I made another video.  it’s about ducks.

Another poem

I made a poem video.  Apparently people like stuff like that.

Thoughts while I’m not busy spending my weekend grading

I became a teacher by accident. I was graduating from college with the intent to be a famous movie director.  or editor.  or something important. Something more significant than a college professor. When I got out of college, I sent my resume(mediocre as it was) to a bunch of high profile production companies I was under qualified for, and also saw a job listed for a learning assistant at my local community college. I got hired mostly on my charm and enthusiasm in the interview and spent the next five years figuring out how to do the job right. I watched a lot of teachers get it right, and get it wrong. I got offered my first adjunct teaching position by accident as well.  A regular adjunct had to back out of a class they were offered and I happened to be in my boss’ office when he did. I was to cover the first week, until they found a suitable replacement.  They never did. I fell in love with teaching immediately. From then on, I spent nights and weekends earning my Master’s degree in Education Technology. Two years after that, I got hired as a full time faculty member. I’ve been involved in higher education for 16 years, this week. I am still trying to figure it out.

It seems like everyone wants to tell teachers how to be teachers. I often hear it regarded as a back-up plan. “Well if my band doesn’t make it, I could always teach music”.  "If I get burned out at the firm, I could always teach PR".  A few years ago I was promoted to department chair (mostly because I was next in line for a job nobody wants).  I get calls from laid off or tired professionals once a week who tell me “I think having worked in TV for 20 years as a camera assistant I could really teach your kids the real world of television”.  Some even come with their own course syllabus (a lazy outline in a word doc of things they want to talk about) written as a course proposal they expected us to just let them teach.

Consider teaching this way.  Take something you know a lot about.  Let’s say the internet. You’re on the internet all the time, you do all your social activity on the internet, you even know how to use Google at the advanced search. Great. You can teach a course on the internet.  Until a student asks you about which companies are the Tier 1 networks.  Oh well you could look that up.  Then they mentioned they read something in the book about CERN. Oh and you were just about to show a PowerPoint on Al Gore being boastful. Then they want you to discuss the legal guidelines on peer to peer file sharing. Pick any subject you know a lot about and there are students who will ask questions you’ve never considered before.

Forgive me a brief tangential but somewhat related criticism. When I was an adjunct, I called myself an adjunct.  When I got hired to teach full time, I called myself an instructor.  When I got tenure, I called myself an assistant professor.  Next year if I get promoted I will call myself an associate professor.  Most of my students just refer to me as Chad.  I would never call myself Dr. Anderson, because I’ve yet to earn my doctorate.  I wouldn’t call myself Colonel Anderson if I was a private in the army.  But “professor” is one I’ve seen people throw around rather easily.  I see this almost as much as I see the term “educator”, almost as an afterthought. “I’m a poet/artist/writer/educator.” I would agree that everyone has the potential to develop the skills to be a teacher.  But I think many look at it as an unskilled profession.  As if we just talk about what we know and that makes us qualified. I think it says something about how we value professional educators.

Let me excuse my rant by admitting that I love my job.  I have a charmed life.  The best part about being a full-time college professor is autonomy.  I have freedom to organize my class how I like.  I can change gears on a moment’s notice.  Beyond some fundamental structure, I can be my own person.  Teaching college in a career studies field is even better.  I have a group of students who are engaged, interested, passionate and as eager as I am about audio/visual technology and media criticism. Also, I do work regularly “in the field”.  Having summers and weekends off (and a mortgage and student loan payments) allows me the opportunity to pick up freelance work elsewhere. I do this a lot “professionally” because it does actually help make me a better teacher.  But consider two things.  Having worked in the field, I realize I could be making a lot more money if I were there instead of here.  I have voluntarily compromised wealth in exchange for comfort, job security and autonomy.  It is how I am able to see my kids before bed. Second, I teach 5 classes of 3 hours and conduct 5 office hours. But I work much more than 20 hours a week.  I will be in for a few hours on almost every weekend of my life.  I go to about 7 meetings a week. I’m grading and revising and structuring outside of my face to face class time constantly. There’s been some talk about laziness in the teaching profession. I imagine there are some teachers who get away with working 15 and 5 and never do any work outside the office.  I haven’t met any yet.

I have some great students.  They are knowledgeable, socially aware, respectful, and invested in their education, as they trust that I am teaching them skills towards getting a career. Some are obvious.  When I show my students an editing technique, they imagine they could add that to a resume. But I’m sure my students don’t notice when I require they edit their videos down to 4 minutes exactly, I’m teaching them a greater skill. Recently, I’ve seen several of my friends posting a camera phone clip of a high school student “going off” on his teacher about how she should do her job.  I’ve encountered this type of student as well, more recently in the age of social media. I have some strong beliefs about the negative effects of social media on today’s student.  I think it’s exciting that we all get a voice, and an opinion, and immediate access to information through social media but I worry about the effects it has on students. Recently, I’ve noticed more and more students asking questions.  Not about the content, but about the process.  Everyone, especially the students, is asking teachers to defend how we do our job. My assertion is, because social media allows us to feel like our opinions make us authorities on everything, we indulge ourselves to question everything without respect to the position others have earned. 

