10.10.2007

Observations

While my posts have slagged off a bit, I'm still here. I just have to deal with my performance evaluation -- a lengthy document that assembles my 2.5 months of experience at UNI into a narrative of progress toward tenure. There are three broad areas: Teaching, Research, and Service.

While I am assigned to 2 departmental committees, they have yet to meet. However, I am conducting a "listening tour" in regards to perceptions of writing on campus. So far, I have met with the Director of Writing Programs, colleagues in the department, the department chair, the Director of the Writing Center, and - tomorrow - the Dean of the College. Not bad for service, eh?

Research is similarly hefty: a book review due out in JAC, an abstract for a chapter in Writing the Earth: Rhetorics and Literacies of Sustainability, and acceptance to next spring's 4Cs.

Teaching is always the tricky bit, isn't it? Not that I have nothing to show for my teaching. I think I have plenty, but the question is, will my observers see it? And, to be clear, there are worse alternatives than the observations required here. I *do* get to write my own narrative that clues my observer's in to my pedagogical philosophy and, hopefully, things they should look for. Plus, after this year's assessment, the observations are also seen alongside those dreaded student assessments administered via bubble sheets at the end of the semester. I can also take liberties to create my own assessment tools to supplement (or offset) these other tools (especially the bubble sheets which, given my high general education load, hold potential to be especially damaging). Starting with year two, then, there is a greater emphasis on holistic measures. So, I'm not griping. I am, however, being self-reflexive.

For me, teaching is a lot about knowing when to step out of the way. It also isn't something confined to the classroom. But here I am arranging for the required observations and I have qualms about the very notion of teaching upon which it is predicated -- largely a lecture-based "performance" whose first act begins at the top of the hour and comes to a curtain call fifty-minutes later. How do we generate an awareness -- with our students, colleagues, administrators, and even in the wider public -- that good teaching often takes place behind the scenes, so to speak? What, exactly, indicates "good teaching"? Does it always appear within the confines of the classroom? For that matter, where is "the classroom" located?

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Not always theoretical... not even always academic.. but always written..