Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Shameful self-promotion

One of my editors, Bethany, has urged me to blog more frequently. So here I am.

I understand her point: she’s legitimately concerned that I might not be doing as much as I could to promote my work. Student writing in the quantitative disciplines: A guide for college faculty (Jossey-Bass, 2012) has been out for a few months now, and though I’ve every reason to believe that sales are quite good, they could probably be better, given more ambitious self-marketing. I’m not sure I feel up to this, though.

It’s not that I feel that self-promotion would be beneath me, or would constitute “selling out.” That attitude would be intellectually elitist and unbecoming. Believe me, I’m not against garnering a little fame (and a somewhat smaller fortune) from the book. There’s nothing wrong with showing a little pride in one’s work. It’s just that I’m not sure this blog is the appropriate venue for that self-promotion. Others are doing it, why can’t I?

Bethany mentioned the blog my good friend Erdrick writes, and the one that Maryellen Weimer, who helped me tremendously as my consulting editor for the book, updates regularly. Erdrick’s a wonderful colleague and a superb teacher, and his blog is superlatively good. Maryellen’s blog, too, is a wonderful periodical piece, and a wide-open window on current best practices in teaching at the university level. But I don’t think it’s fair to compare these blogs with my own; they serve different roles. I’ve never meant this space to be an intentional documentation of best practices, or a how-to manual on pedagogy. Though I don’t doubt my own excellence as a teacher (I’ve a great deal of evidence to suggest that I am quite accomplished as an educator), I have been, and I remain, reluctant to take on the task of systematically codifying my thoughts on teaching.

Rather, I’ve always thought of Change of Basis as a safe place to unpack my own teaching activities (and not, though they may frequently coincide, best practices in teaching more generally) in real time, keeping tabs on what goes on in my classroom, in my REU, at my school, in my mind. It’s more made up of notes-to-self than it is directives-to-others. Though I may cite books on teaching, I don’t do so as a careful and intentional review of the literature, but rather as an indicator of what I happen to be reading at any given time. Though I might bring out all the buzzwords (problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, Moore method, writing across the disciplines, writing-to-learn, etc.), I don’t treat them methodically but only as they come up in my own work. How else to put it? I try to teach by example and not rote lecture. My tone is more anecdotal and less comprehensive and directive. It’s “I tried this trick out, and it worked out well” and not “studies show that this trick will reach students most effectively.”

I mentioned to Bethany that one of the reasons I’d not updated lately was that I’d not had much time lately to write. Between near-constant travel to present at conferences, seminars, colloquia, and faculty development workshops; leadership on the Curriculum Review Task Force (a full-time job in itself lately), preparations for the REU (now done with its second day), several ongoing research projects (in both math and composition and rhetoric), assumption of the Honors Program directorship (my administration began officially a few days ago), and teaching a full load of courses, I’ve not had the time I once had to dedicate to this blog…and when I have the time, it’s often directed into other writing projects (notably, 3x30 and poetry).

Honestly, I’m too busy being a dedicated educator to write about being a dedicated educator.

It’s thus that I offer my apologies to you, Bethany. I’m sorry I’m not posting as often as I might, and that my posts aren’t as pointed or focused as they might be. Please know that I wish I had the time and energy to post once, twice, thrice a week, offering some digestible and downloadable 750-to-1000 words of wisdom each time. Please know that I’m not angry with you for asking more of me, and that I do understand, and appreciate, your concern. This just ain’t that kind of blog.

That said, please consider giving Student writing a read. I’m proud of it, and I feel that it’s a very good book. I feel very strongly that writing has much to offer to students and scholars in the quantitative disciplines, and that we do well to pay attention to writing’s potential. I will walk the Earth from end to end to say so, again and again. If you’d like to talk about it, let me know.

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