One Semester In

It was hard work, buddy. Same as teaching during grad school: everything is fine until about the middle of October. Then it’s in the weeds, slammed. All the digital communication that makes some things so easy makes grading and assignments and organization chaotic. Carson Newman uses some archaic “learning management system” called Edvance 360 and, well, it’s not very edvanced. (We’re getting an update in May, I’ve learned). Even Blackboard, which is being abandoned by many universities, was easier to use. I had around 60 undergraduate students, and all the courses were seminar style. Then I had 9 doctoral students. They turned in 80-page proposals October 15th. That’s really what increased the busyness.

But it’s good work. The kind of work I want to be doing. I don’t claim to “reach” every student, whatever that means. But I have fun with them, teaching, learning, tackling tough readings, navigating the state’s teacher licensure requirements, exploring the world and our place in it, pushing, pushing, pushing. I had some students tell me they used to think social studies was going to be boring, and now they’re disappointed about how little time it is allotted in the curriculum. I taught through resistance to the concept of microaggressions and increased awareness of discriminatory discipline policies. And with one class I made the unfortunately depressing but deep insight into the connection between Foucault’s work on surveillance, value-added measurement, and the gate-keeping function of schools. It’s fulfilling.

And it’s flexible work. I can continue to read and write for my own scholarship. I’m making progress on papers and a book manuscript. I presented at a conference and got accepted to present at a couple more in the spring. I can still be a family man. We eat more leftovers than before, but we eat well. I get at least a couple hours a day with my son, and more with my wife. I don’t have to be a company man, despite the doom and gloom of the academic rat race—our provost jokes that parents didn’t get the message in 1999 to party (there’s a very low number of 18-year olds for potential first-year students). But the faculty works well together to fulfill our obligations to the larger institution as a whole so I don’t have to, for example, be too active in recruiting students.

So here I go, semester 2. My classes begin tomorrow, my dissertation students (and candidates) are starting to move through institutional review, and I get a new cohort of Ed.D.s in March. Stay tuned. Well. Or not. I’ll let you know if I write anything good.

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