Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More craptastic advice from Chronicle careers

I have a lot of respect for this person as a scholar, and she has oodles more conference-going experience than I have.

That said, I haven't read such bad conference presentation advice anywhere. In the age of the collective web, knowledge production is changing, and people who read conference papers don't get it. Why are you presenting your paper, anyway? Are you merely showing off your research? Or are you actually trying to help me learn something about--and buy into the significance of--this topic you're passionate about?

Step out from behind the podium. Interact with your audience. You have 20 minutes (keep to your time limit!) to get the audience excited about your research and to bounce some ideas off of scholars in your field. Take advantage of it. Drop the formality and connect with people.

If you must persist in the old ways, if you present with your hands at your side, gripping the podium, as this scholar suggests, and you're reading your paper at me. . . I'm going to do one or two of the following: (a) leave the room; (b) blog about the crappy panel I just attended; or (c) get snarky on Twitter about your poor presentation skills.

Get with it, folks. Reading papers from behind a podium is old school (in a very, very bad way).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

In which I do everything ass-backwards

It's time to decorate and dye Easter eggs. So I:

1. Spread newspaper on the table.
2. Pull out the food coloring and read the egg-dying directions.
3. Get out the teacups and put vinegar in each one.
4. Realize that the directions reminded me that the water in which the eggs sit to dye needs to be boiling hot.
5. Put on water for egg dyeing.
6. Realize that eggs need to be hard-boiled.
7. Confirm with the interwebs that I do, indeed, know how to boil an egg. (I don't.)
8. Run over to fridge and pull out eggs so I can put them in water BEFORE it begins to get warm (too late).
9. Let eggs boil over after they sit in a rolling boil for way too long.

Chances that I'll burn myself, my toddler, or my husband in the next steps of this endeavor? I'd say pretty damn high.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What's been on my mind

Babies.

Babies.

And oh. . .did I mention? Babies.

I've written before about our ambivalence about having another child. On the one hand, we very much want Lucas to have a sibling, and we love him so much that we'd like to have another one just like him. (As if that could happen.)

On the other hand, we don't have the extra $1,000+ to keep a future 6-month-old in daycare, diapers, and formula. I know, I know--people work around that. We don't have to use daycare (there goes Mr. Trillwing's sanity!), we can use cloth diapers, and I could breastfeed (if breastfeeding didn't rank among the worst experiences of my life). Yes, we could all be ideal parents if we had the world enough and time (and insensitive nipples).

I also am ambivalent about being pregnant again. I'm in the worst shape of my life, and being pregnant wouldn't help. I want to be fit again, and I'm taking steps (literally--I wear a pedometer now to keep track) to get there. I'd also prefer not to repeat the whole sleep deprivation thing.

We're leaning more and more, therefore, toward being a one-child family. This makes more sense economically and environmentally.

Of course, what makes just as much sense environmentally is to adopt a child already on the planet.

So while we haven't made any final decisions (we're leaving the door open to another pregnancy, for example), we're also beginning to look behind Door #2, Adoption. We're cautious because Mr. Trillwing was adopted at 14 months and was already pretty messed up (no offense, Sweetie!), and we'd be looking to adopt a child younger than Lucas, but not necessarily by much.

I think because of our financial situation and my last little shreds of desire to have another baby of my own (despite my ambivalence about actually being pregnant and breastfeeding, I melt when I see babies), we won't take steps toward adoption--the first step apparently is to take a class--for at least six months to a year. But Mr. Trillwing will be 46 in April, and he feels his new-parent clock ticking down.

Earlier this month, I thought I was pregnant, as I had many of the symptoms. Maybe I was pregnant--who knows? But when I found out I wasn't pregnant, I was at once disappointed and relieved.

Babies. (ugh!)

Babies. (squeal!)

I'm in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts--but I lack negative capability on this one, folks--too much irritable reaching after fact and reason.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

If I didn't already have enough to do. . .

. . .I would totally jump on board the 100 Strangers Project. (Maybe I'll make it a project on my lunch breaks on campus. . .)

Via BlogHer, I came across this Flickr photo set by an adjunct faculty member, Julie Akers, participating in the project. It is awesome, and each photo comes with comments from the photographer about the subject.

