It's Wednesday, but the University says it's Monday so everything is flipped over. Because they want the teaching schedule to be a certain way (1 hour and 20 minute classes across the board twice a week with Wednesday as a more open day) they have to flip the schedule from time to time to make the New York state teaching hour requirements. It's an odd move considering most of our students do not choose to work during their college experience, they have to. Or they don't work for money - they are an important caregiver to a much older or much younger family member while others labor to keep the family solvent. It's also something that I'm sure will dissolve as a marker of a bygone era as the university system as we know it begins to collapse. We will see this happen in our lifetimes.
Thoughtlessness governs the university at all levels. Since it was raining a professor and a staff member cuddled up right next to the door to the building to smoke. These same people will decry the thoughtlessness of all sorts of laws and political decisions, but they, of course, are the best judges of where and when they should cause direct harm to others. I work at a University; I expect nothing less. Everyone knows what's right and best so they don't need to think that critically about their actions in or outside of the classroom.
it's really Wednesday so nobody is here. Nothing works right. The internet barely functions. Pretty sure I remember reading some memos about the massive internet improvement work that was done this summer. Can't access them though on the wireless that doesn't work. It seems to get better, but I'm also working on some class stuff that doesn't need the internet. I used to feel my work in debate was a respite from the classroom where I could get nothing good done. Now I feel the opposite way - my work in debate keeps me away from the good work that I could do in the classroom.
I think this is the part in the story where I should just walk away from the village, out into the woods and snow and wait. Metaphorically of course. It's time to hang it up in the realm of teaching a debate program. I do sort of love my job, but not a lot of it.
I sort of love my job because it contains the promise that I could work along side people who want to do some thinking. The hard work of thinking. Like, reading a book or two together and talking about what it implies. This is something though that the university promises, yet delivers a morass of requirements, temporal obligations, and financial jealousies into the equation to keep people away from such work.
Such work is not easy to measure - much easier to measure forms and exams graded and things like that. Hard to measure people sitting around drinking coffee discussing some notes or a book. This is tough. It's like crafting an alternative grammar, and trying to sell it with arguments, paragraphs, and sentences written in the grammar of the failing order.
It's tough for students to accept that as work as well. They would rather be told what to do in a very simplistic way and then be told they did it well. Easy to measure. When i approach my classes and my work in debate with the "don't know" attitude, it doesn't work too well.
On Tuesday I went to a session organized by some students to practice and improve debating. None of them wanted to speak. They wanted to be re-assured. There was no desire to do the hard work of thinking, making mistakes, diving deep, any of that. Granted, I suggested a difficult task that required an embrace of uncertainty and creativity. This is not what they have spent their lives in school doing.
Is this what I am making? Or is this what I am fighting against in my teaching?
Is there a way to produce a recognizable opposition to the dominant discourse of work? When actual mindful work appears to be invaluable, what then? Handouts? Simplistic formulas? Lots of lying saying, "that's perfectly done," when you know that all of the good research, scholarship and thought in your field all conclusively say, "it depends?"
How do I run a debate program when the students only seek praise for being already good at something that it will take decades to master? That they may never master?
I sort of love my job because I can ask these questions. I can play with the dissolution of the debate program - something I have spent 10 years working on - and I can marshall reasons for and against the dissolution.
The university will collapse because of the reasons I see in my debate program - students who want to go through motions to be praised, certified, or endorsed. Nobody wants uncertainty. Nobody wants to explore. Nobody wants to read. Nobody wants to do the difficult work of thinking. Nobody wants to be a "don't know" person. They would rather be comfortable.
I think that large, non departmental programs like writing centers and the transformation of things like debate teams into debate centers/programs are the future. Those will continue to live long after the department/degree/credit hour has become useless.
I wonder what my job will be like then. We will live through this change, that is certain.
I also sort of love my job because of the surprises. Tomorrow is the first new debate student meeting. A time to try again, to start over, to learn from your mistakes as a teacher. It begins again, again.