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Saturday, September 04, 2010

My College Redeems Itself, slightly.

This may come across as a little cocky, but so be it.

As you may or may not know, I generated for myself a fair amount of stress last semester by butting heads from time to time with my boss in the following ways:

Category 1: Things I Was Explicitly Told To Do, But Did Not
-Buy dress shoes and wear them to class. (Instead I wore all-black decent-looking non-stylized Pumas.)

Category 2: Less-Than-Subtle Unofficial Requests I Refused To Grant
-Get rid of my ponytail in favor of a more respectable hairstyle.

Category 3: Less-Than-Subtle Unofficial Requests I Deigned To Grant
-Remove my haphazard beard and 'stache.

Category 4: Unspoken Things I Knew Might Be Considered Inappropriate In The Eyes Of Some But Which I Did Nonetheless
-Shaving only on Sunday nights and wearing a shadow to class during the later parts of the week.
-Not changing my dress shirt or pants or tie between Monday and Thursday (socks, undershirts, and boxers changed as needed), except in cases of spillage or extreme, unbearable B.O accumulation.
-Using the text book only intermittently and in particular skipping anything to do with shopping, fashion, status, and pages where too many people were smiling.
-Talking as much about vegetables as possible.
-Making relatively difficult, thorough, and useful assignments and tests.
-Never yelling at or punishing late or talkative students.

Do I have some totalitarian tendencies? Indubitably!

Am I a curmudgeon? Twice over!

And yet...according to the student evaluations, which were filled out either right before midterms or right before finals, I was the second most popular teacher/professor/instructor in the college. Out of 183. (Seven of the ten English teachers made the top 20, and one of my best friends came in at number one, doubtless due in no small part to our Monday morning oh-shit-what'd-you-plan? sessions).

On a personal level this didn't mean a terrible amount to me, since I am betting the students were basing their evaluations criteria like "isn't too pudgy," "can crack jokes," "doesn't bug me too much," etc. Nonetheless, I feel a small sense of victory for having fought the school when I was told that the students wouldn't respect me if I didn't try to intimidate them with a professorial aura. For once, I was the one who refused to be cynical, and it paid off. And not just figuratively speaking - the week before classes started, we had a department meeting and photo shoot at which the semesterly bonuses were given out. I got third place, worth an extra million won; the award speech and letter cite my popularity with students and my "unique" teaching methods. Just as nice, the two guys ahead of me, who received an extra two and an extra three million, worked hard and also deserved it.

So, hats off to my school for, in this instance, recognizing, rewarding, and valuing hard work and an honest commitment to teaching well and all the other good things I like to think I do. It doesn't necessarily mean I'll resign my contract, but at least I'll feel a little more respected and a little less apprehensive during the semester to come.


A.Pekema said...

Way to go.
It's nice to hear when genuine good work is recognized.

Dave said...

I support the stylish-sneakers-posing-as-dress-shoes-look. In fact, you just inspired a "trend I started."

If I may pose a question: what would be wrong w/ owning five dress shirts, and wearing a different one every day of the week (or if you work fewer days/week one for every day worked)? Assuming the following two caveats: you wore all five until they were too tattered to wear; you didn't wash them any more often then you did your single shirt. Is that any worse for the environment or your psyche?

PS - congrats on the recognition.

Mike said...

Dave and I already had this conversation in private, but in case you're wondering, I approve of Dave's shirt technique, but don't utilize it because then I would probably also have to change ties and maybe even pants. And I certainly don't want to have to bother undoing and redoing my belt.