You can see more photos from other participants in the 100 Strangers Project on the group's Flickr page.

Whither Museums--More White Galleries or More Civic Discourse?

(Cross-posted at BlogHer)

When you think about a museum, what image comes immediately to mind? Is it of people walking solemnly, individually or in small groups, through a quiet, white-walled gallery of carefully spaced artwork or artifacts? Or do you think of a children's museum, with kids running wild through scaled-down exhibits that encourage interactivity and play? While still keeping the concept of "museum" in mind, can you even imagine a space between these two extremes--one where adults who are strangers to one another interact--or even play--with one another around serious issues?

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to try to think such a place into being. I was fortunate to attend the "Museums and Civic Discourse" symposium at John F. Kennedy University in Berkeley. The room was packed with some West Coast and national leaders in the field--really some amazing women there (and a few men, too). The symposium sought to imagine what civic discourse in museums might look like, as well as brainstorm ways that museums can advance civic discourse beyond their walls. The day also was a celebration of the publication of the museums and civic discourse issue of the journal Museums and Social Issues.

Some of the issues the symposium raised for me:

* What do spaces of civic engagement look like, and with what kinds of institutions should we be collaborating?
* What do museum civic engagement and advocacy look like in an age of culture wars?
* How do we build conversations and discussions into civic discourse?
* How can I get more museum folks on board with social media?

I examine each of these issues in greater depth in a post at Museum Blogging. What I don't talk about enough in that post is the uneasiness that some folks in the room had with imagining the dramatic changes that might be awaiting the 21st-century museum. As an academic, I've come at the museum field from a popular science slant--I have worked in a science center's education, exhibition, and evaluation programs; written a dissertation on the history of natural history museums; organized a large exhibition of insects, reptiles, and amphibians for the California State Fair; assisted with other hands-on science programs; and taught museum history and theory to graduate students.

My experiences in museum studies--along with a Ph.D. in cultural studies, my current position exploring progressive higher ed pedagogies, teaching museum studies at JFK University in Berkeley, and my forays into the blogosphere of ideas--have radicalized me. So when someone raises the possibility of making museums a place where new or beloved ideas are not just presented, but rather debated and questioned, it makes perfect sense to me that visitors, rather than only curators and exhibit designers, should have opportunities to make their voices heard. After all, many museums like to pride themselves on being community institutions--why not let the community participate fully in the the life of the museum?

There are plenty of reasons museums would--and perhaps should--resist such changes. After all, some museums--particularly natural history museums--are havens for highly skilled and educated scientific researchers, much as art and history museums are intellectual and vocational homes for Ph.D.s in the fine arts and humanities who work as curators. These experts know their stuff, and they have put together some fabulous, beautiful, thoughtful exhibitions showcasing the latest knowledge in their fields. I believe there is still very much a place for such exhibitions.

However, we live in an age where people can learn much of this same information online, digesting it in small bites rather than trying to absorb it all in a half-day visit to a museum. One might argue that you can't replace standing in front of an ancient tapestry with viewing it on a computer--unless that computer also allows you to zoom in to a digital copy so that you can see how the tiny threads wind together. Where would you rather see this photo of a "woman aircraft worker": on a museum wall or annotated with 20 notes from your fellow netizens? Would you be more likely to discuss this photo with a stranger if you were both standing in front of it, or on Flickr in the photo's comment thread?

Perian Sully of Musematic also attended the symposium. She asks how museums can make their objects more relevant, perhaps by starting with the Flickr model and building beyond it:


I left the meeting feeling rather uncomfortable. Here I am, someone who tries to make collection information accessible online, when I’ve been complaining for years that making collections “accessible” is ultimately one small step in the greater picture. So we have pictures of our collections online. Who cares? What does that actually do for anyone, other than let the public know that we have these beautiful or historically-interesting objects? As collecting institutions, we need to figure out how to make these digital assets work for us, work for the public. Simply presenting a photograph and some tombstone information online can be useful for researchers, but how does it promote community development and interpretation? Even the static curator-driven gallery exhibition is becoming something of an old and less-effective model of education (at least in art and history museums).

