Thursday, January 6, 2011

My A.R.S.E. (half)


Dear Colleagues Across the Curriculum,

Prior to Pong & during  the days of mimeograph, 
typewriting, overhead projection, copper bracelets
for tennis elbows, bell bottoms, pet rocks,  group
dynamics & humanistic psychology: the Dean's
Conference (self assessment & evaluation)  was
an annual sit-down event, how-ya-doon, what's-up,
going-on, working, not working, tell  me about it:
most anticipated & Carl Rogerian in spirit.

Citzen's Band had not yet been introduced along
the interstates and a colleague in Economics took

a sabbatical he called Blue Highways--driving
across country and interviewing folks in diners,
grocery stores and post offices to see what they
had to say. 

Sabbatical:  from shabat - a field left fallow
every seven years. A fallowship.

“Whatever the subject of study in the classroom,
shadow subject is ourselves’ our limits, our
potentials. As long as that remains in the shadows, 
it will block both  individual and group from full
illumination. But if both hurt and self-doubt can be
brought into the light…the learning will flower.” 
                Parker Palmer in The Courage To Teach

         If not an amen, can I hear some argument?

 Narrative Portion of Annual Report &  Self-Evaluation
*  Progress made on teaching, service, and faculty
development goals you set for yourself in the previous 
annual report;
I don’t recall setting goals for myself in the previous
report. Perhaps I did:to comply. I don’t make New
Years resolution, but every day in every way
I’m trying to do best-I-can and of course get better
and good.   Have made no progress, though  Hope
it’s the thought that counts, as IT is always on my mind,
always on my mind.
* Ways in which you felt your teaching experience
differed, positively and negatively, during this 
period from that of the previous period;  
I can’t say –although it seems like the way the
question is asked that I ought to —to be able to
say how my teaching  experience has differed,
positively andnegatively over the past year. 
I hate weekends and breaks and summer vacations
(me and Dean Kahl probably the only two who might
admit  this) because then I can’t be doing what I most
love/hate, positively and negatively.  It’s a sickness.
This doesn’t answer the question, I’m sorry.
* Your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher;
I once told a class (in the moment) that I could
care less if  they did the work or not. I claimed
that’s because I really  CARE (overall) about
the Whole Process.
Doubt I  convinced them (that I could say I can
not care only because I really CARE) but it’s true.

My greatest strength is not caring.
My greatest weakness:
*  Specific situations or unusual circumstances, 
if any,  that  positively and negatively affected 
your teaching during this period;  
At one point in my “transcendental and romantics “
course, a student kicked over atable and sat on its
edge. Several stood  on top of their desks, one with
foot cockedagainst her knee, singing. Several slid
under from where they sat and  stretched in  the
middle of the floor.   One boy started to light up
his handout—which could have setthe alarms off
and  disrupted the whole building.
I can’t explain how this happened—the specific
cause.  But it represented the spiritof  this particular
class. I  had a moment thinking I was doing something
terribly wrong and terribly right—both in equal measure.     
*  Your student evaluations:  How you "read" the
positive and negative  comments, and how (or if) 
you plan to make any adjustments in the future
in light of them;

I haven’t seen this fall’s. Last spring's were typical
Mostly  positive (always a surprise and gratifying
while disturbing ) For the past few years I’ve been
anticipating  badreviews, and  then: stunned stupid
that they weren’t. 
I’m anticipating some bad ones this fall.  The bad
one’s are always justified underthe circumstances
called "my pedagogy of the suppressed."  I can
never defend myself against the charges, seeing as
they rightly criticize the very things I attempt as alternative
or  supplement to the norm. Have to turn the other cheek
*  Ways in which your courses and your teaching fit
into  the goals of your department;
I  feel  traitor to the English Department.  My undergraduate
study of philosophy eventually displaced my grad-school
literary experience & began to break thru and dominate
what should be an allegiance to professional English
departmentalism. .
For years I have  been teaching “lower” level courses
& intros —attracting students from other departments for
all the wrong and all the right reasons, them who have to
“satisfy”a literature gen-ed course.
Whereas  normal focus &  attention efficiency is appropriately
given to “the texts,”I’ve reversed this in past years to view
texts as tokens serving for heightened appreciation of
A number of years back, a student turned to me in class
and said,  “I’ve finally figured out what this course is about
 (I forget which course it was): “It’s about us.”
I rationalize this background/figure reversal, claiming I’m
doing Liberal Art rather than liberal arts—which, in my
opinion are vocational. (disciplinary, instrumental, grad-school
driven)  whereas  Liberal Art I see as  pro-vocational—
life long sport..
             “Whatever the subject of study in the classroom,
              the shadow subject  is ourselves’  our limits, our
              potentials. As long as that remains in the shadows,
              it will block both  individual and group from full
              illumination. But if both hurt and self-doubt can be
              brought into the light…the learning will flower.
* Reflections on your role as an adviser;
Follow your bliss. Follow your gnosis. Do what makes 
immediately gratifying sense.  If you’ve got long range
ambitions & plans: good for you —choose accordingly.  
Come by any time.
*  Teaching goals that you set for yourself  for
the next two semesters;   
Always I aim to do such a cracker-jack bang-up job
that  students will not only  stand up on the desk as I
enter and leave,  but promise to name their first born
after me—Sam or Samantha makes no never mind. 
 My  reach should exceed my grasp,” says Robert
Browning, “or what’s a college for?”
* Goals for service to the college for the next two
semesters  (your role in your   department, 
participation in committees,  service learning, etc.);   
Always, I anticipate the possibility that my daily Faculty
Spam  will catch on as good as skiing, surfing, working
out in Gold’s gym, and that an amazing spirit of  Local
Food   for Thought will rise up, as emerging values and
phenomena; and some how the
  Chronicle  of Higher Education
will get wind of this, our intra-faculty Self-Stimulation Across
the Curriculum and not only will our converse-action excite
and enlarge us as a faculty that brays together, but provide
a model  for small liberal arts colleges all over this land.
* Goals for faculty development during next two semesters
 (research, writing,  publication, etc.).
Same as  above.
With appreciation,  Sam Scoville

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