Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Larry Craig, The Senior Senator From Idaho Who Is A Homophobic Republican Right Winger, And Who Said That Bill Clinton Was A "Naughty Boy," Is Not Gay

And neither am I.

OK, I'm just kidding. I am gay.

BWA-HA-HA-HA! I'm not even going to try to be scholarly about this. And anyway, look how wrong I was about Michael Vick. My question is this: when Larry Craig told the Idaho Statesman that the REI sporting goods store in Boise was the last place he would go to cruise men, did he really think that all queer people do not know that Boise was uncovered as a hotbed of homosexual activity during the 1950's? His precise statement was: "I've been in this business 27 years in the public eye here. I don't go around anywhere hitting on men, and by God, if I did, I wouldn't do it in Boise, Idaho! Jiminy!" Whereas, in fact, many gay men in the Mountain West would.

Craig's statement about the REI incident -- and let me say I write with the authoroity of a person partly raised in Idaho -- is exactly the kind of thing someone from Idaho would say, whether he was telling the truth or not. The syntax is perfect. Read more from the Washington Post here.

In the interests of fair and balanced reporting, here is Larry Craig's official statement about not being gay. And in the interests of slinging mud, here is a transcript from the Bill O'Reilly show on Fox that says he is.

Oh dear, oh dear. Can it get any worse for the GOP? I hope so. Since the Democrats can't seem to stop the war or pass any of the legislation they promised us last November, we may have to settle for ritual humiliation.

Ten points if you can name the other Senator from Idaho. Give up?

Mike Crapo, of Idaho Falls.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Welcome to Relationships 101, New Professors

Hello New Professors!

Welcome to XU. Right now, your life is a rush of new knowledge, for which graduate school prepared you not at all. Sure, there are some experiences you have already had, like having to get a campus map in your head while you were unpacking and finishing your syllabus. (Actually -- have your belongings arrived yet, or are are you balancing your lap top on your bicycle rack while sitting cross-legged on the floor? That's what I thought.)

And there are other things you know -- you have at least been a section leader at CU, or perhaps you have even run your own seminar, so you have some idea of what will happen on the first day of class. You are vowing to memorize all your students' names in the first week, and you have even written a number of lectures in advance before things get crazy. Perhaps you have been assigned a mentor, having just escaped your graduate mentor -- but what critical pieces of information have you not been given? Read on.

Your department Administrative Assistant and any other office staff are your lifeline to success. This is perhaps the most important thing I could tell you. You think it is your chair who runs the world? Ha. Your chair doesn't even want to be chair, most likely, and since graduate school has never taught administrative skills, half of us who are chairs leave as much of the technical side of running the department in the hands of the office staff as we can. Go in and introduce yourself to the staff, learn their names and remember them. Moreover, never be too busy to inquire after their well-being. Why? Well, other than the fact that it is polite, your office staff can do things for you that you can't do for yourself and, given the longevity of employment among clerical workers, they have relationships with staff around the university who can also help you. Do you have an unsuitable classroom? Guess what? So do ten other people. Your AA can most likely call the single person in the registrar's office who can get you the room you need while the requests of others are kicked to the curb.

Never yell at a member of your, or anyone else's office staff. Ever, ever, ever. And if you do, apologize, even if you were technically in the right and had a good reason to be angry. Flowers will do; candy is better.

Choose your friends, don't let your friends choose you. This was standard advice given to most children in the 1950s and 60s as they started new schools. Even though being chosen by others seems to be the dominant cultural mode, I still think it is relevant to the situation of new faculty to ally themselves to others while keeping their eyes wide open. Here's the scenario to really watch out for:

Before you were hired, you were one of many candidates in the beauty pageant and somehow you became Miss America. The tap dancing, the dieting, the implants, the hot rollers -- it all paid off. But why, exactly, did the judges choose you? "Merit!" you chirp. OK -- I'm not going to say you aren't meritorious, but really, many other people in the search were too, and the process by which you were hired cannot, and should not, be imagined as a scientific deliberation in which it became clear to all that you were, objectively speaking, Graduate Student of the Year. I'm just telling you this because it gets you ready for the big letdown when.....some senior person shimmies up to you and tells you -- confidentially, of course -- that s/he was your really big supporter in the hiring meeting, and that you really need to watch out for Dr. Grumpo, who is a big right-winger and a sexual harasser besides, and hated your work. You are, of course, crestfallen, and ready to grab at the ally who has mysteriously appeared at hand to comfort you. What do you do dear? Do you say, "REALLY???!?" and go out to lunch to hear this new "friend" (who is trying to tie you down as a departmental ally) recount the awful details? You do not. You smile warmly and say, "Thank you so much for your support. I really look forward to working with you," and you just sashay right back into your office and make a dress out of the blinds for good measure. Then, if you are feeling really self-confident, take some time to drop into Grumpo's office (prudently leaving the door open, of course) and see for yourself what this person is like.