Fortunately, new technology is helping us realize some of this, but I’m having a hard time coming to grips with some of it. I think it just seems too easy somehow. Nina showed some beautiful comparisons of the Library of Congress’ images, which they recently released on Flickr. She showed the LOC website’s entry of a photograph in their collection, and then showed the Flickr page for that same object. For example, here’s the LOC page for [Grand Grocery Co.], Lincoln, Neb. from 1942. Compare that with the Flickr page for the same photograph. The Flickr page clearly has people engaged, talking to one another, and sharing their personal stories and knowledge. The LOC page… notsomuch. Likewise, social tagging helps people make their own connections and assign their own meanings to objects (or at least the object’s digital representation).

Both of the above examples clearly help people interpret objects in relation to themselves. This is great. But I feel like we should go much further to use our objects as catalysts for social discourse. The examples above are so easy that I also wonder if they’re ephemeral. Are these armchair discussions really contributing to some greater dialog that promotes learning and social involvement in the physical world? Is there some other way we could bring objects into the discussion without making the discussion object-centric? Are we using our collections in the best way possible?


It's clear that museums need to harness this kind or participatory culture. Already science caf├ęs are facilitating discussions between scientists and laypeople about current issues in science. The Brooklyn Museum offers its community members a number of ways to connect with the institution, online and off. Public radio stations encourage their listeners to call in to discuss the big issues of the day. Jane Addams's Hull House, now a museum, has been a forum for civic discourse and community engagement since its founding as a social settlement in late-nineteenth-century Chicago.

Why aren't more museums adopting these models of community engagement in order to promote civic discourse? Is it that museum folk fear the loss of some control that comes with user- and visitor-generated content? Do museum professionals feel under-prepared professionally for this kind of engagement? Do museums as institutions fear a loss of status as cultural institutions if they allow just about anyone to speak within their space?

Nina Simon shares an anecdote from the symposium that highlights one source of anxiety for institutions considering inviting a broader and deeper discussion with the public:


Yes, there may be sites for discourse in our lives, but they are not well-facilitated and are more often seen as undesirable disturbances--the kinds of incidences to lead us to look away from strangers on the street. We all have plenty of prejudices, but I was taken aback at the number of people at the session who said, in one way or another, "I don't want my institution to be a place where it is safe for THOSE people to air THEIR beliefs." I guess I shouldn't have been surprised; I've been there. I remember walking out of the Spy Museum during a workday to stand in the middle of the street facing thousands of pro-life marchers parading on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade. I would stand there, my face screwed into the hardest angles possible, and I wasn't looking for discourse. I couldn't even imagine discourse. I was a ball of confused, unfulfilled hate.

We live in an increasingly polarized society. We are encouraged to define ourselves by what we are and aren't for, and we're lousy at respecting people on the other side of the aisle. When I think of the times I have experienced civic discourse in a positive way, it was because of a personal relationship built through a common interest. For me, that's often sports. I pride myself on the friendships I have with Exxon Mobil engineers, evangelicals, people who I'd classify as OTHER if not for our common love of rock climbing and a desire to protect each other in challenging physical situations.

A lot of this has to do with creating more venues for people from different backgrounds to interact safely--and that's a place museums can start. But it also requires those venues to be places where people initiate and cultivate relationships with the strangers who are there, places where the prescribed interaction is civil and implies a fundamental respect for and interest in others. In the climbing gym, people naturally raise their arms to spot each other on tough moves and call out words of support without knowing each other's names. But the climbing gym is not in the business of encouraging discourse, so the gym facilitators don't take advantage of the common respect therein to take the social experience to the next civic level. Museums could be in that business. It's a unique value proposition for museums, one that might be useful at a time when our other value propositions are being challenged by a growing experience economy.


In a subsequent post, Nina offers some guidelines for engaging with visitors.

Maybe museums could start with the model Barbara Ganley describes as at once uncomfortable and powerful: a lounge/classroom that includes


. . .just a small portable blackboard and a circle of comfy chairs, so all we have is one another and the materials we have explored. We have to talk, to turn over and over and over again the concerns of the writer. Sometimes class discussion is quite awkward, stiff, stuttery--this is hard hard stuff. Students do not want to feel exposed. No one has asked them to talk about what they have read as writers--I'm not looking for "smart" responses; I'm looking for discovery.


