Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Sunday Thirsty From The Film Faculty Fraud.

I'm a film adjunct at a large urban community college, and I have been feeling for a while like the fraud police are going to come and get me. I get good student evals, I've never been evaluated by administration -- I do my thing, it appears that students are getting it, and I go home. But there is a part of me that always feels like I could be doing more, teaching better, being more involved.

Do you ever go in to a class feeling less prepared than you should be, and then have everything turn out just fine? Have you ever gone in and just winged it? Do you feel guilty about spending little or no time prepping?

Q: Have the fraud police ever come?

PS: Note to Cal, this does fit the severe limitations of the Sunday Thirsty since it is definitely spiritual in nature, reason to be, existence, etc. 


  1. In every class there are a couple of "C's" that should have been "D's" and a D that should have been an F.

  2. The horrible, horrible truth:

    The fraud police never come.

    1. True, even for the bad faculty (which I'm pretty sure our film faculty friend is not).

  3. Winging it and feeling guilt about not prepping are separate issues.

    As far as winging it, yeah, I sometimes do that, but it's mostly because I'm on autopilot; in those classes, I've gone over the material so many times that I could shoot a spike of Herion (TM) and still lead the class. On those instances, the key is to have confidence in one's fakery and have a battery of stock material to dip into.

    Even for classes when I'm less prepared than I want to be, those classes usually turn out well 'cuz the discussion takes a twist that I'd not planned, and hey stuff to think about and use in future classes.

    My one serious crash-and-burn class session came while I was TA-ing during grad school and had no time to prep for the next day's class session; my invented-on-the-spot activity generated zero enthusiasm among the students, so I said, and I quote, "The hell with it. What do you want to do?" We spent the rest of class doing a Q-and-A session, and it turned out great.

    As far as feeling guilt about not prepping, I'm rapidly getting over that; here's why:

    * In the limited number of courses that Wannabe Relevant University has me teach, I've got the material pretty well in the can by now and can wing onsite classes effectively.

    * Over the past coupla years, I've been forced to prep like a dog 'cuz I've been teaching in hybrid format, and that modality is all about prep work. Even for the onsite portions, my attitude is "Fuckit...I worked hard on this last year, so I don't need to slave over it now."

    * It's recently become clear to me that despite the lip service paid to teaching quality, all that matters is generating publications. As long as I get published and don't bang my students, embezzle money, or shriek racial epithets in the halls, it's all good. Guilt, to quote the New Order song title, is a useless emotion.

  4. It's also ethical, so that seems appropriate to Sunday (in fact, I think that was on Cal's list).

    I'm sort of in the same place as Dr. Mindbender (well, give or take anybody caring about whether I publish or not; the part about giving lip service only to teaching quality still pretty much applies; in my case, they mostly want a degree of competence that leaves them free to ignore my classes entirely): I've been teaching a very long time, and a lot of my prep time is focused more on the overall structure of the course and assignments than on "what are we going to do in class today?" questions. I do "wing it" sometimes (both in the classroom and in creating online activity prompts), but mostly when I take too long deliberating over which of several approaches to use, and end up having to choose one at the last moment (that usually works about as well as planning well in advance, which is to say unpredictably, but I generally manage to accomplish at least part of what I was trying to accomplish).

    If you're an adjunct, and you've found a relatively efficient way to teach (and have a clear idea of what you want students to "get" that bears some relationship to a reasonable set of goals for the course you teach, and feel the students are, indeed, "getting" it), then I think you've hit a sweet spot, and shouldn't feel guilty at all. Applaud yourself for not becoming, in some sort of twisted Foucauldian sense, an agent of your own exploitation.

    It may well be that something is missing in your professional life (other than a decent salary; that goes without saying if you're an adjunct), but I rather suspect that it isn't more course prep. Perhaps you're actually longing for a chance to compare notes with other teachers in the same course? Or to catch up with current developments in your field? If so, a conference (if you can afford to travel to one, or find one meeting nearby), or participation in an online professional discussion, might scratch that itch.

  5. @Film Faculty: You think this is bad? Wait until you have the realization: you ARE the fraud police!

    1. Seriously now: once you run yourself absolutely and unsustainably ragged, you'll know your students will be better off if you aren't that way. I know, having put in my time as an Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor. You sound like you're having more fun, though, with things running smoothly, so how much of a fraud can you be if you're managing that?

  6. The fraud police never come. It's called imposter syndrome.

    Fake it until you make it. Just know more about the subject than the undergrads. Be fair and firm with clear expectations.

    Then pour yourself a little something neat.

    1. I agree with Maybelle. Some of the best profs I know think of themselves as not doing enough.

      I have mostly stopped feeling like an impostor, for the reasons Maybelle states: I am clear about what I want from them, and I know WAY more about the subject than they do. I am not ever on "autopilot" because I feel like the only way to get my students to pay attention to what I'm trying to teach them is to be as engaging as possible, and to remind them regularly how this stuff will serve them down the road (I teach comp).

      Do I ever go in and "wing it"? You betcha. And sometimes those end up being the best classes--though I wouldn't advise doing that on a day you're being peer observed.

  7. Are there times when I probably don't prep as much as I should? Only on days that I teach.

    I'm with Dr. Mindbender. Intro to chem is easy and standardized.

    As for being a fraud, I just don't get that. Are there cases when a faculty member teaching a subject he or she doesn't know? There are some upper-level chemistry classes I would have a hard time teaching but nobody would be stupid enough to expect me to do that. Is this different in other disciplines?

    1. I suspect that whether or not one gets Impostor Syndrome is roughly inversely proportional to how long one has identified with one's field. People who have been dreaming of working in their fields ever since they were very young tend not to get it. People who entered college not knowing what they wanted to do but found it tend to get it, even if they do become very good in their field, while still undergraduates. It tends to fade with seniority, and disappear entirely with senility. I suppose the lesson there is to enjoy it while you're young.