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Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Tattoos have become the ubiquitous cliché of subversive cool. Like kooky eyeglasses and statement haircuts, they are props for people who would like to announce to the world that they are interesting. But in the vocabulary of personal style, there is something jarringly inarticulate about a tattoo.

I feel all of a jangle these days trying to craft my new self while emerging out of 29-almost-30 years of experience of being half me and half someone else masquerading as all the stuff I thought I should be.

I want to be outre and cool and a hipster and have kooky eyeglasses and a statement haircut and a tattoo. I’ve tried to get the statement haircut twice now and failed–once because the Mandarin speaking hairdresser did not believe me, despite the fact that I brought in pictures. The second time I didn’t bring in pictures, relying upon going to an English speaking hairstylist. I told her I wanted an asymetrical cut, but instead she just straightened out the bob the previous guy had given me.

I want cool clothes, but nothing feels cool on this chunky, muscular body of mine. I got all these shirts with wild patterns and interesting cuts, so why do I still feel so dowdy?

I wouldn’t mind being a hipster, but I’ve never seen a large hipster. It seems they all are straight up and down, like modern day flappers.

I want to look gay and I’m terrified to look gay. I don’t know what fits me better–skirts and heels or more masculine clothes. Part of me would also love to be a crunchy granola type (I am, after all, relying entirely on bike, foot, and bus transportation!). But again, there are few XLs in that style and even fewer that look decent. Unfortunately, XL just needs a lot more structure to the top than organic cotton usually comes in.

And then I want to do and do and do, but I’m also pretty darn exhausted these days. From not eating well enough? From biking everywhere? From working longer hours and at a faster pace than usual? Is my body slowly beginning to release tensions that I have carried around for years?

And I’ve only been here a couple of weeks–why does it bother me that I haven’t plunked on down in a community yet? I mean, last weekend I went to three things (a gallery opening/cocktail hour, an outdoor play, and a minor league baseball game). Yesterday I went to a dance club (which was a big downer–probably at least part of the reason for my mood. The same group of gals I met online is going to a movie tonight and I just don’t think I have the energy to bike downtown again. I just got home from some afternoon errands/ finding a better web connection to watch my first hour of tv in almost 3 weeks).

And what do I want? Do I want to spend my off hours reading harmless lesbian fiction that makes me feel more connected to the lesbian identity that sometimes feels rock solid and sometimes feels very shaky? Is fluff harmless? Or reading something more in-depth, like the history books I don’t have time for in my job right now? Do I want to spend the off hours working on polishing chunks of the dissertation into publishable articles? Do I have any brain left after working all day? Or do I want to do art? All of these things are lonely activities. What about finding a tennis club, or a dance club, or something else to do with folks? Or go to movies by myself? Or get my library card and new license and sign up for the gym and find the rest of the furniture I “need” and all that house-setting up I need to do? What about spending time with my cat, who is lonely without someone home with him all day (either me, or E, or Grandma, as has been the case for the past 2 years) and who doesn’t yet have a good scratching post because I can’t find one. I went in search of a petstore supposedly downtown, but couldn’t find it. Should have called first before riding my bike all the way over there!

Why do I feel like I have to do all these things at once? Oh, and I also want to write–write for this blog, and for my professional blog, and in my journal, and maybe on the couple of pieces of non-history fiction and non-fiction in my brain, as well as polishing diss stuff. And I’d love to work on some kind of a comedy show or something to get me back on stage. The only thing I’ve watched this summer is Last Comic Standing and I’m starting to think a minor career as a comedian wouldn’t be so bad. Actually it’d be very fun. I love to make folks laugh and sometimes i can be the life of the party. But I need to start writing down my observations in a humorous way.

And then there’s stuff like just figuring out where to put all the clothes currently in some state of dissaray between my closet and the floor and my suitcases. For awhile I ran out of hangers and I don’t have a dresser, so suitcases it is.

