Saturday, September 12, 2009
It's raining, but we don't care. We are listening to plenary speaker Prof. Mary Beth Beazley (Ohio State) sharing what she learned from her self-labeled "classic mistakes" in her quarter century of teaching legal writing. [Photo l-r: Kirsten Davis, Mary Beth Beazley, Carolyn Broering-Jacobs]
1. You are not your students; your students are not you.
Teaching with empathy: Your students are going to irritate you; their writing is going to make you mad sometimes. Step back from the situation and assess your options before you take action. Allow yourself some flexibility in dealing with situations like late papers, sloppy rewrites. Their frame of reference is not your frame of reference, and they aren't doing these things in order to get to you. Send an e-mail to find out what's going on ("I didn't get your paper. Are you okay?") and then decide how you want to handle it.
2. Scholarship in a room of my own.
Make time for your scholarship. Find a place where you can research and write in uninterrupted blocks of time. Immerse yourself in the existing literature on your topic, and cite the sources that you found. Citation gives a "hat tip" to those who have pioneered the topic, and when your article is published, makes it easier to find by researchers. Put the "phrases that pay" (a Beazley-ism) into your article's title.
3. Learn to say "no."
We want to say "yes" to every invitation, but we need to establish our personal criteria that these invitations must satisfy in order to merit our participation. What will this opportunity allow you to accomplish? What will you learn from it?
And when you do work something up, use it more than once. For example, are you giving a talk? Write it up into an essay afterward.
4. Be mindful of your job status.
Beazley's own job path (tutor to teaching assistant to "staff" instructor to tenure track to tenured) has given her a good perspective on the things that matter to our job status and job satisfaction. The big items to be concerned about are the number of credit hours your course earns, the number of students you teach, the form of job security you possess, your salary.
Sometimes you have to change schools to improve your situation. Sometimes you can accomplish needed changes where you are. Find your allies and advocates on the faculty.