At Long Last: A podcast transcript!

So, three months is better than three years. We’re making progress. Today, I come to you with a transcript of the disability in teaching podcast I did back in February. It turns out that teaching two classes and dissertating was a little much for me and my anxiety issues, so this got back-burnered for a while. But at long last, for the sake of accessibility and obscuring my identity a little, I have a transcript done for you all to read.

You have a long post ahead, so please be patient, and read through if you have the time. My host and I are very chatty, but there are some good moments in there. And you know that if I, the under-confidence queen, think there’s some good stuff in there, it might actually be true.

Some technical notes before we begin: First, and foremost, a huge, huge thanks to Sarah Blake La’Rose, who did the transcription for this. She fit me into her super busy spring, and did a fantastic job. This would not have happened without her. I did some fiddling around with the final product for reasons unrelated to her transcription, so if there are any errors, they are mine, not hers. And if the flow of something doesn’t seem to connect, that is also not her fault, that is my fault for being bad at public speaking. You don’t realize how unorganized your thoughts are until you see them written down on paper.

Anyway, I think that’s all the technical stuff. I hope you can all follow this, and that you enjoy it, and share it around. I may still be willing to share the link to the audio in the future, because I think it sounds better in person, but we’ll see. For now, this transcript does a great job of communicating the essential points, and I hope folks will find it informative. So without further delay… “There Will be no visual aids: Disability and the classroom”!

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Listen up: it’s time we talk about that inspiration porn.

There comes a time in every disability blogger’s life when the subject of inspiration must be addressed.  We get one too many “nice” comments about how inspiring we are for putting on socks or getting up out of bed and going to work, and that’s it.  Well ladies and gentlemen, this is that time.  This is gonna be a long post, so buckle up..  But it is really important, so if you have the time/inclination, please hang in there.  There may be cookies at the end (sorry there aren’t cookies at the end).

 

A disclaimer: I know you are not intending to be offensive. I know you are a nice person, and that you mean as well as well can be meant.  You think you are being encouraging, and that impulse is very sweet.  But you are still doing something wrong.  It’s classic “best intentions” territory.  But I am *not* trying to make you feel awful. Don’t go home and panic about all the people you’ve offended, and don’t be scared to compliment someone.  This post isn’t intended to scold you; it’s intended to explain some things, and hopefully change the way you think about the way you speak to people.

 

Disclaimer 2: I started this blog mad yesterday. I finished/edited it  all today when I was much calmer, but also not caffeinated. Words are hard. You have been warned.

 

 

Now, down to business.  I offer this scenario for your consideration:

 

I am working in the computer lab at school, helping a student check in a laptop.  He pauses, looks at me, and says “I’ve wanted to say this for a long time.”  I stare back, and wonder if I’m about to get hit on by a student for the first time.  He then follows this harbenger of doom with “I think what you do is really inspirational.”

 

I stare.  I say a very awkward “thank you,” because I am confused and annoyed, because I know where this is going, and I’m too midwestern to stop it.  He continues, clearly feeling very good about himself, “It’s just that most people in your position wouldn’t continue teaching.”  I make a lame comment about needing to make money somehow, and he leaves, and I slam a few drawers in frustration.

 

Some of you will be outraged on my behalf, and some of you will be very confused about why I’m so upset.  Didn’t he just give me a compliment?  Shouldn’t I be happy that he thinks I’m inspirational?  We live in a world that can make it hard for people with disabilities to succeed, and I’m doing a thing.  And it’s not that you’re entirely wrong; this world does make my life difficult sometimes, and it throws crap at me that someone with functioning eyeballs doesn’t have to deal with.  But really…we all have challenges that get in the way of living our lives, and people with disabilities are just muddling through like everybody else.  So, if you’re confused, let me do some translating here.  When he says “You’re so inspirational for teaching while blind” (paraphrased because I’m getting tired of typing out his comments), what I hear is:

 

“Because you can’t see, I expected that you’d be home somewhere having other people take care of you and/or would be in a job with much less responsibility.  And you’re at a teaching job making money, and that’s super surprising, good for you for rising above my non-existent expectations, which I am entitled to have because I know you super well wait not at all.”