Never betray another untenured person. And don't assume someone is a natural ally just because s/he is untenured. If you do something that harms the interests of another untenured person, no matter how unconscious or innocent it was, a lot of people will view you as a snake, and not just your peers. On the other hand, it takes a while to figure out who among your peers can really be trusted to watch your back, because some of them may actually be snakes and not innocent, powerless untenured people at all. Imagining that faculty rank parallels the class formation process, because it too is an effect of oppression, is horribly misguided. If you need any further proof of this, remember that if the class formation process actually had occurred in the United States the way Marx had imagined that it would, historians like David Roediger and Robin Kelley would not have the distinguished careers that they do.

Don't distrust someone just because s/he is tenured. I do not mean to belittle the grave concerns that many untenured people have about tenured folk making unfounded, or founded, judgements about them. But there are a great many people whose advice can be trusted, and this is how you can tell: they don't tell you what to do. They give you the information you need to make your own decision. They don't assume that your experience with a particular person will replicate theirs; they acknowledge that you will want to make your own relationships with others, that your interests might differ from theirs and that the two of you can respect and like each other despite your differences. They don't make core assumptions about you because you are gay/of color/a woman/a man/ white/southern/from the Ivy League/from England. They don't look straight at your brown/queer face and tell you that they don't "see race" or that a good family friend "is gay." OK, so what if some of these things do happen -- is this tenured person untrustworthy? Not necessarily. People who have structural power over you will occasionally make you uncomfortable, and you need to put that information in your personal data bank along with other information, gathered over time. But perform some sort of internal calculus to determine at any given moment whether this is someone who you will be able to rely upon, and for what. Someone who initially makes a negative impression on you may actually be a good colleague, or a good colleague for you, who just fumbled a first impression out of ignorance or their own discomfort. It's not up to you to deal with this, but don't make life harder for yourself by developing grudges that blind you to a person's more congenial qualities.

Do distrust someone who tells you to your face that your intellectual interests are unimportant or wrong. This person wishes you no good, and wants you to go away. Stay away from her, and cultivate a bright, empty smile for hallway encounters.

Whenever someone does something for you, say "Thank you." Saying "thank you" is perhaps one of the most underrated academic skills I know. You are not automatically owed service by anyone. No one -- I repeat, no one -- works for you, New Professor. The class dean works for the dean of the college. The departmental secretary works for the administrative assistant, who works for the chair. There are probably a hundred people who make your work possible, and it is their job to do that, but it is not their job to tolerate rudeness or serve without recognition. Look for an opportunity to pay people back: would it kill you, on the way out to get lunch, to ask the office staff if they need anything -- and to refuse payment for that $1.25 can of Coke? No it would not. Or how about this: a senior colleague has just read your article - ask if you can take her to lunch. The senior person might even say no (recognizing that your salary is a fraction of his), but although this sounds trite -- it is the thought that counts.

Do not have sex with anyone you work with this year. Wait until next year, when people know other things about you.

Never be afraid to ask a question, or ask for help. This is the only way you will learn how your institution works. And despite all the teaching centers that are now in vogue in higher ed, it is the only way you will learn how to teach. Saying to a colleague, "Can you look at my syllabus?" is a good example. This has two advantages: one is that a person who has taught the same demographic of students for years can give you good advice, rather than your students giving it to you in a cruder form at the end of the term. But the other is that it gives people confidence that you care about teaching those students well, as opposed to the students you had at selective CU, or the ones you didn't get a chance to teach when someone else got the job at Zenith. In addition to getting sound advice, here's the Bonus Track: the next time you are being reviewed, this colleague will step in and say, "Yes, we had a good talk about that class, and from what I understand...." In other words, you can counter that sense of not having a role in your own destiny by actually engaging in dialogue with senior faculty who will listen to you and take that information to their peers.

