Friday, October 25, 2013


NWU has hired someone to come give some talks to students and such about career preparation and stuffs.  And that's fine. 

That same information is pretty much already available here, though.  The career services folks talk about this, and so do advisors (well, I do, anyway).  But we're paying this other person to come and talk.

The thing is, the faculty member who has responsibility for making sure the visitor's time is occupied is a friend of mine, and asked if I would be willing to have the visitor come talk to one of my classes (a core majors class) about career preparation stuff.  And so, I said yes.  And then the idea of the visitor also coming to my senior class for a few minutes came up, and that seemed okay.  Our seniors need to think about what comes next, for sure.

So the idea was that the person would come to the last 15 or so minutes of my core class, and then the first 15 or so minutes of my senior seminar.

You'll note the "was," right?

My friend (and I want to emphasize friend, because this is a super person in every way) emailed me saying that the visitor would be interested in sitting in on the classes and then talking to students at the end (the idea being, it seems, that the visitor would talk about the sorts of skills and such we're building in the career preparation stuffs).

So now I get to spend two and a half hours, at least half "on show."

This could be fine.  The visitor may be really great, and my students might be really interested.

Or it could be a "trash the instructor" session.  I don't think it will consciously be that, but I have a certain sense that someone who thinks they have so much to offer that they get paid to come around and talk about this stuff might feel that they need to make some points.

And then, of course, this is me doing a friend a favor to keep this visitor occupied because no one else jumped at the opportunity, and it's going to be cast by administrative types as: I'm a crappy teacher who wants someone to visit so that I don't have to teach, because my classes are empty crap (we all know administrators like that), and also going to be used to show how desperate we are for visitors like this so that we'll spend more of our money on visitors.  And not on, you know, people who show up and work semester in and semester out.

I should have backed out, shouldn't I!


  1. Anonymous8:19 AM

    The maxim that no good deed goes unpunished really does keep getting proven, doesn't it? :-( I don't know if you have time to talk with this person before class (oh yay, more of your time co-opted), but in the very best-case scenario I can see this person being a pair of outside eyes to recognize all the many things we do in English classrooms that build skills that are absolutely necessary to the working world--really listening to other people and showing that they've been heard; close analysis of, well, anything; precise, accurate written and spoken expression. And that person might be able to communicate to your students about all the careers they're preparing for when they study the stuff you study, even though, ha ha, there aren't a lot of jobs for "close readers of seventeenth-century poetry." And, extra special bonus, maybe that person can communicate those ideas BACK to the people who don't appropriately respect what we do?

    That's my dream for you today! xoxo

  2. I find myself increasingly reacting to such visitors, whether good or bad (and most of ours have been quite good, but they didn't come to my classroom, thank goodness; I voluntarily went to a talk or workshop) by wondering how much they make, and musing about how I could turn my experience to similar purposes. I'm not the only one among my colleagues who reacts this way. While it's a perfectly logical/justified reaction on our part, it (like the increasing temptation among faculty to consider administration because that's where the money/respect/power apparently is) is not a sign of health for higher ed in general.

  3. Anonymous11:57 AM

    ".......So now I get to spend two and a half hours, at least half "on show."......"

    Make the best of it. If they "expect" a show, give 'em one.
    I recommend an extended discourse on Catullus Carmina XVI with your class paying particular attention to the various translations one might offer for "irrumabo"(1) and "pedicabo".
    See who blushes first.
    Best to warn the class before hand.
    I once 'drove' an unwanted 'guest' from my classroom by beginning a discussion with the class on why it would be unwise for any of my female students to visit a primate enclosure at the zoo if they were also ovulating at the time. The male simians would respond to the wafting pheromones and quite literally go "ape-s**t". The male "visitor" could not escape fast enough.

    (1) I once had a student translate this colourful word as "Clintonise". Funny guy he was.

    If my moniker is offensive, I apologise.

  4. Maybe I'm missing something, but I actually think the person isn't getting to visit enough with your students--seems like 15 minutes with students is enough to disrupt your plans for the day but not enough time to really get into the sorts of questions that will come up. I've been putting a unit on career prep into the senior seminar I teach (which is, loosely, a kind of professional writing seminar, so that cover letters and resumes are not too distant from some of the rest of the material in the course--I imagine that your seminar is more literary and so the material might be more disconnected). But what is the visitor going to accomplish in 15 minutes? I think I'd rather have a slightly longer conversation....and without knowing who the visitor is, of course, it's hard to know what to expect. Did your friend give you a sense of the sort of thing that the visitor is likely to say?

    Around here, having such a visitor come to your class would get eye rolling from some colleagues and praise from others. But I do think it's a great conversation to start--I am chairing our dept's assessment committee and just collated data from a big survey we did last spring and fall, and overwhelmingly the students said they wanted more conversations about how to transition from English to life after college. So assuming that your friend is bringing in a visitor who can help students think about liberal arts in relationship to broad abilities, I think it could be pretty cool.

  5. (that said, I realize how hard it is to add visitors--esp visitors who aren't connected to the plans you already made--when the schedule is already fixed! Don't meant to minimize the potential disruption, or to suggest that the existing class plan wasn't chock full of great activities and material!)

  6. Thanks, all. She gave a presentation last year at a conference a bunch of our students attended, and they raved about how wonderful she is. So I should just get over myself.

    I think it's important to talk to students about what comes next, and to get them to think about how to prepare and such, and I can make time in either of these classes, because as long as they're learning, it's good!

  7. Bardiac, it seems to me like you're blowing this a little out of proportion. I think it's great to introduce your students to new & different people--you'll get bonus points from them about this. You sound really un-confident here, which is a surprise. Aren't you an old pro?

    The main thing to remember is that these are your classes, and you're the boss. Give the visitor a copy of your syllabus and invite her to read what the students are reading/discussing that week. Invite her to participate in the discussion and THEN turn it over to her for the last 15 minutes to do her thing. This will integrate her into the class & give her ideas/talking points related to your teaching & course material that will make her presentation more effective for your students.

  8. Sorry, I was a little whiny. It's a challenging semester.

  9. It's your blog - you get to whine!

    And although I'm sure there are many benefits to the visitor, integrating them into a class without messing up the schedule you've planned is just an extra little bit of work and noone needs that in late October...

  10. It went okay, all.

    But seriously, why are we paying this person good money to say the same old thing?