 

Someone is now inevitably saying “but he didn’t mean that! Can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt/can’t you just take the compliment that’s intended?”  But here’s the thing.  As in any two-way communication, how I perceive the comment is just as important as how it was meant.  That’s…kind of a basic rule of talking to people.  I’m 100% sure he meant to be complimentary.  But he didn’t say I was good at my job, he didn’t say he respected my commitment, he didn’t say I was working hard.  He said that I was inspirational because I was doing the job I was paid to do…at all.  And I’m not even doing it well seriously guys I’m so behind on grading papers it’s ridiculous.  And he’s not the first–people tell me this often.  It’s never accompanied by praise for my skills or hard work; it stops at my eyeballs.

 

But that is the point I’m trying to make here.  You should always compliment people; compliments make the sun come up and the flowers bloom.  But think about what you’re complimenting them on, and how you’d take that compliment.  “Good job for showing up for work.”  “Good job for putting on clothes that match.”  “Good job for arriving somewhere at a semi-reasonable time.”  These are daily functions; they are…things people do.  You would never compliment a random person with no disability on this; you would just expect it.  So, though it probably sounds rude, I’m really not that grateful for compliments that basically congratulate me on getting out of bed.  And I’m getting tired of thanking you for them like I enjoy them (hence this post).

 

….Okay I should clarify, if you find me inspirational for getting out of bed because you know grad school is hard and adulting is super freaking difficult and you’re impressed that a time-challenged introvert with an aversion to cleaning gets up and goes to work every day with clean clothes on, that compliment I will accept the crap out of because life is just stupidly difficult when you’re a mess and it’s about time someone recognized my daily challenges.

 

All I, and most people, are asking for, is just that you think about what you are saying.  Someone I know once said “I’m proud of you for getting your PHD as a blind student.”  What I hear, again, is “I had no expectations for you so good job.”  And this wasn’t a stranger; this was someone I knew very, very well.  And the spirit behind the comment was lovingly intended.  But it hurt my feelings.  Is it so hard to stop at “I’m super proud of you for getting your PHD?”  That takes into account my skills and time, and makes me feel that my accomplishments are worth praise.

 

Like I said, if you’ve “inspirationed” all over someone before, don’t freak out.  You’re not the only one, and you won’t be the last one.  So I’m not asking you to feel guilty; I’m asking you to change.  Start valuing my perception of what you say as much as you value saying it.  Learn how to make someone feel proud, rather than ashamed, when you speak to them – because the rhetoric of “inspiration” does bring a great deal of shame with it.  Praise people on their accomplishments, not on what they’ve “overcome,” because in most instances, you know nothing about them.  And in the other ones you do know something about, 99% of the time, they want to hear they are doing a good job because they are…doing a good job, not in spite of something.  Everyone wants to feel valued, and everyone wants to feel proud of what they do and who they are.  So stop handing out the pity compliments and hollow praises, and start appreciating the people around you for the beautiful things they bring to your life just by being them.  It’s really not a hard thing to do, and it changes so much.

 

That was a long one; if you’ve stuck with this post all the way to the end, thank you.  And whoever you are, whatever you’ve said or not said, I still think you’re pretty awesome, because you let me have my say, and hopefully you’re at least thinking about it.

 

Now, if I don’t get some coffee in me, this Thursday is going to go very badly.  So I’m gonna do that, and you should too.  And who knows, maybe I’ll start blogging again, and not just raise up like a blogging zombie when something makes me mad.

 

Be well.

Please don’t Tell my Class I Need Male Enhancement…

blah blah haven’t been around in ages have missed so many stories bad blogger busy PHD student blah.

 

Now that that’s all out of the way, hello again all.  School is exhausting, so I haven’t been able to get here as often as I’d like.  But this morning was a classic, and just needed to be shared with the internet at large.

 

So, in the classes I teach, there is a multimedia component, and in my class, we are making podcasts.  We’ve been in conferences/library sessions all week, so today was their first chance to workshop their stuff.  I brought in some samples of podcasts for them to listen to, and played them directly from my laptop, because it fills me with an unidentifiable terror to let a student navigate the computer we can see on the big screens.

