Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sometimes You Must Destroy the Program to Save It

Ok, I was fine, then abruptly I got furious, then I went and walked it out, then I was tired and thought I was fine, but I'm still really high-emotion and maybe need to write about it.

I've been having some extremely frustrating classroom experiences lately, interactions that are clearly not so much about me being a bad teacher as in not meshing with the mission of the school and the way they run things and the way students expect things to be run. I do not fit. I am not meant to be here. It is a wonder why I was even hired. Well, except when you consider that there is a lone person trying to reshape the program and what I do would match perfectly this new, higher-profile, uh, shift or new viewpoint. But of course I am a temp, not a person hired permanently, and so am not really part of any of these internecine struggles except perhaps to begin the slow and painful process of re-educating the students to have this new set of expectations. Thus the frustrations.

However, when you look at the program description and objectives on paper and how they describe their students and learning styles and subjects it sounds so great, it sounds like a wonderful perfect fit. And so I am in the weird situation of really really wanting to stay here forever in a permanent job, if only I could gut the program and remake it and replace about 90% of the students and rewrite all the courses and structures to match the descriptions and basically just remake the whole thing over in my image. *rubs hands together evilly and cackles* Mwahahahaha! Yesss, my precious, I will Rule the World!

Ahem. Sorry about that. Yeah, so, I dunno. I love teaching here, I hate teaching here, I love the students, I hate the students. This place could be so cool if they just changed a few things around to do them my way and let me break down the students to remold them in my image. (stop it dude!) But since I was hired as a temp, I know I'm not sticking around past the end of the school year, so it's moot anyway. Which is why I've been just going with the water-off-the-duck's back way of dealing with the classes ---- just let it go and don't get too emotionally invested, which is probably for the best, as my current emotions have been running from frustration to fury.

However, because I am insane, or perhaps merely a split personality, and capable of acting and thinking in a completely rational way while at the same time indulging secret delusional fantasies, a second part of me has been deeply longing to nab a permanent post here, that even though they keep reminding me the money for this spot is drying up and will be gone next year and they are not going to keep me around, that somehow suddenly out of the blue they will say to me "hey, do you want to stay on and teach here permanently?" and I will say, "why yes, of course," even though I don't particularly like the program or want to live in GradSchoolLand anymore. Someone please make me a job offer somewhere across the country and just end my problem!

In sum: I am weird. Or crazy. Definitely locked into all sorts of strange psychological ambivalences. I wonder if all teachers would be better off in therapy? Not turning the classroom into a therapy room, which I hate, but having an outside person to help give the teacher perspective on the power struggles, the projections and displacements, the transference and countertransferance, going on in the classroom. My students want the class to be about exactly what they want to do, but really, am I any different? I want them to talk in class but to have certain me-approved topics come out of their mouths. In talking this over with a friend afterwards, venting about my latest struggles in the classroom, I abruptly became much more angry than I had been right after class. I can tell I need to calm down before planning my next class lesson, and to really carefully think about how I am going to handle our next encounter. So far the first 10 or so scenarios I have thought about (on my frenzied walk through town) have been much more about me and the psychological satisfactions I would get out of the confrontation than what my students want or need (see why I reference therapy? Unfortunately I don't like therapy, so I only have blogging).

Gah, I may need to take another walk to walk this out of my system. And I still have shitloads of grading, but I know better than to grade angry. Huh. Maybe I should just write off tonight and drive down to the beach and have some dinner and a beer instead.

(and as a side note, what is up with Inside Higher Ed? Did they seriously link to me and promote a post which consisted solely of me grading and lifting one arm up in the air? Must've been a slow news day.)


Fretful Porpentine said...

I have no idea how or why Inside Higher Ed chooses the posts they're going to link to, but I will say that one is quite genuinely hilarious, for what it's worth.

Sorry about the frustration. Hope it gets better, one way or another.

SG said...

I am pretty sure that Scott just chooses things that strike him as funny.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your love/hate relationship with students and program is weird at all. I often have that feeling. I think part of this is the struggle to establish proper boundaries with the students. Part of any good teacher really really wants to help the students and wants them to do well, despite all their pointy-headed actions. But, if you go whole hog toward that, they will end up sucking your entire being away from you. So you have to hold them at arms length, which somehow feels wrong, but is the only way to keep your sanity intact.

Dr. No said...

Oh my! I recognize ALL of the emotions/frustrations you express...I hope you did have that dinner and a beer or two. Some weeks just plain suck.