Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Needy Students

do you have needy students? I usually have one or more every semester. They're the kind who need constant handholding and affirmation on every assignment, who NEVER trust their own instincts, who don't want to walk into a class discussion without knowing they are right.

It's maddening and tiring. They're constantly at my door, when I'm trying to prep for my next class or just get some other work done.

Sadly, I see myself in them. I was probably one of these students, driven by a combination of desire to learn, desire to impress, insecurity about my own ability to truly comprehend the material, and a serious jones for positive affirmation. I'm probably still like this even today. When my boss talked to me about potentially moving towards being in charge of our (currently-in-process-of-designing) grad program, my heart leaped like a little child at the affirmation (but not, you know, at the workload).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Teaching vs. Research

Do you ever question whether or not you should be a teacher? The thing is, I like teaching. I like interacting. I don’t like it on days when it saps all my energy and I feel like I’m boring the hell out of my students. And I hate how nervous I often feel before classes. I don’t understand why I still feel that way. I think it’s insecurity – fear of being found out for an idiot who doesn’t know enough about his field. I don’t think that’s necessarily TRUE, but I have a major inferiority-streak sometimes, especially when I compare myself to other academics. This is possibly/probably because I tended to idolize all my professors and think they knew everything – thus, I expect that, because I don’t know everything, I’m a fraud.

Of course, I know all my professors didn’t really know everything, but that was the sense I had at the time, and it’s hard to get over that.

So on any day when I’m teaching, I’m a little anxious. I don’t see myself as one of those “all I want to do is my research” kind of professors. I actually get a little annoyed at profs at my university who are like that, who eschew the classroom and brag about not having to teach when they have a light schedule or a fellowship that allows them to take a semester or a year away from teaching. I get annoyed by it, but I am also, I confess, occasionally envious. And that feeling makes me question myself a lot.

I admit, I would love to be paid just to make films and write scripts. That’s what I started out wanting to do in the first place. Having my creative work viewed as “research” from the university’s perspective was a great feeling, almost a bonus in my mind when I took this job. It has, however, started to feel like a “right” – and I’m not sure I like that, but then I’m not sure I’m wrong to feel that way.

I’m not at a Research 1 university, by the way. It’s classified as a university with high research activity, so there’s a pretty strong emphasis on research in the tenure process and as a way of increasing the university’s prestige.

Anyway, I’m generally torn back and forth. When I’m teaching three classes in the fall, I find it hard to get much creative work done, much less balance going to film festivals and conferences. In the spring, when I generally teach two classes, I tend to get a little more done on the creative side, but it's still a challenge.

My brother, who is at a R1, wanted to be a researcher and a scholar, but he found quite by surprise, in his T.A. days and post-doc days, that he loved teaching and excelled at it. So he's out there in t-t position at an R1, wondering if that's what he really wants. I guess the grass is always greener... (of course, if I were to finish the story about my brother, I'd have to confess that he doesn't enjoy teaching all that much right now, in part because his major state university students tend to be, according to him, less than interested in their own education. But if I told you that, it wouldn't make it a great story that really added to my theme here...)

Long Time Away

Well, it seems I took a rather unintentional break fromn this blog, but I am back. I had a lot of stuff going on with the film, I started a public (i.e., "in my own name") blog and had to keep up with that, I was writing a new script, and I had gotten tired of my own festival updates on here.

But I'm back with new posts in part because I can't post about some of this stuff in my public blog.

As for the festival stuff, here's a brief update: the film has been accepted into over 10 fests now, and it has won some Best Feature awards, and it was accepted into one extremely selective festival, about which I'm very excited. So, while it hasn't yet launched a career by connecting me with people wanting to make future films, it has been a success, especially in terms of tenure/my vita. And, of course, the success in terms of making future films is still a possibility that's out there.

And, I've written a script for my next feature -- now all I need is some money to make it happen!