Pedagogically Yours

I had what was probably the most enjoyable and successful discussion section of my meager academic career today. I more-or-less memorized 25 names, we discussed methods to make sections suck less than they usually do, and we talked about Nietzsche. I left feeling happy and hopeful, not miserable and despairing. Weird.

A conversation ensued with K in the bunker a bit later, which leads me to post about three things to do with teaching:

- I enjoy it more than I enjoy research. A lot. A whole lot. I get to do a lecture on the existentialists, May of '68, and my usual bullshit later this term and writing it has been a relaxing, enjoyable thing, free of all the usual stress on convention and citation that surround academic writing. Likewise, I really, sincerely enjoy talking about history with smart kids. I realize how spoiled I am being here, where more kids are more smarter(-er), but frankly, I still enjoy talking about history even with the dumb ones.

- On a related note, I'm terribly resentful of the fact that the central problem with getting an advanced degree in history, especially in European history, is identifying a topic. Writing, research, references, all of that's important, but what makes or breaks you coming out of the gate is whether or not you really have something substantive and innovative to write on. It's like turning over rocks in a field that's been gone over a million times already, trying to find a new kind of bug, and all you find are pill-bugs and daddy long legs....(ok, this analogy is not so great.) My point is that teaching is its own justification and really, when it comes down to it, HISTORY of all things lends itself to being TAUGHT rather than being RE-WRITTEN again and again.*

- I developed my pedagogical technique and philosophy while at UO, and it was there waiting for me, a year since I've taught anything, when I started up today. Here it is: don't bullshit your students. Don't invent busywork. Don't keep them there for the whole time if you don't have anything to talk about. I swear, it works great.

* Please, fellow academi-dweebs, don't remind me that it's important for new approaches and perspectives to come into play with history-writing. I know that. I'm just expressing my frustration at how the process works for 90+% of us, rehashing the same old crap using a slightly modified tone and theoretical underpinning.

Just don't feel like getting problematized tonight. Man, that sounds dirty....


Dolce Vita said...

I remember thinking teaching was the best part of my job when I was teaching. I recall those times fondly and I am looking forward to returning to it. But now that I'm writing and filling in the research gaps, I'm having a lot of fun. And, so, I think research/writing is the greatest part about academic work. (I know, very fickle.) My point is that the writing aspect of our work is fun too. And I will go out on a limb here and speculate that you may join me in inconsistency once you find that research topic.

kungfuramone said...

Yes, I'm never not inconsistent.

The Goat said...

You know, as an academi-dweeb, I wasn't going to mention anything about new perspectives and approaches. My suggestion is just to use a topic that no one has ever done any work on, and write about it.

Sometimes the best answers are the simple ones.

kungfuramone said...

Name such a topic in modern European intellectual history.

crashcourse said...

I have generally the same theories on teaching. I don't bullshit the teenagers, 'cause they can tell. I explain why we do everything we do (ie: no busy work). As for keeping them there, well... I'm required by law to do so. So far though, they've just been crying and whining when the bell rings about how they don't want to leave. So I think I'm ok on that front. I think the one item I add, because they are teenagers, is that I don't put up with their bullshit either. Too many people do. I won't.

It's working ok so far.

Dolce Vita said...

Hum. My knee-jerk response (to your response to the goat) is: how did sojourning African intellectuals in France impact/alter/challenge leftist thinkers/thinking during the colonial/post-colonial period? Ok, so I'm demonstrating my lack of knowledge in this area (by focusing on something that I want to know more about).

I can sympathize with your situation. The same is true in US history. It's like trying to catch a breath in a vacuum. (And I'm sorry that all I can offer is sympathy.) I should add that I liked your thesis project and I learned from it. I'm confident you'll find some atom of oxygen.

noncoupable said...

No new topics in European intellectual history? What about looking at the influence of Chinese philosophy (or lack thereof) in Foucault?

On second thought, classical Chinese is difficult to understand and the translations often suck. But maybe ask Colin if you can borrow his copy of Takekuchi Yoshimi's "What is Modernity?" in which there are also some short essays *not* about modernity, translated quite well. Christoph has my copy currently or I would tell you to take it off my shelf.