 

We were moving on through our sample audio clips, when I hear the incoming mail chime.  Now, for most this is not a big deal.  Except when you use Mac’s new notification center, it…kind of is.  This announces, for all who have ears to hear, who your mail is from.

 

It also does this for all incoming spam.

 

Now, I’ve been a little unfair, in that I’m leading you all on in the sense that no my class did not hear about someone wanting to give me larger junk, or about pills that will mak her luv me long time–they just heard an innocuous message from a harmless organization I’m a part of.  But the thought that they would hear about penis enlargement or Russian prostitutes and think I was gross, or, worse, hear an Email from my online dating years and think I was a sad lonely cat lady… it was enough to make one shudder.

 

So, as my sendoff, a word to the wise: turn off your screen reader when you are in front of students, because the Canadian pharmacy people are just *waiting* for you to give them an opening.

 

Unrelated PSA2: your cute teacherly outfit becomes less cute and less teacherly when there are puddles outside above your ankles, and the weight of your wet dress starts dragging down low enough to fear for public decency.  Just thought y’all’d wanna know.

 

Adjunct out.

The evals are in! *drum-roll*

The grading is done, the student complaints are over, and student evals are now in.

 

It wasn’t a good semester for me–I was disorganized, apathetic, and had my head off elsewhere for so much of it.  I blame a lazy thyroid and the winter from hell, and the PHD program that promised a release from this drudgery, or at least better pay for it.  But either way, I was not expecting good student comments.  My disorganization frustrated them, and I can’t blame them in the slightest.  I was never actually caught up on grading (sometime there will be a post about how much I loathe that particular activity), and my schedule frequently fell apart.

 

On the bright side, they weren’t the worst evals ever.  I didn’t get rated 1 out of 5 or anything. They were critical where I expected them to be critical, and very kind where I had hoped they would be.  Even when one is expecting to be raked over the coals, it’s nice to know that at least some parts of the class did something for someone.

 

But there were two winning factors that made the evals still kind of awesome.

 

1. No one made the “she was a blind professor, so it must have been hard, but…” insert good or bad thing here.  This is always the most puzzling non-sequeter, and its absence was delightful.

 

2. The big one… someone complained that I graded their courses like an upper-level course!  My grading was unfairly difficult, and I did not grade like it was a first-year course.  I almost wept–I feel like a real teacher now!

 

As an aside, student you are a silly child–if I had graded all of you like upper-level students, not more than six of you would have passed.  I have expectations, and those do not include coddling you until I think you’ve learned enough to start getting graded harder.  Nothing is as motivating to an over-achiever than a well-deserved B.

 

All in all, I’m glad to see the back of the semester.  I plan to blog, fill my mind with as much trashy adventure lit as I can get my grubby little paws on, and, oh yeah, probably find a place to live for the big August move.

 

See you all soon.

Catch-up

…should I even bother apologizing?  At this point, I don’t think so.

Okay, it was a weird semester.  That senior-itus I mentioned before hit with a vengeance, and I’m still working on feeling like a productive member of society.  I predict bad teacher reviews this semester, but I’m trying to take my lumps, hoping someone learned something, and will call this my low point, and things will get better from here.  Right? Right?

 

So what does that have to do with this blog?  Nothing, really.  But if I’m neglecting to give my students the proper attention, what made you guys think you had a prayer?  But I’m going to try to turn this into a weekly thing, since I apparently really need a schedule.  So I’ll try to post every week, to bestow upon you such wisdom as comes to me when I am strolling down the hall, feeling academic, and thinking “hmmm, I should bestow this on my blog.”

 

*Works on developing academic ego*.

 

I will share one of these wise thoughts, which came to me after I left my purse in someone’s car this morning:

 

Students, pay close attention to the garments of your adjunct.  If she always dresses like a bum, she is either very comfortable, or she does not care.  If she has been at the university for less than a year, she may still be laboring under the impression that she is your buddy.  Take full and vicious advantage of this.  If she always dresses nice, she is fully camouflaged, and you are screwed.  You will actually have to pay attention to her face or something.