What about you? Where would you feel comfortable talking about big issues with people you don't know well? What would that space look like, who would be there, and what would you talk about? And would you ever imagine a museum could offer such physical, intellectual, emotional, and civic space?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Because the Mr. Rogers video in my last post didn't make me tear up enough

This one made me absolutely weepy, in part because it's set to one of my favorite songs:

*Make-Believe Content Goes Here*

OK, so I have all these thoughts right now that aren't quite ready to be blogged because they haven't coalesced, but they're driving me to distraction. And I keep coming up with all these funny things to say about this situation I find myself in, but then I realize it's really something I shouldn't discuss in public because things are still coming together--or they may not come together at all.

So kindly imagine something very witty and ridiculous here. Even ridiculously witty.

We'll return soon to our irregularly scheduled programming.

(Oh, if you're looking for something Trillwingy to read, you could check out a ridiculously long post I wrote this week about museums and civic discourse.

I also have a post up at Problogger, written for a general blogging audience, on five teaching techniques that may improve a blog.)

BONUS: Via MAMK, I bring you a heartening little video from the late Fred Rogers:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Who qualifies to be a teacher in California?

A (tamer) version of this post has been cross-posted at BlogHer.

What qualifies me to teach in California? Well, since I teach in higher ed, not much, really: I have a Ph.D., but I could probably teach the courses I have with just a Master's degree.

Oh, and I have to
solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

Loyalty Oaths
I've actually had to sign the oath a couple of times--when I first began working as a teaching assistant many years ago, and long before that, when I had an after-school tutoring job in a K-12 school district. Both times I signed the oath I felt deeply uncomfortable, but I could not be employed if I didn't sign the oath. No TAship = no salary, no tuition remission, and no health insurance--which would have meant, in effect, no grad school for me. It's an asinine system around an oath that I'm guessing few faculty take seriously.

How serious is the State of California about having faculty sign loyalty oaths? California State University East Bay just fired Marianne Kearney-Brown, who taught developmental (remedial) math, for refusing to sign the oath. Quaker Agitator has a nice round-up of the situation, along with an explanation of why a Friend (Quaker--Kearney-Brown is one) would refuse to sign such an oath on religious principle. He also writes,
Would, or will, this university demand that all Catholic instructors remove the crucifixes from around their throats? That all Jewish males on campus remove their yarmulkes? That any Muslim females take off their hijabs? This is discrimination, plain and simple.

This is an example of why we have an ACLU, and why, in this “post-9/11 world,” chock full of phony plastic patriotism and jerky, car magnet-toting jingoists, we still need one.

Here’s a deal for you: California American Civil Liberies Union, take this Friend’s case, and I’ll renew my lapsed membership. Today. Seems to me this is an easy win.

And if you’re so inclined (I am, and I did), you can contact the Office of Public Affairs for this fine, tolerant institution, a so-called university that prides itself (and advertises itself) as being “academically rich”… “multicultural”… “socially responsible”… “open-minded”… “welcoming”… “inclusive” here. Just be polite. That’s how Friends are supposed to act.

Those of you who have hung around The Clutter Museum for awhile know I have a deep respect for Friends--just as there are secular, cultural Jews, I might be considered a secular, cultural Friend--this incident stings me particularly deeply. How the hell can I work for an institution that requires me to sign a loyalty oath, while at the same time claiming to care deeply about education by taking progressive or even radical stances on student-centered learning, the importance of critical thinking, the centrality of civic discourse, and the connective and collective power of new media?

Joanne Jacobs writes that it's time to end loyalty oaths in California--she had to sign one to volunteer in the public schools. Many of her commenters disagree, however. Click through to read their comments.

Loyalty oaths have been popular since at least the 1950s, and it's not unusual for people to refuse to sign them--I recently learned that folksinger Pete Seeger didn't go on television for 17 years, in large part because he refused to swear an oath against communists, and the TV stations wouldn't let him on the air unless he signed. Some call that real patriotism, some call it foolish. Pete Seeger is awesome. (Would it be wrong to name our next child PeteSeeger-Guthrie JohnnyCash Springsteen? I suspect Mr. Trillwing thinks that would be a fine name.)

