She’s gone and asked me for my opinion!
I was sent a survey about the professional development meeting we had on Friday – the one that I wrote about here that got me all jazzed about thinking critically again. The colleague who sent the survey is J, the same one who was asking about why I thought that TCC’s students weren’t succeeding in ways that I would like to see, and to whom I sent a pretty scathing condemnation of the culture of the college and the expectations (or, rather, the lack of expectations) of the teaching faculty.
I’m of two minds about sending my responses to this questionnaire. On the one hand, I’ve already established my reputation as an uppity woman. I’m pretty sure that no one there – or, at least, no one who has any control over whether or not I get to keep my job – has any doubts about my commitment to my job, to my students, or to the integrity of my profession. I’m also pretty sure that everyone who matters knows that I don’t have a whole lot of respect for the culture of the college, that I think that, academically, we’re simply not getting it done, and that I want more for my students. Besides, she DID say to not be reserved about expressing ourselves…
On the other hand, I’m pretty sure there are only so many times I can accuse the college and the faculty of essentially being lazy ignoramuses before someone takes offense. I like my colleagues and I don’t want to disturb the working environment to the point where people clear out when I walk in and, while I am interested in broadening my horizons beyond TCC, I’m not quite ready to leave the little school just yet. Besides, when I do go, I’d like to leave on my own terms.
I’ve got a call in to J to discuss my answers before I send them to her. I want to make sure that they are received in the spirit in which they are intended, and that she’s very clear that my criticisms stem not from a desire to demean or belittle, but from a genuine desire to see TCC better serve our students and their needs. I want to work in an environment of academic inquiry. Right now I feel that I have to leave TCC to get that, but if we can start to aim in that direction, I’ll stick around to see how it goes.
Here’s a copy of the survey and my answers to the questions. Do YOU think I should hit “send”?
ASSESSMENT OF FACULTY DEVELOPMENT IN-SERVICE
Would each of you please take a moment to assess the Faculty Development In-Service? I need all the feedback I can get, so don’t be reserved about expressing yourselves. THANK YOU.
Did you find the presentation by Dr. Smith to be informative and useful, and if so, how?
Honestly, I think this was by far the most informative and enjoyable in-service meeting I’ve ever been able to attend. While I’m not certain that Dr. Smith’s presentation was immediately useful in the context of what one would consider the practical applications of my courses to be, but it certainly served to expand my thinking in ways that it’s not been challenged since grad school. His exhortation that we begin to think in terms of the “third mind” – of creating that new space that happens when informed and inquisitive dialogue occurs – is an important one. Education, in my mind, is less about knowing “the facts” and more about being able to THINK. This critical, inquisitive thinking is something that I know for certain most of my students are profoundly uncomfortable with – they feel they lack the authority to inquire and hypothesize – and I’m excited to start bringing a bit more of that kind of expansive thinking into my teaching practice.
Could the information he imparted enhance your effectiveness as an educator or as someone who provides services to students?
ABSOLUTELY; if one’s focus on education is more about creativity of thinking and less about facts and figures. I feel fortunate to teach a subject that allows for a lot of creative inquiry – I am able to branch out, on the inspiration of one story or poem or movie, to wherever students are inspired to go and I believe those paths to be the most fruitful and edifying. My belief is that the purpose of learning literature and writing and communication is so that we can take these shared experiences and build a foundation for better understanding, not only of our own selves, but of others and our world. If I understand what he said correctly, Dr. Smith believes that everything in our world can be used to illuminate everything else – that there is no wasted experience. I really like that idea, and am working on ways to incorporate it into my own thinking and teaching.
What did you like the most and the least about Dr. Smith’s presentation?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the entire presentation, and I can’t recall anything I disliked about his presentation (though I wasn’t able to stay long enough to see how he connected his theatre presentation to his larger theme).
Did you learn anything new? If so, what?
I can’t say that I learned anything NEW, per se, though I can say that Dr. Smith reminded me of the kind of thinking I used to do on a fairly regular basis. I’ve not had an opportunity to think in terms of theory and creativity and risk-taking in a while, and I find that I really, really miss it. As I drove to my other commitment that morning, I called my husband at his office and lamented that I want to go back to school – maybe to pursue a Ph.D., but certainly to start challenging myself to think beyond the obvious or the easy. I was energized by Dr. Smith’s presentation, and it’s an energy I’m hoping to maintain.
How did you find the environment?
Honestly? I felt that the environment wasn’t entirely receptive to the speaker. I’m not certain that all of the faculty were appreciative of Dr. Smith’s work and likely didn’t see how it could apply to their teaching. I was particularly disappointed in some of the comments one of my teaching colleagues made – it was fairly obvious that s/he not only didn’t understand what Dr. Smith was getting at, but didn’t respect him much, either.
Other comments, questions, concerns, or advice about how to improve the process:
I really did find this to be the single most interesting meeting we’ve had in the year or so I’ve been attending these gatherings. I think that, as a faculty, we tend to get bogged down in the practical applications of our concentrations without recognizing that there’s more to an education than our students getting spit out the other side with a skill set and a piece of fancy paper. I understand that I may well be the idealistic minority in this opinion, but I would love to see more of Dr. Smith’s kind come to speak to our faculty, particularly if we’re going to be serious about expanding our scope beyond the trade-school model.