Lenten Nausea 10/40

March 2, 2007 at 11:49 am | Posted in Food, Lent, Teaching English | 8 Comments

Ha! I am actually sitting in a classroom right now and my students are working on their syllabus scanning task. They never ever read the syllabus properly (nor listen to me when I explain it) and in the end, when they have to fill out the evaluation forms, they tick “Disagree” for the item “The aim of the course was clearly explained at the beginning”. Hence the syllabus scanning task – even if they tick “Disagree”, I know for sure that they are wrong:-) Teachers are such nitpickers, aren’t they? Seeing yourself develop a teacher personality can be really painful at times.

😛

LentDaily Lent (10): Yesterday wasn’t a good Lent day. I had fish and rice for lunch and later had coffee and it seems as if the two didn’t go together well. I was too sick to eat anything else for the rest of the day, and I had to stop with my yoga practice halfway because I felt so nauseous that I had to throw up:-( Had to force myself to eat something thereafter and found that plain bread was the best. Still felt dizzy this morning.

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  1. Hope the dizziness is gone and you’re feeling better.

    There is a funny duality to being a teacher. You become aware of both yourself teaching and what it might be like (having once been a student yourself) to be sitting in front of the you that is teaching.

    If you think too much about the absurdity of where you are, it’s not difficult to completely lose the train of your thought.

    It does become hard not to nit-pick. I imagine that’s better than indifference, though there’s probably a happy medium.

    Any early thoughts on your classes?

  2. The worst experience that I ever had in this regard was seeing my doppelgaenger at the front of the room disapprovingly watching me teach. It is an absurd situation, in which you can quickly become schizophrenic. Most of the time through our teaching we uphold a system against which we ourselves as “free” thinkers would rebel: rote learning, drilling, questioning, monologism, time-scheduled movements, grading (lob & tadel), observing, etc.: surveiller et punir! What’s the difference? We don’t even have the saving grace of a grand narrative for which we are schooling students. We produce a few acolytes, who blindly serve the system, a handful of iconoclasts, of whom probably only one will make it and the rest will need therapy, and countless masses, whom we administer using numbers and forms, just like we ourselves are administered.

    Teaching creeps on in its petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time. . . . 😉

  3. @Greg: Hmmm…well, one of the beauties of the deskilling workforce in the US academy, or just simple beaurocratic indifference, or both, is that in some places we can get away with subversive activity in the classroom–always a hierarchical space, sometimes with doppelgaengers, but nevertheless if you get to prepare (especially in lit) your own syllabus and critical trajectory it’s like the institution provides a phonograph, but you’ve got all the collective grooves.

  4. Imagine teaching English as a Foreign language as part of a curriculum in which it is exactly stipulated that you and your students spent 21 hours with you in the classroom and that they may spent no more than 29 hours of selfstudy in the entire semester on preparing your class. Imagine all of them being there because they have to and not because they chose you or you course, imagine one tenth of them being frustrated because they’ve been abroad and don’t want to lower themselves to the level of their classmates, another tenth being hardly able to say who they are in English. 70% all them would always give priority to the their core subjects and if you don’t scrutinize assignments carefully for plagiarism, you might as well not give them any . No phonograph in that picture.

    But nevertheless, everynow and again, the results can be quite satisfying. The highest praise I ever got was for a course on Popular culture where one students said in the end that it had been ‘very educational’ and actually meant it in a positive way (normally they say that they either were bored or that they were not interested, by which they mean that they were forced to do something which HAD to be just boring for them, it seems impossible for some of them to imagine that one can develop interest for many many different things and not just one set of things that one was born with or acquired as a teenager; sometimes they say that it was too academic – imagine that at a socalled university… there is some very sick vibe going on here).

    But of course they are not here to study literature or cultural studies – with the discrepancy being that most people who teach languages are interested (and trained and educated) in literature and cultural studies, hired by an institution that cares neither about these topics but puts English into their curricula because they they want to able to say that they fully support the socalled Bologna process – the Agreement of the European Union on the creation of a unified European space of higher education. I suppose the best would be if they hired nothing but grammar and pronunciation drilling experts. That would be boring too, but students would be able to recognize it as ‘English’ and would at least stop complaining.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna_process

    http://ec.europa.eu/education/policies/educ/bologna/bologna_en.html

    Just to give you an outline of the various sources of frustration in Greg’s and my teaching environment.

  5. @skunkcabbage: admittedly, myopic, my views are biographically determined and refer, if anything, to my experiences teaching English language and communication at a technical college in Austria way out on the margins and to what I have experienced of the Austrian/German school systems. I like your metaphor of the phonograph. Still, isn’t the subversiveness of the activity questioned by the fact that teaching (critical trajectory and classroom discourse) in such a setting is always a repeat dress rehearsal for a later recording session meant for the academic music charts: peer reviews, MLA. tenure, publications, job interviews, etc.?

  6. @Greg: I don’t think one gets very far if one begins questioning subversiveness because it does not lead to permanent liberation. You can only fight the system, but you cannot pretend it’s not there. Just because we cannot abolish it right away doesn’t mean that one should stop trying to make a difference. Also, if you took subversiveness that serious, you’d have to quit your job right awaa.

    Btw, my first problem based learning session is coming up on Friday: one student will be the moderator, one the scribe, they’ll discuss and I’ll just observe. grade: self-assessment. Let’s see…

  7. @anaj: I agree. Equally, employing the word “subversive” without any regard to the “outside” of the classroom is just as much a pretence/pretext.

  8. @anaj: your teaching environement sounds alienating for all involved.

    @greg: no, many of my students won’t continue in the academic music industry. I introduce them to a bit of dissonance they might not otherwise have heard, and trust them to do with it what they can, or will–which is maybe the best we can do.


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