boast post · classrooms · reflection · teaching

50 Posts! And also, "Ask a social media expert"!

Hey everyone, we’re celebrating 50 posts of Hook and Eye! Why, it seems like only just yesterday that Heather launched our first missive into the Ethernet, September the 6th, and 371 of you dropped by to see what she had to say. Since that first post–and those 371 readers–we’ve added 49 more (counting this one), with 9 guest posts, and two editions of This Month in Sexism. The conversation has been excellent: 297 comments in total, and more every day.

Since our launch, the site has had 13,937 visits, from 4,137 different readers, who’ve examined a cumulative total of 23,988 pages.

Wow! I’m pretty sure I speak for Heather and Erin when I say we’re pretty pleased that what happens on this blog appeals to so many of you. I’m really pleased that we’ve had nearly 20% of our posts contributed by guest bloggers–please, won’t you write for us, too?

One of the really interesting things for me about writing for this blog has been using my own name. I’ve been blogging for more than four years already, but never out in the open like this and never–of course!–writing about work. It feels exciting, and risky all at once.

I’ve been thinking this week, too, about what it means to be a professor ‘out loud’ like this. I forget sometimes what a hothouse a university can be, how it nurtures the growth and development of ideas and interactions and processes that don’t seem easily to survive transplantation to the harsh climate of public life writ more broadly.

For example, this story in Inside Higher Education, on viral classroom videos, some clandestinely taken and published, others captured through legitimate means, yet others heavily edited and annotated. I watch the videos and I see … teaching. I see teachers and classrooms and it all seems so familiar and normal. I see also the danger of taking what happens in the classroom and broadcasting it outside of that classroom.

Inside Higher Ed classifies this kind of video as “gotcha” … journalism? media practice? These videos remind me, though, of why I don’t allow anyone to tape my classes, even just the audio. It’s why, further, I don’t give out lecture notes to anyone. See, I think that what happens in the classroom is much bigger than what the lens sees: my teaching is built on a relationship I develop with a particular group of students in a particular learning context in which we are all invested. In some ways, we build the class together: “the class” is me and my lectures and the syllabus and the students and their interests and their training and what happened in the news that day or what the weather is like. It is a living thing. A raised eyebrow and a shouted admonition to a student to put down the damn cellphone already elicits a sheepish acquiescence in the classroom … it might draw a firestorm online. A student challenge to what I’ve just said leads me to rethink, on the spot, what I’m asking the class to believe. I sit down, change my mind, and tell them so, tracing out explicitly the outer edges where my understanding of a topic has veered towards … bullshit?

I’m proud of my teaching. I’m proud of my students. I’m proud of the teaching spaces we create together, spaces that are sometimes challenging and sometimes awkward and sometimes silly. But you know what? If you weren’t there, I can’t explain it to you. So I will keep my classroom door firmly closed to digital and other intrusions. That space is sacred to me: it belongs to the group that has committed to it.

So my heart goes out to those professors ensnared in their video controversies. Guys, your classrooms look like what I know, and I’m sorry that your sacred spaces have been blown apart. If you want to write a guest post, here at Hook and Eye we–and our 4,137 readers–would be glad to have you.

3 thoughts on “50 Posts! And also, "Ask a social media expert"!

  1. Imagine if this happened to a TA who is just learning how to teach? Not only would it be incredibly demoralizing, but having their name smeared all over the internet like that could potentially ruin someone's chances at further higher education and a career in academia.

    I don't know what it was like before, but it seems that these days students are more likely to expose issues to outsiders rather than having the courage and courtesy to deal with a problem directly by going to the professor or TA first. I TA a first year class and I just handed back a mid-term exam which was a massive failure. Despite all the effort I've made to tell students that if they disagree with my marking, they should come and discuss it with me, only one has done so. The rest are just complaining amongst themselves, threatening to involve the student union and sending class representatives to talk to me on my behalf. I think these videos are just another manifestation of the same attitude.

    Is it because in elementary school we are taught that we should go to the teacher first if we have a problem instead of dealing with it ourselves? The saddest part is that this attitude is actually preventing students from learning from their mistakes and preventing us from getting feedback we need about our teaching before it becomes a huge issue.


  2. Thanks Aimée for pointing us in the direction of the “gotcha” videos, and thanks again for drawing out the notion that what happens within a class is more about the relationships between professors/lecturers/TAs and their students than some mere performance that can be taken out of context and understood in any meaningful way. The only point I would add to what you've said is that this kind of “gotcha” dynamic is one we see all the time in the media where comments/behaviours are taken way out of context and then the firestorm goes nuts while people weigh in on issues that are never properly contextualized. I think what's sad about these particular videos is that they're further examples that as a society, we seem unable (unwilling?) to recognize – as you do – that any clip is only ever going to give one, small side to any story. And what makes me particularly sad is to see this kind of uncritical thinking taking place in/around/about universities. And don't even get me started on the fact that these videos (and most of the discussion they've engendered) don't mention the role of RESEARCH in the professorial life…but now I'm likely to begin ranting…so I'll stop…


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