Heavens to Betsy

Just read a paper that tries to cover the entire history of the separation of the races in South Africa for the past 200 years in 3 pages and never uses in-class sources, just general web sites. How does one grade that??


3 week class

I’m in the midst of teaching a 3 week class on the global anti-apartheid movement. We’ve finished the first 1 and 2 days. In the middle now, I feel like I’ve made a few mistakes that I always make in my classes–i.e. focusing on content rather than historical thinking, having each day be something new and unique without connecting everything together. Maybe that’s what I’ll do tomorrow–have them do an in-class writing exercise that tries to put everything we’ve discussed so far into context. Tomorrow is the “New Generation” film, which goes over Black Consciousness and the Soweto uprising. I thought about doing a mini-lecture on 1968 student uprisings all over the world. I don’t know how connected the Soweto uprising (given that it was junior high and high school students, not university students) was to the rest of the world uprisings. I also feel like I’ve totally failed in terms of dates–helping students to see what went on before and after. In part that is because the first two papers that I have read don’t have a single date in them.

I’m also thinking about historical methodology b/c i asked some folks how not to repeat in a US History survey what the students did in high school and the unanimous response was students just learn content in H.S. without learning the way historians think. Now I’m trying to figure out how historians think. Ha! That’s why this blog has to be anonymous (as much as I can make it that way) because I want to talk about my failings (b/c sometimes that’s all I can see) and in academia we’re supposed to pretend to have it all together.

Speaking of which, I had an interview this week. Right afterwards I felt really good about it, but later I got to thinking about their question “What are your strengths and weaknesses in teaching” and realized that I probably said too much about my weaknesses. I also think I said too many general things, like “I’m friendly and approachable” and I want to reach every student rather than an actual historical goal. Aieeee.

Dance rehearsal at 2. Maybe I’ll actually get it together by then. Ha!

Oij vey. I’m tired this weekend. Not just tired from being back at work after a long vacation, but tired of being me. I read things on facebook and see everyone’s political interests and I think about how I am interested in art, but I struggle to articulate it. So I’m quiet. I was the life of the party for a little bit of time in my 20s (and by party I mean game night with a bunch of fairly mild Christians), but now I’m quiet. My teaching evaluations say I don’t have enough confidence in myself, so I come off as quiet there too.

I worry about this for a few reasons. I worry about being boring and not being able to sustain friendships. I worry about going on job interviews where there is a dinner and not being able to sustain conversation. I worry about not being able to attract the caliber of person I want to date (I’m already at a disadvantage being as large as I am–then to be boring, too. Ugh).

I’m also tired of all things academic, because I just don’t feel like I’m going to succeed. I have had some very nice validations recently, but in general I just feel like I keep hitting dead ends.

And then I’m in a musical and I can’t sing and I can’t dance (I can act, which is the one redeeming thing, but otherwise, I keep messing up. I can sing just enough to match stronger singers, but quite frequently I have my own part and have to come in first as the lowest singer and it’s just not pretty).

I’m feeling lonely tonight, but I know the deeper loneliness of being with the wrong person.

Work in progress


I got an interview! Next week. We’ll see how it goes. I went ahead and sent the extra materials (writing sample and two syllabi) to show that I’m on top of things. I hope they are ok!

In other news, I may have accidentally called some of my students racists today. I was trying to make it personal about me, but I’m not sure it worked. They had a heated discussion about affirmative action–that sticky topic, one that has become less and less at the forefront of civil rights activism. Yet, I still think whites need to analyze why it is they respond the way they do. I tried to say that to the students–think about why you are responding this way. Is it connected to the past racism or is it something new? (And of course the answer is yes to both). I asked them to consider whether or not my response as a young person to affirmative action (and by subsidiary, their response) was indeed patterned after earlier forms of white racism, or whether affirmative action itself was creating racism, as one person suggested. 

After they went ahead and read some materials I’d handed out, I said, I’ve thought about what I just said and I realize that I may have accidentally called some of you racists. (They laughed) I should explain what I meant. In undergrad I went on a mission trip in which the director said that I was a racist and that we are all racists. I said that I was still a racist and dealing with purging it from myself. And that it was necessary for us all to do some self-reflection on the state of what we consider right.

Then I was so unsure of what I had done that I mulled over it all day. I brought it up in the Africana Studies meeting (which I probably shouldn’t have done b/c I admitted to not liking confrontation, which made me seem weak). But it provoked an interesting discussion. One of my colleagues is against affirmative action in what he hopes is  a progressive way–saying that class is much more important to diversify than race, although by diversifying class you do diversify race.

I will not be defeated

Really. I won’t be. Even though I just got another rejection in the mail, this one from a school where some of my dear friends are located. And it was African Diaspora. But maybe I just don’t have the publishing record to get a job at a big state school. I probably don’t. Why couldn’t I have moved faster and published more?

Trying not to cry at work, but it’s not working. I’m so scared about this year. I just have a very bad feeling about it. I didn’t make enough progress in the last year. When it takes 6 months to hear back on an article, and you can’t submit it anywhere else, it’s really hard to make progress. Especially when you then get rejections. What am I gonna do if I don’t land anywhere? I couldn’t even get adjunct work last year before this job came through. I won’t be able to get adjunct work here, so I’ll need to move. I really should be saving every penny I have. I blew my savings this summer when I was without income for two months.

Interesting. A few students are advocating against democracy in their Utopia papers because they are so upset by the violent fighting between the two parties. This is a major change from a few years ago, I feel. Although I remember thinking both parties were the same when I was their age because I didn’t know better, I don’t remember thinking we should throw democracy out the window. Students are usually pretty patriotic.