Today Russ and I kvetched in my office about the nature of working in higher education. I think we both run up against the difficulty in ‘making’ people care about whatever subject we’re teaching. I get frustrated by seeing people in my office who are ‘nice’ but are not (at least on the surface), critical thinkers. They create classes that will pay them to teach, but don’t actually like the act or art of teaching. Because I live my life in perpetual angst around the BIG questions of life/love/existence I don’t understand how others can simply…get a paycheck.
In a few weeks I’m speaking at a conference on boundaries, asked by my friend Tabbi to share my ‘expertise’ with these foster youth on how to advocate for their personal needs. When writing my blurb for the conference brochure I had this horrifying thought….is my community college dumbing me down? I have hopes and goals and thoughts that get stifled in the awful bureaucracy that is community college. Perhaps I will always live in a sea of angst around the big ideas. I remembered, by writing about my life, what I’m actually capable of, and how I get sucked into idly pinning things onto pinterest to distract me from the utter frustrating tasks I’m asked to do in a program that is doing things very inefficiently.
It makes me think of two things…a) how is Ebola not spreading? I’ve seen the incompetence at the governmental agency of education, it’s totally not surprising that the one nurse called the CDC with concerns and they gave her the go-ahead to fly, even though she was actually contagious. There are super inefficiencies happening on every level of government and agency that I have worked at. And b) I ask a lot more questions than I have answers to.
This afternoon I went into a woman’s office, who teaches every quarter in addition to administrative salaried duties, even though she “hates teaching.” She does it for the paycheck, and should be removed from the position of instructor. And when I was telling her about how I raise current events in my class, she said something that I feel sheds profound light on what my angst is about. She asked, “what do you do if you don’t know the answer to one of their questions?” I was basically dumbfounded, mostly because I rarely have any answers to my students questions (in regards to the current events). What I do have is questions. And I acknowledge their questions. And I ask for feedback from their classmates. I help facilitate a discussion, a dialogue about what we know, what we don’t, what we’d like to know, and we often end in a messy unsolved way. The goal is critical thinking, not giving them answers to questions. She clearly felt uncomfortable with that answer. She clearly didn’t want students to ask her questions that she didn’t have the answer to. She clearly wanted things right or wrong or neatly packaged. And that is probably why she hates teaching. Because she feels like she has to do it all, and that’s really exhausting.
I don’t know if I’ll ever run out of questions. I think my asking questions is annoying to my own psyche, because answers aren’t readily available, and yet it’s this thing that keeps me alive.