Homeschooling
Homeschoolers were dealt a setback earlier this week when California courts affirmed that parents who homeschool their children must have teaching credentials. Click that San Francisco Chronicle link for details.

Kathleen A. Bergin of First Amendment Law Prof Blog offers a quick summary of the case:
A state appellate court in California ruled in In Re Rachel L that parents without teaching credentials cannot legally homeschool their children. The case involved Mary and Phillip Long who claimed that "sincerely held religious beliefs" required that they homeschool their children whom they said would be exposed to teachings of evolution and homosexuality in public school. Judge Walter Croskey characterized their claim as "conclusional, not fact specific," and "too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to home school his or her child.” The reach of the decision is unclear given the many options for homeschooling in California. The parents have vowed to appeal, and a spokesperson for Governor Schwarzenegger said that he might consider protective legislation if the issue is not resolve favorably through the courts.

Joanne Jacobs has an opinion on this as well:
I suspect the ruling will be overturned on appeal to the California Supreme Court — or by the state Legislature. Homeschooling is now accepted in our culture in a way that it was not five or 10 years ago. If there’s a public interest in making children attend school in an uncloistered setting, it has nothing to do with whether Mom has a teaching credential. There is no public interest in forcing homeschooling families underground."


This is an interesting issue as people at both extremes of the political spectrum (as well as plenty of folks in between) have reasons for homeschooling their children. An interesting coalition could develop of progressive parents and fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers. For a conservative Christian take on the issue, I send you to The Full Quiver Homeschool House, where Jenni urges readers to take action and quotes extensively from an article from the conservative news site World Net Daily. Conservative Christian homeschoolers often have pulled their children from school because they believe their children's education should be rooted in faith instead of secularism, because they don't want their children exposed to particular scientific ideas (such as evolutionary biology), and because they are worried about a public school culture that espouses gay rights--or, in their words, "teaches homosexuality." From a progressive perspective, these parents are worried, in effect, that schools will expose their children to too many ideas. From a conservative Christian homeschooling perspective, the concern is that schools are not exposing children to the right ideas.

Over on the progressive side, we have another group of parents who homeschool because they don't trust the state, but in this case because the parents worry that public schools won't expose their children to sufficient civic discourse--that their kids won't be exposed to a sufficient diversity of ideas. As Theresa Willingham writes at Homeschooling Unitarian Universalists,
Homeschooling is first and foremost a humanistic endeavor, conceived of by early education reformers in the 1960s who were very different from today's charismatic homeschool celebrities, and with no motive other than that of decentralized, uninstitutionalized learning. It is, at its source and as humanism has been called, an ideology of modernity. .. The focus of 1970s education reform leaders was not orthodoxy and obedience, but freedom of thought and learning.

We've all heard the arguments for and against homeschooling, so I won't rehash them all here. (If you haven't, you can read summaries of research supporting homeschooling, as well as critiques of the practice, at Wikipedia.) I will say that I have read plenty of stories of kids who end up functionally and culturally illiterate as a result of homeschooling, but I've also met some bright, well-adjusted college students who were homeschooled. Honestly, in general I'm suspicious of the institution, but I come by that suspicion honestly--I attended public schools in K-12, my parents taught for a collective 75+ years in public high schools, and my aunts and one uncle are public school district administrators.

I'm not convinced that every homeschooling parent needs to have a teaching credential--after all, do these parents really need to fulfill all the requirements for a credential, such as a classroom management seminar? That said, I think it would be a good idea to establish some alternative minimum standards for homeschooling parents and homeschool collectives. What kind of subject matter expertise should these parents have? And what kind of understanding of child development and theories of learning? What kind of preparation should a parent have if he or she is solely or largely responsible for educating a citizen of the United States?

What are your thoughts on homeschooling qualifications and loyalty oaths?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Help me out with a little event planning

At work, I'm planning our next More Thoughtful Teaching Symposium (MTT). MTT is a three-hour event, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and includes a catered lunch. The symposia are usually well-attended (75-100 people), take various forms, and are themed. I've opted for--surprise!--a theme related to fear and anxiety. I hope to have an intro talk by some campus mental health experts (specialists on both student and faculty wellness), followed by some birds-of-a-feather discussion around themed tables.

