I've been reading the assigned readings in preparation for the instructor instruction thing I'm going to tomorrow. Some of the readings make interesting points, but there's a thread through them that I find irritating. It's the conversion narrative. I suppose I'm suspicious of conversion narratives in general.
Here's how it goes: The author talks about him/herself as a recent PhD, teaching just the way s/he was taught. And s/he suddenly realizes that students aren't "getting" the course. Then s/he even more suddenly realizes that s/he hadn't thought much about what students should get from the course before setting out the reading assignments and starting to lecture. And then (cue angelic choir), s/he learns about goals and outcomes! S/he learns that s/he will be more successful if s/he thinks about what's s/he's doing and how! And you, dear reader, should, too, and you should start by listing your goals and outcomes...
I think that's what's frustrating to me. Do people really go blithely off teaching without thinking in the least, hey, what do I want students to take away from this part of the class? (I admit, I rarely think in terms of "how am I going to assess whether this 15 minute segment actually taught what I was trying to teach?" Except that I expect students to be responsible for responding when I ask for questions. And that's probably unrealistic.)
I don't think I'm overwhelmingly brilliant; I'm pretty average for a Phud, I think, but it was pretty common in my graduate program to talk about canon formation and choices, and how that taught students to be good capitalist patriarchal cogs in the narrative of white patriarchy. We talked about how the classroom set-up itself taught students. We talked about how helpful it is that students had learned before they got to our classes about how to behave in groups, but that we also wanted students to be aware that they'd been trained to raise their hands and obey bells for reasons that weren't benign and wonderful in all ways. We talked about how course structures marginalized women and people of color, and how that worked, and how we might subvert that without losing our jobs. And we talked about how that little subversion would be contained and neutralized by the white patriarchy.
The fact is, we talked about this stuff, but didn't figure out how to really change things, because we also realized we were being taught to be good little cogs in the academic machine. And we talked about how important it is to teach disadvantaged students how to play the game while recognizing that it is a patriarchal, unfair structure, but that there's no escaping the structure, at least not easily.
But I'm not seeing that sort of awareness behind the conversion narratives. Yes, they're interested in teaching effectively, but they aren't interested in thinking about the deeper structures of education and how they work to reinscribe white patriarchy. They're willing to open up the avenues to success, but only within white patriarchy. White patriarchy has long been willing to allow a few successful women, a few successful people of color, and to use those as justification for oppressing the rest.
So when I see the goals and outcomes thing, and think, that's what we called "what we want students to learn," I don't only think about "students should learn to read difficult language, including verse in early modern English" but also "students should learn to think critically about patriarchy and white oppression." But I never see that listed in my university goals. It's there; I hear it in our lunchroom. But it doesn't make it to the goals because so many of our students and their parents are resistant. And the people who benefit most from white patriarchy resist most vehemently.
My worry is that I've become less agressive in fighting oppression, and more beaten down and just trying to get by.
I have two pieces of homework to do before the thing starts tomorrow. And I need to run some errands and figure out how to get there. And I need to pack.