Why, is that the moving truck pulling up outside your empty apartment? Time to go! There's lots more I could say but I, um, have to go -- finish my syllabus. Good luck, New Professors, and don't forget to let your colleagues in the blogosphere know how you are doing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

While U Were Out

This is a short post to say that the Radical is back in town, and hitting the ground running at Zenith. During our vacation (it was lovely, thank you for asking), the following unexpected things happened at home:

Individual branches of our rose bushes out front crinkled up and died. My suspicion is that they were peed on. The question is -- by people or dogs? And do these individuals always pee on my bushes, but because I have been watering more or less every day I somehow rinse the bushes sufficiently? It's a mystery.

The fire alarm went off, for no reason as usual, and ADT called our neighbor, who raced over just in time to see a fireman raising an ax, with which he planned to fell our nineteenth century front door. "St-a-a-a-a-ahp!" she screamed, and he did, and all was well. Except that now I have to make an appointment to get ADT to clean the fire alarm. Again.

I ended up with 48 advisees, due to sabbaticals, leaves and resignations. This is not a mystery. I know exactly how -- and from whom -- I got them, and how -- eventually -- I will help them to the next level. Fortunately many of them are in Foreign Lands on study abroad programs.

The dog breeder, with whom we leave Breezy the dog, got usefully beside herself at Breezy's ill-behaved ways and trained her to come when called.

My favorite horse, Lila Paige, was entered in the Personal Ensign, a mile and 1/4 Grade 1 Handicap at Saratoga, where this afternoon she will face five other fillies who have breeding far superior to hers (there are two Deputy Minister fillies, and two A.P. Indy fillies, and as racing folk know, if you have A.P. Indy for your pa, you are directly descended from Seattle Slew.) I suggest you put a couple of fins on her. Lila is quite the little cinderella horse, seems to like coming from behind (and in a fast field, that is a plus) and I have won a lot of money on her. But this is only her second graded stakes ever, having come from obscurity -- at least as far as the Daily Racing Form is concerned -- to come in second in the Grade II Delaware Handicap. If she does well it will be a Big Deal.

Oh, but I do go on. I think my brain must still be on vacation. More later.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Radical Takes a Vacation

Because it is August; and

Because school will start in a heartbeat in a half, and there is no point staying home and dreading the loss of my freedom for the 44th year in a row (with two years taken off in the middle to work for the advertising agency, when I had no vacation at all except what I could steal); and

Because no matter how much work we do in the summer it never feels like enough; and

Because there is nothing more beautiful than a lake in Northern Minnesota:

The Radical is off on vacation with her best pal, N. Early tomorrow morning we will be flying out of Regional Airport, and barring pilot sick-outs, the collapse of the air traffic comptrollers' computer or terrible weather, we will be landing in one of the historic seats of radicalism, Minneapolis, around noon, changing planes, and flying on to Duluth, where we will be picked up by N's sister and transported to the beautiful lake in the Boundary Waters Region (otherwise known as the Iron Range) where that side of the familly has had a vacation house for several decades.

So this blog is more or less on hiatus for the next ten days. But if you wonder what I am doing it will look pretty much like this:

Wake up.
Naked swim in lake.
Covered swim in lake in deference to the many people who will be awake.
Before dinner drinks.
Drift off to sleep while listening to loons.

This schedule is occasionally interrupted by important discusions that include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

Shall we go pick blueberries today?
Should we have our drinks here, or take them on the pontoon boat and go to another pretty lake and have them there?
Will there be northern lights?
Shall we pack a picnic lunch and take the pontoon boat to a lovely beach a few lakes away?
Should someone fire up the sauna?
Will we vote for Hillary?
What are you reading?
Should we go into town and get a blueberry milkshake?

The book list is on the left, folks. Wish us luck for event-free travel. Oh yes: and I have dowloaded onto my iPod all the episodes of Damages and Mad Men that I have not yet watched, in case you were concerned that I am becoming an egg head.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Another Brick in The Wall

Well, the shrapnel has flown among the literary scholars in Shoreline, I guess. A young acquaintance forwarded Helena Echlin's Letter from Yale, first published in Arete Magazine a few years back. Boy, and they say the blogosphere is mean. Doesn't hold a candle to what editors will approve for publication. At least those of us who blog have a range of enemies who read us secretly and write nasty, anonymous comments that hold us accountable for our sarcasm; and friends who call to say gently, "Are you sure you want....?"