 

But here is the real secret.  If she generally looks put together, like she brushed her hair and at least more often than not has made a passing acquaintance with a blazer and a pencil skirt, watch closely.  If she comes to school in heels, with her hair nicely done and adorable shoes, she is fragile and breakable.  Center-of-the-line folk, like myself, don’t over-state it too often. We do like to look nice, because it’s what you should do.  But pencil skirts and heels are not comfortable.  So if we show up like this is a job interview, we are drowning in insecurity or misery.  If you are kind students, this is your chance to be sweet.  Pay us a compliment, don’t talk while we are talking, try to say something that lets us know we are somewhat decent at our jobs.

 

If you are not kind, well, it’s a skirt/heels day today, so just imagine that you have the power to make us weep like small children, but we have the power to fail you.  So consider carefully.

 

Now, I have to go make the all-important decision whether to grade presentations or eat lunch.  This requires all my attention, which means that I will talk to you lovely folks later.

 

…if you’re actually still here.

Promises Promises

I know, I know.  Best of intentions, and it’s still a month and a half between posts.

 

First off, big news on the blogger-that-is-me front, this blog will soon have the ability to be renamed Gradstudentandadjunctinthedark.

 

…It won’t be, because that is long and unruly and looks terrible, but the point still stands.  Sometime in August, yours truly will be moving… somewhere, where the land flows with living stipends, and I will still be teaching but also balancing other obligations as well.  PHD land, baby.

 

All joking aside, I’m more excited than I can possibly say.  This has been a long time hoped/prayed for, and is the fulfillment of 3 and a half years of anxiety attacks and application fees.  So expect a few stories on here not directly related to adjuncting–because I can only write about the stuff taking up most space in my brain.  Focus?  What’s that.

 

Otherwise, the semester has started.  I have a much more motivated lot of students, though I still can’t tell how they feel about me.  I admit that my head has sort of been in the clouds since I found out about school, and it’s reflecting on my teaching a little.  It’s like senior-itus, except, I suspect, worse.  But I soldier on, and hopefully they get an education in the process.

 

I’m trying to get through grading their first papers.  Because I procrastinate chronically, it’s been a struggle.  But I’m hoping to finish them today.  I have, however, discovered that grading will forever be my downfall.  I start reading those blessed little papers, and the next thing you know, all I want to do is sleep.  It’s better than drugs.  And I’ll finish this batch just in time for the next one to start.  But it’s my own fault, so.

 

We’re doing an activity on revision tomorrow.  I’m already trying to explain the difference between peer review and revision in my own head, just in preparation, so I know what to say when I’m repeating myself for the sixth time.

 

That’s it for now.  I’ve got to go see a lady about a thing.  Hope 2014 is starting out well for you all.

 

Over and out.

Happy 2014

Well, here goes another year.  2013 was…interesting to say the least.  There are too many world events to count, and huge momentous things that I am in no way qualified to talk about on a teaching blog.

 

On the personal front, it was a year of learning to wait.  I did grad apps in the spring that didn’t pan out, got let go, got re-hired, and had one of the most challenging semesters I’ve had yet.  But all in all, it shaped up pretty well.  It was a strange year of limbo for me, but also one that taught me a lot about patience, and finding the good even in the ugly, and about enjoying simple things no matter what.  I think I grew a little, and that seems like about as much as anyone can ask from a year.

 

The most interesting, and relevant to this blog (yes, sometimes I stay on topic), was my collection of students this semester.  Partially because of me, and partially because of them, we had trouble getting places this semester.  I talked and talked, but it felt like we never really got anywhere.  I left the semester fairly convinced they hadn’t learned anything.

 

And then I looked at the class reflections, and almost cried.  I got several comments that this was their favorite English class, that it challenged them, and that it helped them come out of their shells.  Now granted, I forgot to give them the talk about how I don’t read these until after I grade, so some of them might be sucking up, but those folks aside, I got some very sweet and uplifting comments.

