Thursday, August 03, 2017

two unrelated things:

1. Maybe a change of plans for tomorrow, I don't know.

Yesterday afternoon, my piano teacher called - something had come up and she couldn't make it this afternoon. Okay, that's fine, that happens. But she wanted to know if I wanted her to come yesterday or Friday. Well, seeing as I arrived home at 5 pm yesterday* and she would come at 5:45, that wouldn't work so well. So I said Friday.

(*I was trying to finish the FIFRA chapter - on toxics and pesticides. Didn't quite get there)

And then realized: oh crud, I was thinking of going to Whitesboro that day. But. Piano is at 5:45, as long as I get most of my practice done in the morning (and pick up the house a little bit tonight), I could still probably go and just be really sure to be home by 3 pm or so. (I would leave here at 9 - it's an hour to Whitesboro and the shops don't open until 10. And I was planning to stop at a grocery in Sherman on the way home but I could probably still make that work)

I COULD go next week instead, I guess, but I just really feel the need for a day out right now. And as for grocery shopping: I want to do it in Texas this week and here next week, because this weekend here is "sales tax free." Well, on some things: certain school supplies, kids' clothes, and kids' shoes. In other words: pretty much nothing I would need, and it will bring out the crowds, and especially will bring out the big family crowds with unhappy kids, and I just don't want to deal with that. And next weekend is Texas' version of the thing, which tells me "Go do your shopping in Texas THIS weekend and either stay home or just go to mart-of-wal for the few fresh-food things I might need.

I find crowds, especially cranky crowds, harder and harder to tolerate these days.

And, I dunno: I get that the sales-tax holiday helps "working families" and all that, but seeing how strapped my state is for cash, and that SOME of that goes to schools....well, I admit I feel a little cranky about the selective nature of it, seeing that I pay my 9.375% on the spinach and cauliflower and everything else like that I buy in the state. How about a "sales tax holiday" on healthful foods for once? Or just on GROCERIES like nearly every other state in the nation?

(This is why I kind of sigh heavily when some activists agitate for feminine-hygiene products being made tax-free because they're "essential." Food is even more essential and I pay the full sales tax on it...)

But anyway. One way in which I am slightly towards the Rain Man end of things is I don't like having my plans altered when I have made them. (But I'm telling myself it really really will be okay, as long as I'm walking into the grocery at 1:30 pm, I will be home in plenty of time....)

2. Got an e-mail this morning advertising a seminar on "being a rock-star teacher" or some such.

This is a metaphor I wish would die. For many reasons.

First of all: When I think of "rock star behavior," I think of smashed guitars, trashed hotel rooms, large quantities of mind-altering substances consumed. And yes, I know, Not All Rock Stars, but I'm a kid of the 70s and 80s so that's a place my mind goes to. And of course, with all the smashed and ruined stuff, that means the Little People who work for the hotel or the performance venue or whatever get stuck cleaning it up. And I tend to consider it jerk behavior to mess stuff up and then leave it for someone less-coddled and less-well-paid than you to deal with (see: Why I wash most of my own glassware in lab)

But also: "rock star" is antithetical to who I am. I am fundamentally pretty quiet. I am not flashy. I do not like drawing attention to myself in the sense of "She's so outrageous!" I'd rather my work speak for me than have to try to sell myself-as-me to the world. I'm a little awkward in person and I don't look good in heavy eye make-up or tight clothing (to go more literal with the rock-star idea).

And I feel like all too often the "rock star teacher" thing is sold as "this is the ONLY valid way to be and have success in the world the way it is today." And that's not true. Students are all very different and I daresay many students don't want a self-professed "rock star" in front of the class. (In fact, I know that many of my students appreciate my style of teaching; I still think of the guy from another major who told me, "I like your class because you actually expect something of us, you don't just let us sit around and talk about dumb s***"

But I do think it is, oddly enough, in a world where "diversity" is a big big deal, discouraging a different sort of diversity: diversity of personality or approach. If you gotta be Big and Loud that kind of closes out the people who AREN'T, and also closes out the students who don't respond to that.

I also think in a way it's insulting to the students, because it's fundamentally saying, "Kids these days EXPECT to be entertained. They want flash over function, they want stuff that's cool even if it's light on substance" and I have found with many of my more serious students, that is so absolutely not the case. ("I like your class because you explain things in a way I can understand and remember")

I think I come off, instead of "rock star" as kind of quiet and intense and prone to be interested in things that are a little tangential. And maybe even (though I try to downplay it) a bit of a mother hen because I don't like to see people in pain or having difficulty. (Though I don't know. I'm thinking of that old Burns poem now about “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!" I don't really know how other people see me, I can only imagine based on my thoughts of my persona and how people seem to react to me)

And the problems I have with "rock star" and how I've heard it discussed on this campus are two-fold:

1. It implies any of us who aren't, are somehow less-than. And I don't like feeling less-than.

2. It implies that "If you want to have a job teaching in the MOOCified future, you HAVE to establish your rock-star cred NOW" and I don't know, I'm not sure any of us at the small regional schools, no matter how "rock star," really have a future if we go to a world of "ten universities for the nation" like some talk about - I am sure there are better-placed and more cutthroat types who will see that THEY have a job, and the rest of us can go dig ditches. 

And I don't even know if that's going to happen. I don't know WHAT'S going to happen to higher ed, and if it does, if it's going to happen in the 12-15 years before I am at a point to consider retiring. 

Though one of my followers on Twitter did joke about: "Does this mean I get to have a laser light show in class?" 

Well, I wouldn't want one (too much risk of students with epilepsy having problems) but maybe a fog machine for my entrances would be cool...

1 comment:

Diann Lippman said...

Come to CA where you can pay at least 10% sales tax on everything - no exclusions of which I'm aware. And then, you can pay 58.3 cents in CA taxes on every gallon of gas for your vehicle. The last time bought gas, it was $3.45 a gallon for premium. CA state income tax rate is up to 13.2% as well.

We can hardly wait to move to New Hampshire where there is no state income tax or sales tax (except on alcohol, cigarettes and prepared foods). Property taxes are high; not as high as CA but higher than many places. Won't need earthquake insurance any longer either, which will save about 4K a year! Gas tax is 29 cents a gallon and a gallon of premium is $2.55.

Taxes are a curse everywhere, but that's the price we pay for services for everyone. I don't mind too awfully much or I'd have left CA years ago! But it's time.