Post Academic


Down With the Academic Martyr: Why a Little Selfishness Might Help You

Posted in Absurdities,Breaking Academic Stereotypes by Caroline Roberts on January 21, 2011
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PhotobucketWhen I told my family I was taking time off from grad school and looking for a career that didn’t involve teaching, one of my relatives said, “Good.”

“Good?” I asked. “I thought being a teacher is supposed to be noble, or something.”

“Yeah, but it means everyone tries to take advantage of you.”

My loved one had a point. When I thought about my time teaching and what I’ve heard from friends and other professors, I remembered how often I felt pushed. Can you take one more student? Can you give me one more day on the paper? Can’t you give my precious child another chance?

I often caved. I thought, if I didn’t give every last bit, I was letting someone down. I might be blocking a student’s right to knowledge. The one time I did push back, when I joined a picket line for rights I deemed perfectly reasonable, one of the school’s administrators compared the work of a grad student to the work of the kid down the street who mowed his lawn. To him–and many others–strikers were whiners. I held strong, but I felt guiltier than a character in a Philip Roth novel, and when I started teaching, I worked even harder, thinking my labor could erase the perception that I was another whiny slacker.

Sutton Hall interior view of faculty quarters, two women reading, circa 1900. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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Teach: Tony Danza: “I’m always afraid they’re gonna unmask me.”

Posted in The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on October 6, 2010
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PhotobucketTeach: Tony Danza” follows the actor, whom we all know and love from “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss?” as he teaches an English class at a Philadelphia public school. This could have been a goofy reality show series, like “Tommy Lee Goes to College,” but the first episode shows just how hard it is to be a teacher. Danza enters the school full of hope, and by the end of the first episode, he looks exhausted. For those of you who constantly hear how easy teachers and professors have it, you should recommend this show to your critics.

The show is far from perfect. It’s over-edited, and there are too many framing scenes in which Danza and the teachers spell out their motives in an obvious fashion. Some of the kids look like they’re already auditioning for the next reality show. But the show does reveal how uncomfortable it can be to stand in front of the classroom. It’s hard to convey information and keep people interested at the same time, and being an actor helps only so much.

Being an actor actually isn’t Danza’s main problem in the classroom. He makes several classic mistakes that first-time teachers–both high school and college–make. For example:

Never act as if you want to be liked. The moment Danza walks into school for his first day, I felt uncomfortable because he so clearly wants approval from his supervisors and his students. This might be because he still has an actor’s need to please people, but teaching isn’t about pleasing people.

More after the jump! Image of Tony Danza at the Indianapolis 500 parade by Matt B. from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
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