 

As a teacher, that’s my main goal–I want to help them.  And if I can’t teach them how to formulate a bloody argument, or that a thesis statement is not a question, I’d like to at least teach them that they can write, that writing is important, or that they have opinions worth listening to.  And I think I managed to do that, and that makes me feel good about the last five months.

 

So even though things kind of ended on a whimper instead of a bang, I still have a warm fuzzy for these kids that I never expected to have.  I might actually miss them.  And so many of them are teetering on the cusp–I hope they tip over on the side that lets them do great things.

 

So that’s me.  As for you, I hope your year was full of learning and interesting discoveries, that you moved beyond something, or gained something, or just left 2013 a little better and more interesting than you found it last January first.

 

All the best from the blog.  Everyone have a safe and happy night, and let’s give 2014 a run for its money.

 

Cheers.

Poor, poor neglected blog…

I was doing so well with keeping up posting here, and then I just…failed.  This fall hit me hard.  I couldn’t really tell you why.  But my energy levels have been at less than 0.  But I’m back in action now, so let’s hope it holds.

 

Translation: I’m submitting PHD applications, prepping my students for their final research papers, and trying to prepare for the holidays.  So, go go gadget procrastination.

 

I won’t do a recap of the entire semester here, because frankly, none of you really care that much.  I don’t, either.  But let’s say it’s been a little rough.  I can’t tell if it’s my lack of enthusiasm, or if I just have the biggest collection of bums ever, but we are just not making headway.  They are not bad kids, but they are lazy, and ballsy about being lazy.  I am also lazy, and we are just having a big old collaborative laze-fest that is not getting things done.

 

Some of my favorite examples of our issues:

“I didn’t get the essay. So I didn’t do it.” (We had been working on it in class for 20 minutes.)

“Can I get some help? Also how do I do citations.” (the evening *after* we turned the paper in.)

“We have to read the whole thing?” (I gave them class time to read an article they were supposed to read for homework.)

 

So I think it might be a combo.  Grad apps season also means that my brain is not totally on teaching.  So I’m working on being better–if I have more pep, maybe they will too.  I’m also hoping stuffing myself with potatoes and pie for the next three days will put a bit of zip back in me.  Or it will send me into a food coma.  I will take either.

 

And, finally, since I know you were all dying to hear about it…

 

THE TEACHERS LOUNGE SAGA CONTINUES!

 

So, either my colleagues are paranoid, or actual hot magma comes out of the coffee machine.

 

Me: *creeps in, trying not to interrupt jabbering ladies*.

Jabbering ladies: blah blah blah, What Not to Wear, so-and-so’s grandpa…*slow fade to silence*.

Me: *continues to be awkward. Grabs cup for coffee.*

Jabbering ladies: *whisper whisper, mumble something about coffee*.

Single jabbering lady: *comes over* it’s hot. Do you need help? I don’t want you to burn yourself. It’s REALLY hot.

Me: I’m fine.  It’s…I’m…I’ve got it.

Lady: *looks dubious*.

Me: *collects coffee.  Waves like manic idiot. Flees.*

 

And they keep going silent and watching me when I go in there.  It is coffee, not lava. Calm down, people.  It’s getting to the point where I don’t even go in there if I can hear people–the worried staring is just uncomfortable for everybody.

 

So, I hope that amused you, or at least told you my sense of humor has not improved.  I’m going to try going back to around once a week.  If that doesn’t happen…someone poke me.  I either got lazy, or I’m taking a cross-country hike to go throw eggs at the ETS building.

 

…or I crawled under my bed and am refusing to come out.  Anything is possible.

On Student Excuses

First off, for professional dignity, I…sort of feel the need to apologize for the last manic coffee post.  Tea has been returned to work, and I am mostly mentally well again.

 

But I’m not posting to talk about my crazy this time.  Today’s topic is the student fiction contest of excuse-making.  Well-traversed territory, but worth a few minutes of my time, since I do see them as often as assignments.

 

If I’m starting out with honesty, I haven’t actually seen as many impressive excuses as some.  Most of the ones I get are the classic “my computer crashed,” “my Email failed,” etc.  But from this mine field of mundane has come my favorite excuse ever.