But I want,--nay, need!--your help in theming those tables. If you teach (or have ever taught), especially in higher ed, please help me out by visiting this blog entry and leaving a comment. Bonus: You get to see a really dorky video of me as I make my videoblogging debut.

In which I play with Photoshop

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to create new things and really stretch my tech skills. The web page layout of my latest project isn't pretty, but I am pretty happy with my Photoshop work on this piece. To see the original pieces I altered, check out the Flickr links at the bottom of the linked page. (Thank goodness for Creative Commons.)

On Storms

Here's another exercise from Barbara Ganley's creative writing class. The instructions:

1. Use a second-person narrator

2. Use 150 words

3. Use the following words: bones, glint, forge, salt

4. Title it “On Storms”

5. Make it creative nonfiction

6. Go…

(Note: I've been picking at writing a novel for years now, and I'm hoping finally to get serious about it. Here's a little prose poem I just wrote for my protagonist, circa 1885 in the American west. I cheated and wrote mostly in first person.)

It's hard, this heat in a dark dress. I've sewn lead weights into the hem so the skirts don't blow. (Thank God I forswore the corset years ago.)

You don't know. You are impervious to sand, to the ancient salt that blows again here, where we unearth it. (All for a glint of fossil, a trace of saurid bone.)

They improve your flesh, the sun and salt and sand, this sedimentary forge. I burn. You have said no woman belongs here. I begin to agree

--but then the storm. I soak it up, my dress heavier a hundredfold. Yet I am grateful for this wet weight, for the extra effort. I’m lean and hungry in this scientific marathon. I’m on my knees now, but you should know--I’m not praying.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ten great tips for teachers and mentors

(Cross-posted at BlogHer.)

Lately I've run across a glut of blog posts packed with excellent teaching and mentoring advice. Herein I cull these wise bloghers' advice.

1. Ask your students to stretch beyond the familiar.
Barbara Ganley writes of her success in sparking students' creativity and curiosity through the use of multimedia:

One student is making an installation; some used audio/image, some text/image, some audio/text/image; lots of iMOVIE, some hypertext, slides--we used no college server, few expensive high-end tools. It was scary. Frustrating. Yet already they have stretched themselves to consider themselves as writers both in traditional ways--hunkering down with words on paper, and in emerging ways--exploring the ways in which words, images, and sound can come together on the computer screen or in a gallery space.


Click through to Ganley's post for specific examples of students' projects.

2. Reflect on your identity while teaching, especially when delivering difficult material.
Clio Bluestocking just spent a class period talking about Emmett Till. She writes of her struggle in presenting the material:

I wonder about my role as a white woman teaching this class, teaching about Emmett Till. White female purity was the excuse for lynching; and bodies like mine became the occasion for -- and participated in -- the destruction and oppression of bodies like my students'. Today I felt as if my body were a guillotine or a gallows, a smoking gun, standing in front of the class. If I were one of the students in the class, I might hate me -- that is, the white lady teacher. Maybe not her personally, but her in general, what she represented. I would want to know why, with all of the black teachers, a white one was teaching the class.

I, as me the white lady, cannot answer that completely just yet. I am a member of the oppressor class and I am teaching the people whom my people oppressed -- whom they still oppress. How does that affect the dynamic of my students' learning? How does that affect the dynamic of me teaching? I questioned that when I began teaching online, but my physical presence was not a factor. Here, it is. Maybe just for me, but it is still a factor.


(For another excellent post on identity issues and difficult subjects, see "Being "Diverse" in the Middle Ground: Thoughts on Racisms, Sexisms and the Many Phobias" by Tenured Radical.)

3. Consider the promise of the mentor as well as the promise of the mentee.
Dr. Shellie writes about a discussion she had with a male colleague who passed along a potential mentee's name to her--because both Dr. Shellie and the student are women.

He explained that he found female students (myself excluded) very timid and not very tough. As a PhD student, he had worked with a female student who reacted very badly to his criticism and left the group. So he did not think he would advise any female students, at least not any time soon.

