Wednesday, June 22, 2005

On teaching as work

I began this as a comment to Joesph's post, but thought maybe it would be more appropriate as its own beast.

There I asked what counts as the creative work (as opposed to the grinding work that we seem, perhaps to have escaped as academics)?

The obvious answer, is, of course, whatever counts for research. But I think we as a profession need to make a better case for teaching as a site for invigorating, creative, and important work.

The same may also be true of service and collegiality. Hall, however, spends a lot of time later talking about service and collegiality, especially in the excellent fourth chapter.

But teaching, to me, is, and likely always will be, undervalued in in this profession. I am, I believe, a devoted, creative, engaged, and often popular teacher. My research is fine, and it seems to have landed me this job, but I think I shall never be a rock star. But 40% of my job is teaching, and I just don't hear about people forming working groups around teaching their classes. Pedagogy is a huge part of our jobs, but it is often treated (here I think generally by omission), as that thing we have to do to get all the other perks of the life of the mind. But to me, teaching is a life of the mind. I am happy about doing a little less of it in this position not because I can focus on other, more important things, but so I can teach the hundred odd students I'll have this fall (and maybe 50 in the spring) that much better.

What this calls for (to me) is a greater attention to how these things are assessed. What does it mean that 40% of my job is teaching? How do you measure whether that teaching is good, creative, or just popular?

Part of what I am missing in this book, then, is the way that the academic self gets constructed in the classroom. I think the notion that what we do in departmental hallways matters is important, but the classroom needn't get shafted.

So the question I pose to you all: how does your classroom persona intesect with your collegial persona, and with your writerly persona. Venn diagrams optional (but highly encouraged).