Not that I hold such a brief for the old alma mater, you understand (full disclosure: I took a B.A. in English there back in the New Criticism days and loved every second of it. Then went into a doctoral program in history.) One of the individuals named as a culprit for ruining Echlin's desire to get a Ph.D. in English literature is an old classmate from those happy undergraduate days at -- oh, all right, for those of you who have not guessed already -- Oligarch (Yale) University. And really, I can't believe he isn't the decent, sweet fellow he always was, and a marvelous teacher. Fortunately for all, Echlin has already left Oligarch's program, but her complaints range from the familiar (too much tongue-twisting, inpenetrable theory, not so many jobs) to some zingers that I haven't heard before: that literature professors no longer view fiction as a laudable pursuit in and of itself; that they live in the suburbs ("The bastards!" you exclaim); that you can barely hear yourself think in a room full of graduate students because of the smacking sounds of lips landing on tenured behinds; that Echlin's professors did not read for pleasure and that the profession cares so little for the written word that an Eng Lit graduate student at Oligarch can receive credit for a course in quantum physics but not in creative writing.

Well Helena, I have two words for you: American Studies. OK? Take the "English" out of "English literature" and you have a group of people that are hot-smart, but spend most of their spare time going to the movies, watching TV, and reading mysteries. They also love to party: visit the ASA meeting in Philadelphia this October if you don't believe me.

Seriously, are things that bad in English Departments that it is just theory, theory, theory 24/7? Really? See I wouldn't know. In the first place, I am a historian, and in the second place, I idolize English departments. Historians as a professional group value theory almost not at all, to the exent that when they worry that they are missing something, they complain that history doesn't have "a theory" (this is when scholars in other fields fall over laughing because the idea that there is one theory that could explain everything is incomprehensible to anyone but historians.) People write whole books about why theory is valued so little in the modern historical profession. And then people like Joan Scott, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg and Hayden White, brilliant and field-changing as they have been in their very different ways, have gone through prolonged periods of getting dished by other historians because what they do is so theoretical, according to their critics, it is "not history." This little drama is often played out on the departmental level as well, as many of my readers who are historians have, I am sure, observed. Unless you claim to do philosophy of history, in which case people leave roses at your door whether they understand what you have written or not. Go figure.

And of course we all know that familiar complaint by the ideologically or disciplinarily driven: "I don't understand it, therefore it is useless drivel!" as if these two thoughts necessarily follow one another. Nobody understands everything. And really, it isn't necessary to understand everything, even if it is written in English. I read French pretty well, and if I tried to read Derrida in the original my head would explode trying to decode it. As it is, when reading French theory in translation I wear an ice bag just in case.

Your Radical is not one of those who dish, you see: she is one who Has Been Dished, although without, unfortunately, becoming famous. I went through a period of reading every bit of feminist and queer theory I could get my mitts on, and now I can't because too many people are writing it. Oh yeah, I also went through my Marxist theory and neo-Marxist theory stage (people have more or less stopped writing that), not to mention my sociology period and my cultural studies phase-- both pretty theory-driven if not entirely theoretical, which is a blessing of sorts. While I am not famous or cited constantly like the luminaries noted above, I think it is fair to say that I profited from reading theory immensely, and still do when I am moved to make the effort. Because history does not seem to be receptive to producing overarching theories - except, of course, Marxism, the original Modern Theory of History -- so, like those silly birds who put eggs in the nests of other birds, we have to travel around grafting our work onto theoretical traditions produced elsewhere, especially in English departments. Where would history be were it not for theories thought up by all those birds in other disciplines? And why should the rest of us care how they lay their eggs, as long as they continue to do so?

So this leads me to my point: Literary criticism, in my view, can be a field for the masses, but you might just have to go somewhere other than Oligarch to be that scholar and get that education. Going to a school because it is famous, and not because you know that what they teach there is going to suit your intellectual desires, is a huge mistake and it is yours, Helena, and no one else's. And actually, English departments like Oligarch's do a great service, which Echlen has failed to note. While the rest of us are reading the latest Alice Munroe and catching up on our TV shows so the DVR won't erase them automatically, at Oligarch and Duke and Santa Cruz they are thinking up all those hard theories that we can just borrow and footnote! How great is that? So people should stop kicking English Departments around for -- not to mention that what they do for a living is a lot like being those people who built armour in seventeenth century Europe without knowing whether anyone would be using it twenty or thirty years hence. One does hope for a better outcome, of course, even though all culture and the history of the entire world will be available for iPod download in early 2010.

So Helena, lighten up, girl. Leave those kids alone.