 

Here is how this plays out.  Student has failed to hand in some assignment or other.  This is not the first assignment that student has not given me–it has become a pattern.  So, politely, I call student up to the front after the rest of the class has left/stopped acknowledging my existence.

 

Me: You haven’t handed this in to me.

Student: I’m sorry. I’ve had XYZ going on, and it’s been really hard.

Me: I understand. I too live a real life. I too know that the universe sometimes just takes a crap on your head.

Student: *smiles apologetically, contrite and enjoying our bonding*.

Me: But I say in my syllabus that you need to keep me informed. XYZ are excusable problems, but I must hear about them ahead of time so we can make arrangements.

Student: I understand. I just hate making excuses. So I didn’t say anything.

 

“I just hate making excuses.”

 

Translation is either: “I truly am overwhelmed and felt weird burdening you with my problems,” “I didn’t even think about you/the assignment/your late work policy, whether I had legit crap going on or not,” or, most often, “You caught me and now I need a way to sound noble and silent-suffering but really I just didn’t do it and can’t think of a better excuse off the top of my head.”

 

This has shown up twice now, in two different classes, with two different students.  It amuses the hell out of me, because it is just so ballsy.  It dares me to call them out, to shame them for their toughness and willingness to silently drag their grade into the toilet without involving their teacher, who just doesn’t need to hear about their woes.  And it’s a hard one to fight.  I can’t catch them out in a lie.  The most I can do is just wag the scoldy-finger of shame, tell them they must complain to me more, and send them on their way.

 

Just once, I wish someone would throw me a good old-fashioned bald-face lie, with a magical disappearing notebook or a paper-inclined house pet.  No one has any respect for the classics anymore.

Grammar and Fashion Woes

You’ll notice that I left out that comma up there, leaving that title very ambiguous.  Look at me being all teacher-y.

So we covered grammar on Tuesday, or, more importantly, we covered commas.  I think that, if I wasn’t fearing mutiny before, I should be fearing it now.  Take a bunch of 18-year-olds, trap them in a room for an hour and 40 minutes, and ram a bunch of confusing punctuation rules down their throats, and you’re just asking for trouble.  At the end I asked them what about grammar they wanted to learn about in later class periods, and I actually waited for an answer.  After some mutterings, I got the “well, you’re the teacher, we all hate this. So it’s your job to figure out what we’re supposed to learn.”  …okay then.  If y’all want a dictator, then a dictator you shall have (but in retrospect asking the question in the first place was sort of a bad call on my part. They’re like puppies–they want structure, even if they don’t know it).

I think it went  *mostly* alright though.  They won’t remember anything, except maybe the comma splice, but we have the rest of the semester to work on it.  I was supposed to cover parts of speech today, but considering the restless stirring of the troops, I decided it was time to switch tactics.  We’re sort of in creative writing mode today, with a game included, so hopefully that will go better.

Then again, I’m introducing their first paper today, so I may have already shot myself in the foot.  Like a coward, I am waiting until the class has already begun to send out the assignment sheet.

What, they’re intimidating…

But, to inspire confidence in myself, I did dress the part to be a professor today (yes, this is where we get to the fashion woes).  Bought a new jacket, and it practically has freaking elbow patches.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I own a BLAZER.  I am a MATURE ADULT.

…And, as I very maturely strode across the street to catch the bus to work, I ripped the back stitch out of my pencil skirt.

 

Lesson learned: one should not stride maturely in a skirt that normally makes it a challenge to climb stairs.

It’s just a sort of decorative split in the lower quarter of the back of the skirt, so it’s not like I’ll be stuck showing my nickers to the college at large, but I feel so much less put together with my flap… flapping.  But here in lies the advantage to being a blind professor: I don’t have to turn my back on them to write on the chalkboard.  So unless some little creep is intentionally staring at my butt, I’m pretty much home free. Win.

Hey, I take my victories where I can get them.  You rip your skirt on the way to work and see what you have left to work with.

Now, off to drink tea and write the rest of this lesson plan, enjoying the fact that it’s like 60 degrees outside, and therefore not a furnace in my office.

Welcome to fall.

 

ETA: FIRST PAYDAY OMG YAY!