All this anxiety about who I am is driving me back to images of self-harm. I thought I was done with those. I’ve also been feeling my heart in my throat–because I’m back on caffeine or am I having panic attacks? They don’t normally happen when I am any more or less anxious, but then I am riding on anxiety these days. I saw a psychiatrist here (took 9 miles of riding–which doesn’t seem a lot compared to the 42 miles in 2 hours my friend rode the other day, but I do have a comfort bike and she has a road bike!) But therapy doesn’t really start helping until you’ve established a relationship with someone–and the psychiatrist wants to know all about me, but he only prescribes medicine. I have to wait almost a month to see my new therapist (would have been even longer–almost 2 months, but I requested someone comfortable with LGBT folk and that person had an earlier opening). I was great, I thought, when I left CA. Why am I falling to bits now?

And who the fuck am I? And why can’t I meditate? Is it because I feel like I “should?”

And again I forgot to go to the store (stopped at the farm stand for fresh peaches and blueberries and ivy for my porch), so i can’t make more coffee b/c I have no filters. Tomorrow it is a must, because I’m out of two meds and will need to get refills. I hope the Kroger down the street has $4 generics! Maybe I should call ahead of time? Yathink?

I’m sorry I only seem to write here when I’m anxious or frustrated or angry.

By the way, I started this article off with the tattoo reference because it is another place where I feel jangly. I want a tatto0, but I’m too nervous to even go into a tattoo parlor. All these different places I think I’ll be laughed out of–bike stores for being too chubby, hiking stores for being too urban and chubby, boutique clothing stores for being too chubby, gay places for only having just come out and being too chubby and also kinda boring.

But I’m not boring! And I’m cute in my own way! But it is a sign of a depressive funk for me to have lost all my self-esteem. Gone. Out the window.

Which brings up another pet peeve and then I’m done. Folks my age and older complain about this generation of undergrads for having too strong a self esteem. Ummm, isn’t that we wanted out of the 80s? Isn’t it better to have self-esteem than this tearing apart of myself, ice-pick and butcher knife at the ready, that seems to happen to me? Is it because academics are usually on that precipice of insecurity/arrogance so they dislike someone who is just stably self-assured? let’s try to figure out a way to work with these kids as they are instead of change them into insecure manic producers like ourselves? ‘K?

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Teaching

I have an interview!! Super excited about it. Cool school–small liberal arts college. Phone interview next week.

Teaching is very important to the interviewers–as you can imagine. So this weekend I am thinking about teaching (as well as continuing to try to get my diss finished. Just went back and put all the citations into a chapter I wrote in a real hurry right before printing it all out to give to my advisor. Had skipped some of the citations as a way to move faster…oh and now I remember there are still a few more).

Anyway–let me use this forum to think about teaching.

One thing I have found very frustrating teaching at a major university is the way that undergraduates seem to be ignored. Now part of that is because I haven’t been in on any of the faculty discussions about undergraduate teaching, but I was just amazed at the way no one provided me with guidance or oversight for my first class taught on my own (other than offering a few sample syllabi). I did the best I could that semester, and some things came out great (several student’s papers) and some things came out miserably (some of the reviews). But I need to not think about those things–need to project confidence and enthusiasm, not too much humility or ability to learn from mistakes.

My hope for my future career was either to be in a major research one institution to support my research or to be in a dynamic, small liberal arts college where there is a real focus on undergraduate education and mentoring. I want to know my students more than seeing a fresh set of 75 or 100 or 300 each semester. I have a few anecdotes of when I have mentored students that I think will be helpful to the conversation.

Hmmm, but this is still too waver-y…

I want students to come away from my class having practiced critical thinking skills, but even more so having confronted the moral and political complexity within our society and between different societies. I want to encourage the enthusiasm of youth for social change, while at the same time grounding them in some of the real complexities of moral decision making. Good people have too often done nothing or done something bad because of a simplistic view of the world and the problem (and I would suggest good people on either side of the political divide).

I also want students to partake of my enthusiasm for history and to cultivate their own joy of learning. I want to give them tools so that that joy need never go unwatered in their future life. College should help students learn how to approach a future life, not give students everything they need so that they need never learn again. That is why the environment is so important. It is not just about taking the classes–it’s about living in the dorms, encountering teachers outside the classroom. Chatting about life with people who are more interesting than you and finding new ways to be excited about the world.

This school mentions not just learning critical thinking, but also exploring one’s imagination. What a wonderful union of purpose for someone always fascinated by the art and the science of the world.

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