Saturday, June 2, 2007

Teaching Charades

Three weeks until I move to what could be the place called home for the rest of my life. I am currently taking some time off, visiting with family and friends. There has not been a single day when department members from pleasant Small Liberal Arts College which I am about to join have not sent me an email concerning computers, textbooks, course proposals, new instruments, etc. Maybe they are a little nervous about my arrival, too. Surely not as nervous as I am.

Teaching, Service and Scholarship – the title of my blog. During my interview, the dean stressed excellence in teaching, excellence in service, and excellence in scholarship. Note to self: Replace “very good” with “excellent” in personal vocabulary. Scholarship entails 4 research publications in peer reviewed journals – with undergraduate researchers only. I have a vision of long and lonely nights in the lab. Excellence in teaching is as usual measured by the infamous student evaluations. High marks could either be accomplished by brainwashing your students or simply by captivating them with the material and making them like you. Personality plays an important role here.

My current colleague and good friend once told me that a study has shown that high marks on student evaluations can be correlated to the students being able to assign a certain role or personality to the instructor. This holds especially true for women. And which other role would a woman play best than the role of a mother. For example freshman in particular prefer the motherly instructor. I am neither a mother nor the motherly type, so I pondered how the students would see me. On my last day of class at my visiting position I decided to just ask the question at the end of my lecture. I was ready to face personalities like Cruella De Vil. What would have been worse was no identification whatsoever. But their answer, which I cannot gage if it was honest, was that they saw me as their big sister. I was surprised and relieved that I have a role assignment, and it’s an easy one to play! Perhaps before beginning a tenure track position, every faculty should undergo a personlity test, so that they would have an idea who the students think they are, then perfect that role to become very good - wait, no - to become excellent in developing their classroom character.


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