Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In which the Meridian briefly plays Col. Kurtz

"He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct." Image found here.

The above is how I characterized myself yesterday at our department meeting as the sole full-time English instructor at my school's teaching site at McConnell AFB. (Some context is here.) My school's organization is a bit strange: we have several campuses, but they have, relatively speaking, little administrative autonomy, even though one of those branch campuses actually serves more students than even the central campus. Yet, it's the central campus that has ultimate authority in determining things like the look and much of the content of the syllabus, what text(s) we use, how many and what kinds of papers we assign, the fact that we must have some sort of graded activity on the last day of class, etc. My self-characterization aside, though, I'm actually observant of these guidelines: there are good reasons for them, even if those reasons have little or nothing to do with me. The maintaining of order in the ranks is not solely a military good.

Yes: it's get-ready-for-school week for us at my place of employ. I confess to feeling a bit adrift for the past couple of days: glad to be back but, for various reasons, not fully "present" at our meetings. Fortunately, nothing is so radically different this fall that I have needed to be fully present. Moreover, you'll be happy to know I've not been broadcasting meditations on snails crawling on razorblades . . . or, um, you know, doing other stuff that would cause my department to terminate my command with extreme prejudice.

To hear some students tell it, though, you'd think I have some of their peers' heads on stakes outside my office . . .

In some ways, actually, I'm the negative image of the good colonel: whereas most of my colleagues, to put it politely, can find better uses for their time than to drive out to the main campus (for me, a 60-mile round trip) for two days of meetings, I actually like going to them; they provide almost all of the very rare occasions that I get to see my other colleagues in the department over the course of the year. I like to think I'm good at what I do, but I'm also smart enough to know there's more than one way to be a good teacher. So, these meetings give me the chance to learn from my colleagues and/but also be reminded that my methods have not (yet) become "unsound."

So: I'm off to write syllabi. I should be back "here" in a day or so. In the meantime, here's a very nice mash-up of scenes from Apocalypse Now and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day:


R. Sherman said...

Next week, it's meetings for the EMBLOS. I'm printing this post for her.


John B. said...

Heh. I'll take that as a compliment.

Best of luck to her, Randall--and to you in the role of faculty auxiliary.

emawkc said...

The interesting/coincidental thing is, I just finished rereading Conrad's Heart of Darkness.


John B. said...

Ah, serendipity. Thanks for stopping by, emawkc.

I hope either I or Conrad has enlightened you some as to the dark place that is academe.

And speaking of which: Over at the House of Leaves forum some time ago, someone complained about a book assigned to her in high school, and someone else responded, while looking in my direction, that he thought teachers live to think up ways to torment their students. I responded by saying, "I prefer to call it 'enhanced interrogation.'"

Pam said...

I have a shrunken head dangling in the window of my office - I got it for a few dollars a few years ago at a drug store, and it's the coolest thing EVER. I always laugh when a student comes into my office and says ''ve got a shrunken head dangling from your daughter' and I say '...and your point is?'. So I guess what I'm saying is that maybe you do need a head on a stake outside your office door?

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