And Let Us Now Praise Profane Men and Women…


I am not sure where you are in your teaching space,  but I am near the end of my tether.  I have tried and mostly succeeded for 25 years to put human beings first in any institution I ever worked at.  That strategy is the right way to be.  It has left me vulnerable to the critique that my teaching is not “rigorous”.  At my university, I have been dinged numerous times in my so-called evaluations for having grades that trend too high.  My grades from the fall of 2020 for a class of underprepared first semester students were called “beyond the pale” too high.

Empathy does not enter into the numbers.  This morning I talked a Saudi student down in my online writing class who was on the point of tears and quitting. He had just worked his way through two weeks of COVID19.  He suspected he had the long COVID19 and didn’t know how he was going to catch up.  The time anxiety he feels is one of the greatest issues we all face during the Pandemic.  My empathy and care and concern and whatever you want to call my un-rigorous behavior counted for nothing in the smaller scheme of things, but everything in the larger scheme.  I told him that even if we had to do an incomplete, we could make it work.  My Saudi students are under the most unbearable amounts of pressure so I do all I can to help them.  Ironically, that makes my job a lot harder because the word gets out that I will actually help my international students get through these difficult composition courses.  A former department head said I was to blame myself for being “too soft” on them.

“Too soft” and “beyond the pale…”–that these ‘observations” would hold any sway in any institutional framework is a powerful indictment of that system  Such a system is not reformable.  I think it is time for me to blaze a trail that is right for me and my learners.  I have the crazy idea of trying to get in touch with every student I have ever taught and touching base with them about what they think is a better way.   That might be over 10,000 students.  According to Ralph Nader you only need a 1000 to start a revolution.





  1. // Reply

    I hate to comment on my own stuff, but I don’t appear to be garnering any attention. I don’t think I have seen anyone use comix as a sandwich for text like this. Rhetorically, each of these can stand on their own, but the gestalt of all these together is stronger than separately. Of course, there is no strength when there are no eyeballs. And that is the horror of post-modern internet life. You are the tree that falls alone in the forest that no one hears.

  2. // Reply

    Terry, you sound like what an ideal teacher should be. Too bad that does not seem to be rewarded.

    I like your idea of reconnecting to former students. I’ve been doing that on Facebook, reconnecting with students and volunteers who were part of the tutor/mentor programs I led in Chicago between 1975 and 2011.

    It’s heart warming to hear them tell how much they appreciated the program and how some are still connected to their tutor/mentor volunteers after so many years.

    Sadly, I have not yet convinced any to adopt the work I’ve been doing to help similar programs grow in more places, but I keep planting that seed.

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