dissertation idea last spring, and it’s stuck with me ever since. I’ve had to change/abandon a few related ideas, but the overall topic has remained the same, and I’ve had no hesitation about sticking with my commitment. On that note: yes, extroverts can and do commit. I’m not quitting my PhD program any time soon in favor of becoming a basket weaver or a yoga instructor (can I get a sarcasm font for that?).

11. I love to share. Really. If I have a great idea, then I share it. If something works, I want to talk about it. I’m not backhandedly suggesting that your teaching is bad, I’m just sharing what has worked. And, in fact, I will also share my failures and frustrations with you. In that respect, I am a sort of open book. I’m just as open about my failures as I am about my successes, and I will be the first to beat myself up about them.

How do you see extroverts, if you are an introvert? How do you see yourself, if you are an extrovert? Please feel free to share–I find personalities fascinating, and I’d really love to have more dialogue about extraversion, especially in light of the explosion of texts about introverts.

 

 

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Filed under Doctorate, Outlook, Personality, State of mind, Teaching

Broski Beach: Or, Ode to a Broski

Today was the second day of my teaching semester. My first class is comprised of very nice, pleasant, tired, and monochromatic people. I can live with that. They may not be lively in large-class discussion, but they do their work and put in the effort. The second class has all the personality. ALL. OF. IT. Today felt a bit like the Breakfast Club: jock, manic pixie dream girl, burnout, you get it. And let’s not forget the several broskis who made themselves known today.

What is a broski, you may ask? And when I tell you, you might respond, WHY is a broski? Well, gentle reader, pull out a chair and get your popcorn. Because, in the immortal words of Garfunkel and Oates (an awesome girl band) this party just took a turn…for the douche.

Let’s first distinguish our specimen, the broski, from his oft-mistaken cousin, the douche (or douchebag). They both often favor clothing by Ed Hardy, baseball caps, and their abs/overall physique. But while a broski is just a bromantic dude gone wild, the douche is irrevocably in love…with himself:

Exhibit A: A dash of hipster, a lot of douche.

A douche is obnoxious and self-loving to the point of utter, oblivious destruction:

Exhibit B: The Situation helps us gaze into his own navel by continually lifting up his shirt.

More seriously, a douche may tear at the very threads of our civilized and genteel society:

Exhibit C: 2012’s answer to 1999’s Nick Carter.

A broski, on the other hand, is a bro who loves his bros. Bromantically, of course (that is, straight guy love that’s unashamed of how much he loves his dudes). Loud. Proud. Unafraid to admit it. He also loves the ladies. His clothes. His body. His team. His car. And then, himself. A broski CAN be douchey:

Ryan Lochte, his brand-new Olympic medal, and his classic diamond grill. In the words my sister, “Wut.”

Or, he can be endearing:

How you doin’?

But a broski is always obnoxious. He may want to sit with his bros during class. He may be afraid to say something, lest he fall out of favor with his bros (this happened last year). He may come to class wearing his gym clothes, or better yet, a tank top (this happened today). He may forget to bring his textbook (today), and he may also ask his teacher about it loudly (also today). He may ask if there are any books in your English class (today). He may even start clapping when his bro gives a good answer in class (today).

What, then, is a genteel reader to do with oneself? You may understandably react with dismay:

Seriously, Turk is SO TIRED of all The Todd’s sequined thongs.

Or you can just enjoy the show. Write their gems of wisdom down to amuse yourself later. Share with family and friends. Watch the hilariously bad music videos they create. Or, re-create book/movie titles, substituting the word “broski” for important phrases. Allow me to share examples that The Chancellor, my sister, and I came up with:

The Broski Strikes Back (me)

The Fellowship of the Broski (The Chancellor)

For Whom the Broski Tolls (sister)

Broski Mountain (me)

The Wrath of Broski (The Chancellor)

And our personal favorites:

My Little Broski (The Chancellor)

No Country for Old Broskis (me)

Broskis of the Caribbean [subtitled Come Get Me, Mon!]

As you furiously try to find your own movie titles (Requiem for a Broski, anyone?), just remember: broskis are people too. They just want to love their dudes. In a dudely manner, of course. They need proper care. Boundaries. And love. True bromance can make a good man out of a broski. At the heart of every broski is a bromance waiting to be fulfilled by his fellow bro:

A better romance than Twilight. A true love story for our time.

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Filed under Celebrity, Culture, Teaching