Hat tip to Anonymous Untenured Colleague.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The World's Oldest Profession

Inspired by a terrific post on the Advanced Placement program from my favorite Zenith University student blog (correctly in my view, they oppose the AP, as well as everything else that makes high school such an anxious drag), the Radical wants to take up the challenge. What annoying behaviors will we who teach at Selective Liberal Arts Colleges (otherwise known as "SLACs") soon be navigating? What false information will we be forced to dispel? Misinformation for which we cannot fault the students themselves? That I am charging directly to the account of the pressure to get into college that has been created by SLACs like Zenith and their buddies in the Ivy League, and reinforced by slavish private, public and parochial schools? Read on for the Radical's pet peeves during first year advising:

1. The International Baccalaureate. I had a relative in an IB high school, in a state that is somewhere in the 40's in its national ranking in the quality of its higher and secondary education. From ninth grade on, the students were told that they were doing "college level work." What this meant, in United States History for example, was that they had to memorize hundreds of pages of a textbook every week and take long tests on the "facts" therein. OK, so even if you are coming to my survey from the United Nations International Baccalaureate School in New York -- guess what? you still haven't taken a college course. You have taken a high school course that is either really time consuming or maybe really good. Or maybe both. But it's a high school course. Tell me you took the United States survey at the University of Michigan while a senior at the public school in Ann Arbor and I will start listening. I would bet you dollars to doughnuts that the same number of people who go to International Baccalaureate programs become hookers as the proportion of the general population who choose that path independently of having tested into an IB program. Although the hookers with IB diplomas might speak a second language, I will grant you that.

2. Helicopter parents. Why are they so called by we educators? Because they.....Hover! When the student who is your advisee does not get into a course s/he wants to take, these parents call:

a) you, the advisor;
b) the class dean;
c) the provost;
d) the president of the college;
e) all of the above.

Now I would argue that although they probably had tendencies in this direction already, to paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir and Monique Wittig, helicopter parents are made and not born. They are like this because they are sure that if they take their eyes off the mark for a second, their child will not get what s/he deserves. Why do they believe this? Well, because in most high schools, it's true. My observation is that every time a high school administration turns around it is enforcing some stupid district, state or federal rule such as: you can't take AP Calculus IV because you don't have enough PE credits to graduate, so you have to take swimming instead. And if you don't take all the AP credits available to you at Whitebread Manor High, in Whitebread New Jersey, where the competition for Brown and Zenith is so intense you can taste it in the water, you will probably not get into any college at all and will have to become a hooker.

3. Any sentence that begins "I can't get a C in this course because..." and ends:

a) I'm going to law school;
b)I'm going to medical school;
c)I'm going to business school.

This too is not the fault of the student: it is the fault of every gatekeeper that student has met so far, and the gatekeepers that their panicked parents have become, who have warned that student that one bad grade will bring a whole world of pain crashing down on the entire family. Possibly the whole town: it's hard to know for sure how extensive the damage will be. And that instead of becoming a lawyer/doctor/businessman, this formerly promising young person will have to become a hooker.

Not that there is anything wrong with becoming a hooker, in my view. I'm a feminist after all. It's just that most parents I know don't see it as a desirable outcome. Do your own research: ask a parent who has decided to drop by to be part of the first year advising process. It's important if you are a scholar to be clear about who thinks what, and why, and not just take my word for it.

By the way, did anyone but me read in the Education Magazine of The New York Times a week ago that the University of Chicago is hellaciously easy to get into? Who knew? Is it Chicago? Is it the lack of sports teams? Is it the fear of being swept up by Obamarama? Enquiring minds want to know. And check out this AP story published in the New York Times, about "a disheveled package" delivered to Eastern Illinois University. "The stuffed and stained envelope was strange enough that police officers alerted the bomb squad," the reporter writes.

It turned out to be a college application.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Radical Leads the Lambs Out Of The Wilderness: Six Pieces of Random Advice For The Novice Teacher

In this post at Center of Gravitas Gayprof tells a story about having been diagnosed as color blind by a school nurse when he was but a wee Gayprof. Since the nurse explained nothing, and told him to go home and tell his parents, Gayprof -- assuming that this was merely a stage on the way to complete blindness and wishing to shield the parental units from this tragedy -- kept it to himself and merely suffered in silence until Nurse Ratched had the wit to call his home. Isn't school great?