Questions and Answer Time:

"Why do we have to take tests in a production class?" - Because I’m training you to be a member of a professional field, in which we use terminology specific to our field and I need to know that you can communicate using that terminology without looking foolish and inexperienced by your lack of recall.

"Why do I have to capture my own footage when it takes like 3 hours?" - Weird, it would only take me an hour to do that.  Are you suggesting that because I’m practiced at something, my skills are much faster than yours and by requiring you to practice at something individually I’m improving your technical ability?

"Why do we have to write all these notes when you can just give them to us" - Because I have a fundamental understanding of the way in which our mind processes information we’ve had to transcribe from dictation, and I can appreciate all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy**** to understand that I’m actually helping you retain this information.

"Why don’t you teach us, instead of just giving us another packet" - Because I don’t work in customer service. And everything is not about the way you’d like it served.  And because completing forms, whether it be federal grants, job applications, tax documents or a million other examples of things you’ll have to get good at filling out is a skill you need to develop to be a functional member of society.  And you learn by doing. Packets are part of the process.

****(Make a note to look this up if you are one of those “educators” who had never heard of this)

SideNote #2: Remember “The Karate Kid” (the original).   Remember humble and respectful Daniel LaRusso painting the fence and waxing on as well as off and side to side and all that.  Picture Mr. Miagi taking an earful of protest from some snotty entitled dropout about not inspiring him to want to learn karate and making him do yard work.  Actually that happened in the movie. And then what happened…

Here’s the problems with the student everyone is referring to on the internet now as a hero.  He’s a narcissist.  Studies show that younger generations have a greater sense of entitlement than ever before.  Studies show this because someone learned how to write a study. They learned it in a freshman English class, and I promise you it was as inspirational as teaching research writing gets+. My father would have beat me if I ever disrespected an adult that way++, especially a teacher.  And I would have deserved it. We are moving into a society where everyone seems to enable themselves the right to question every person we put in a position of authority. The teacher does not have to explain their process to the student. The teacher has earned the respect of being put in charge of the class.  I wouldn’t want to change places with a high school teacher.  They have to teach history to a group of students who have absolutely no passion about the subject and are required to be there.  And they are being constantly criticized and evaluated and assessed and quantified by everyone else they have to appeal to. All while parents are asking them to put athletics before academics and religious groups are trying to redefine science and lawmakers are systematically removing the only assurance they have of maintaining academic integrity.  I don’t envy the impossible job they have. And then they have to deal with shitty students who act like self-important, desperately non-conformist revolutionaries, despite not knowing the difference between the words “credit” and “credibility”.

One final thought.  No one (in their praise of the academic evangelist) mentioned his race.  What this suggests is that no one factored in his race as part of his outspoken disrespectful behavior.  It’s not as if he had to behave in a certain way or people would associate his race with his actions.  He could act out publicly and it not be a reflection of his ethnicity, his upbringing or his culture.  He was never referred to as “they”.  He was never looked at as “one of them”.  That must be very convenient that as the other students sit with their hands over their face in class, he’s allowed to speak out without his color being considered as a factor of his person.  It’s a shame there’s not a word for that kind of permissiveness.

+ The award clearly goes to my wife for most inspirational research writing professor

++ My father was never physically abusive with me. But yet I never mouthed off to a teacher this way.  It’s all conjecture really.

The sexism conversation you’re not having

I was a freshman in high school the first time I heard the word “slut”.  I’m sure I must have heard it before then because I knew what it meant, but this might have been the first time I heard someone I knew called that. I was playing drums in a band and there were two neighborhood girls who would come watch us practice.  They were both cute, flirty, playful and I, being uncool, romanticized thoughts of dating one of them. I was told by a most certain authority (one of the other band members) that “those girls are both just sluts”.

The term always seemed to confuse me.  These were girls who liked flirting as much as I did; girls who maybe were willing to make out with me; girls who perhaps considered the thought of sex as a curious and exciting experience they might be open to consider. What was less than wonderful about that?  What was so unlike everything I wanted in a girlfriend? Why was this such an insult?

As I got older, I had heard the word more often, usually in mixed company, in reference to some girl who had a rumor spread about her.  Occasionally, I would hear a girl call another girl a slut.  That was always astounding to me.  What bothered me every time was the double standard.  If a girl liked talking about, was curious about, was as interested in sex/making out/flirting/dating/ intimacy as my hormonal teen body was, there was something wrong with her.  There was some criticism. As boys becoming men, I didn’t understand how we could desire women so blatantly and expect them to desire us in return, but do so invisibly as to not be labeled with some derogatory name. In high school, I decided never to use the term again.  In college I used it all the time, referring only to myself.

