On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others

It’s graduation season all around higher ed, which means the proliferation of all sorts of seasonal trends: smart people wearing silly clothes (“academic drag,” as a colleague calls it), intricately-decorated student mortarboards, and the lilting chorus of air horns as newly-minted graduates stride across the stage. It’s also when we see the deployment of a veritable army of wealthy donors honorary commencement speakers dispensing business-speak bromides to an audience full of slightly dazed graduates, restless children, and what sounds like an outbreak of whooping cough. GOOD TIMES. Continue reading “On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others”

November 9

There will be legions of posts, articles, thinkpieces, and essays this morning and throughout the day wondering how “we” could have gotten everything so wrong, how things came to this, how a majority of the United States electorate chose….that. There will be attempts at scholarly analysis, visceral personal reactions, laments, and entirely too many smug, see you pointy-headed types should have listened to real people screeds.

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Naming My Fear

I am an academic-in the Humanities, no less-so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I sometimes act irrationally. Hell, seeking an academic career in itself is pretty much an irrational act, yet many of us are stubborn or committed or devil-may-care enough to do it anyway. By and large, I’ve embraced my propensity for seemingly irrational behavior. Getting lots of tattoos over the last 25 years? CUSTOM PAINT JOB. Writing right-handed but eating left-handed? HOW I ROLL. Espresso at 8 PM? SURE! Rooting for the Cleveland Indians? YES. Reading poststructural theory for fun? PART OF MY CHARM.  Continue reading “Naming My Fear”

On Student-Shaming and Punching Down

A few years ago, trapped in the midst of final exam grading, I started posting some of the real howlers I got as answers on Facebook. I didn’t use students’ names, and I don’t “friend” students on FB, so this sort of venting seemed like an OK way for me to keep my sense of humor during the end-term crush.

I have felt guilty about doing that ever since.

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Failing to Succeed

I remember my first F. It came my first semester in college, actually: Intermediate Latin with Magister Lisle–a Harvard School of Classics product who I am convinced spoke Latin better than Cicero ever did. I was in over my head, too stupid to drop, and had discovered the joys of dorm parties and unstructured time. The final project was to translate large sections of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and I had difficulty making it through sentences like “He is a farmer.” It went poorly.  In what had been a train wreck of a semester, I also earned a D in a 5-credit section of Intermediate Calculus.

My Freshman Year
My Freshman Year

My institution had a repeat/forgiveness process where you could retake up to two classes, though, and substitute the new grade for your old one. The catch: whatever the new grade was, that was the one that counted. I retook Calculus the following fall, and got my second F. That replaced the D. I decided I wouldn’t even bother with retaking Latin.

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