This caused me to think, in turn, about the most peculiar thing I ever got wrong as a child. On the first day of nursery school, perhaps as a way of staving off tears from the most delicate of us, the teachers would say every once in a while: "Your carpools will be coming soon!" Now, I knew what a car was -- I had arrived in my mother's big yellow Mercury. And I knew what a pool was: I swam poorly and was terrrified of water, for reasons that only became apparent many years later. So using all the deductive reasoning that I had access to at age four, I realized that a car, which had a small, manageable pool in it -- would be arriving at the end of the day, and I might finally learn to swim in that enclosed setting as I returned to my house. And yet a carpool did not arrive. My mother drove up at noon, loaded me and a couple other children in the back, and drove us all home. It didn't come the next day, or the day after that. My carpool never came. Gradually I forgot about it much like I forgot about a career in medicine, when I encountered a lot of young men in Biology 101 at Oligarch University who were clearly going to eat my lunch if I didn't choose another major.

The moral of the story is: there are all kinds of assumptions and knowledge we never share with people because we think it is obvious, and often we don't know what we are ignorant of ourselves because...we are ignorant of it. Capice? And I think that may be a condition of school more generally, where appearing to know what you are doing can be almost as good as knowing what you are doing. Think of all those students you have who use the word "discourse" repeatedly in a paper -- wrong -- but they don't know it is wrong because they have heard it in class so many times that they have forgotten that they were faking it and never knew what it meant.

This is why -- instead of diving right in and finishing my article on the sexual revolution this morning -- I am going to compile the Six Pieces of Random Advice for the Novice Teacher (drum roll, please. Crash of cymbals!) Has anyone ever told you that you should:

1. Ask your students who they are and what they want out of the course on the first day. If it isn't a required course for their major, ask them why they are interested and why they registered for it in the first place. If it is a small course, go around the table; in a larger course, have them write for a few minutes, then go home and read what they have written. It's hard to teach well if you don't know your audience. This also gives you a chance to make personal connections in the first few weeks. Scenario: you are lecturing in your twentieth century survey. You have writtten into your lecture notes: "Charles took a course on the New Deal last semester and wants to know more about the rise of the state." You pause, look up, and say "Now, the segregation of federal buildings during World War I is a critical statemaking moment -- Charles, where are you?" Charles raises his hand. "Charles," you say,"I'm going to need some help from you. What do I mean when I say 'the state?'" You dig what I am doing here? You give Charles some authority right off the bat and you demonstrate to the class more generally that you are aware that they have valuable knowledge and you want them to share it.

2. Never keep it entirely to yourself when a course is not going well. If you are in trouble in your class, tell a trusted senior colleague and get help immediately. Not getting help with your teaching when something is going wrong is a form of denial similar to looking up the rash you have on the internet and treating it with medicinal herbs instead of going to a professional to get it diagnosed. The rash might clear up, or you might have lupus. Same with teaching. Struggling in silence is a loser's game, even though you will be worried that you are exposing yourself unnecessarily. Not only can the problem be solved by putting fresh eyes on it, but far better for some colleague, during your next review, to be able to say in response to a couple skeezy teaching evals, "Yes, she came to talk to me about it, and this is the strategy we worked out."

3. Never give a writing assignment orally. Always write it down, and then post it on your course website or Black Board.

4. Always have a course website or Black Board if your university makes it available. I wrote a post about this ages ago, but students expect that course materials will be available on the internet to such an extent that they tend not to save paper consistently anymore. It is a fact, and it is not worth getting on your high horse and forcing them to save your course materials as if they were the Magna f***ing Charta.

5. Never take excess students, no matter how hard they plead and beg. New faculty should be teaching at the course cap or under, not laboring to serve extra students. And the larger a class gets, the more difficult it is to learn names, help students individually, or have a discussion that includes more than the five most confident people.

6. Keep your promises. When you make a commitment to your class, keep it, and apologize when you can't, because this injects a kind of reciprocity into the relationship that will make them more likely to keep their commitments to you. Keep your office hours, and when you can't, put a note on the door for when they will be rescheduled. When you get a set of papers, give them a date when the papers will be returned that is not too far away. Two weeks, max, I would say, otherwise you find yourself running into the next assignment. And if you don't meet the deadline, it is really fine to say you need an extra day or two: that said, don't be so stringent about giving a student an extra day or two either. One of the things students should be learning in college is how to deal with authority in reciprocal ways. In my view it pushes this process along to find ways to exhibit your human-ness that are not inappropriate, and you also need to recognize their human qualities so that they can be honest with you and not make dumb excuses for not getting their work done. And by the way -- if they like and respect you, there is a far better chance that they will learn from you, I guarantee.

Want advice on your teaching? Want to share a piece of advice or a frustration with others? Ask the Radical: tenured.radical(AT)