It was years later when I first heard the phrase “slut-shaming”. It was so perfect an explanation of everything I had been thinking about for years. Finally, nomenclature for a social problem that had been frustrating me since I was a teen. Slut Shaming: the foolish notion of insulting, criticizing, belittling or attacking someone (usually a female) because of her alleged or actual sexual behavior or image related to sex.

I know very little of Taylor Swift.  I know she is a pop-star, who writes most of her own music, grew up from a country background, and had an incident involving Kanye West reducing her publicly a few years ago.  I’ve heard some of her songs on the radio. They seem catchy, clever, and I can fully appreciate why her target audience would find her fabulous.  I also know she has a lot of ex-boyfriends.

This last fact is for me the most troubling bit of trivia about her. Allegedly, she dates guys for a brief period of time.  The relationships end badly.  She often writes about topics such as her feelings or love or her relationship troubles and these songs appeal to teenage girls going through the same things.  This public knowledge bothers me in the way it’s being presented.  Taylor Swift’s relationships has become the punch line of radio dj’s, late night talk show hosts, and comedians and entertainers everywhere.  Taylor Swift’s sex life, or alleged sex life has been put on public display.  And it’s insulting and unfairly critical to girls everywhere. Its effectiveness is in how casually subversive it is.

While everyone was blogging their disdain for Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar show (and how everything he said must be sexist) everyone ignored this little gem (or found it hysterically spot-on)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0llm8lTa8xI

What this, and 100 other cheap jokes made every day at Taylor Swift’s expense is telling us, is that there are only certain ways for girls to behave.  A girl with too many ex-boyfriends is clearly having too much sex.  And there is such a thing as too much sex when it comes to girls. I’m sure someone somewhere has made a joke about Justin Timberlake’s quantity of past relationships. I’m sure Bruno Mars’ sex life may become the material of tabloids in the future.  But the subtlety is how quickly this has become Taylor’s definable quality:  the trail of ex-relationships and the amount of sex she must be having.  This is what we associate with Taylor every time she is on TV. This is why my mother rolls her eyes when Taylor is mentioned on an entertainment news program.

The point is, I don’t think we should care.  Sure pop culture loves to delve into the romantic personal lives of celebrities constantly.  But we should stop counting. We should stop deciding collectively that Taylor Swift is now damaged goods.  That she is unworthy of dating.  Taylor, as a legal consenting adult, is allowed to date and break up with and actually sleep with as many people as she wants.  It doesn’t make her any more or less a pop star.  It doesn’t make her any more or less desirable as a potential girlfriend. It should not impact her relevance or quality as a song writer or entertainer. We should stop calling Taylor a slut, even if we’re not actually saying it out loud. It’s being implied and we’re letting it happen every time we laugh at some late night talk show host or radio DJ.

The truth is, I don’t really care that much about Taylor Swift.  I find her harmlessly entertaining and I doubt that she needs me to come to her defense over her personal life.  She will continue to be wildly successful and her music will reach the ears of young girls as well as grown men like me.  But in writing this, I have to be consciously aware of my own daughters, still too young to know of Taylor as anything more than a familiar combination of sounds that play in rhythm on the radio. But one day my perfect, innocent girls will be older and will want to date whomever they find attractive and intellectually appealing. I hope they do.  I hope they find love and intimacy and deal with whatever emotions they encounter as best they can.  I want to raise my daughters in a world where the manner, frequency, depth and longevity of their personal relationships are not evaluated by anyone else in defining who they are. I want them to explore their own coupling without shame, guilt or character assassination. I want them to exist in a world where the word “slut” is never used in their presence. Unless it’s their father talking about how he was in college.

Who purchases this chocolate variety for any reason other than a dare.

Who purchases this chocolate variety for any reason other than a dare.

Fascinating.

Fascinating.

My student brought this in as his lunch during our film screening. Why does he have ADD.

My student brought this in as his lunch during our film screening. Why does he have ADD.

30 poems in 30 days

I’ve never really tried that National Poetry Month, 30 poems in 30 days writing challenge.  But I’ve dedicated the hours of 9-10pm (the hour after my daughters go to sleep) every night to writing something new.  I dare not post them.  But I’ll list the titles of each poem here. If only to verify that I’m doing my homework.

  1. To the Harvestman caught in the Black Widow’s Web

  2. I Have This Cold

  3. Ada loves her father

  4. Doomsday Tuna

  5. The Magic Show

  6. The Ladies of 710 Grand

  7. The Monster

  8. Assume

  9. My Daughters are a Teen Movie

  10. A Prayer for Funny

  11. The Mirror

  12. Upset

  13. Contact List