[...]

I agree with him that he would probably make a poor advisor of female graduate students, and would not recommend female students to work with him.


4. See evaluation and critical input as opportunities rather than threats.
Female Science Professor writes about the endless cycles of evaluation and criticism in academia:

Being constantly evaluated can be exhausting and at times painful, but overall I appreciate the critical input. Of course there are examples of cruel and unreasonable comments in these reviews and evaluations, but in general the system works, and I feel that it makes me a better researcher and teacher. As long as the negative comments are balanced by positive comments, my self-esteem is not destroyed by the occasional bludgeoning.


Check out the comments to her post for some really interesting discussions about confidence, advising, and adaptability.

5. Embrace interdisciplinarity, and use it to meet students where they are.
Dr. Curmudgeon explains why she teaches popular culture, and in so doing models some excellent pedagogical practice. One of my favorite passages from her post:

One of the real joys, though, is that teaching popular culture means I'm not limited to one approach. I get to play with the toys that more traditional disciplines (or at least departments) often put off limits. I've worked places where certain approaches were clearly not welcome. Teaching popular culture well requires an openness to approaches. I get to talk history, economics, psychology, sociology, business, cultural studies. I can use Karl Marx or B.F. Skinner or Benedict Anderson or any other notable under the sun. Sometimes I have to, and I'm always glad to.


6. Find spaces to nurture and be nurtured in return.
What Now? shares a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the disciplinary committee at the girls' school where she teaches. The process is filled with moments of support as well as discipline for the girls involved. What Now? concludes the post with a related anecdote about a colleague's gripe:

[O]ne of the other teachers, who was also hired this year, said that she just isn't proud to teach at FGS as she has been of some other schools at which she's taught. She has suggested similar things before but had never stated it quite so plainly, so we pressed her a little on it, and it turns out she really doesn't care for the nurturing environment and the "girls are powerful!" culture of the school. She's taught at very formal co-ed boarding schools before this, and it seems that she finds FGS's all-girls environment and relaxed atmosphere and mix of boarding and day students all annoyances. I found this such a good example of the very real issue of "fit," since of course I LOVE the nurturing environment and the "girls are powerful!" ethos. These things could be taken too far, of course, and FGS is hardly perfect, but I find it such a supportive, challenging, feminist environment that I'm really happy to go to work each morning, and yet here is my colleague who is regularly grumpy about being here. I feel bad for her, and once again I'm reminded just how lucky I am to have landed in a place that fits so well with my own ethos and values.


7. Practice Viral Professional Development.
Jennifer Jones of Injenuity offers a post overflowing with excellent tactics for creating an environment in which faculty can extend their own learning as teachers and users of technology. I found the post to be at once common sensical and revelatory. Definitely go check it out, as it has lessons on community building and learning far beyond the academy.

8. Don't succumb to "stranger danger" syndrome; let your students engage meaningfully wth the world beyond the classroom. (Technology helps.)
Barbara Sawhill offers two heartening stories, one about a "stranger" who took time to explain his language to a student via a comment on the student's blog and another on the usefulness of Twitter in teaching.

9. Refuse to be pigeonholed because of some aspect of your identity.
Dr. Crazy reflects on how students perceive her (women first, teacher second, professor third) and how this impacts her opportunities for tenure and promotion.

What I'd like is to be seen as an assistant professor first, a teacher second, and a woman third. What I'd like is for there to be a way that teaching is evaluated and valued that is less about how well one fits into the mold of "sage on the stage" (sorry, I don't have the jacket with elbow patches and the pipe required for that role) and more about what students actually learn in one's courses (imagine that). I'd like a structure for student evaluations that is more about what actually happens in a course rather than about how students "feel" in relation to me. I'd like for students to appreciate it just a tiny bit that I'm tough on them rather than deciding I'm a rude bitch because I am.


10. Get tenure and start the revolution.
Also from Dr. Crazy's post above:

And it's all of the above that makes people check out at a certain point, stop trying and stop caring. And as much as I get frustrated and angry, it's not really in me to check out. So the only thing for it, I suppose, is to get tenure and to start the revolution.


What's the best teaching or mentoring advice you've heard lately?