I am an under-payed adjunct faculty person teaching introductory courses in theatre, courses that you take to fulfill your arts requirement.
Although I am not a full-time faculty person, I am still an experienced and well-trained professional. I hold an MFA in directing and have directed numerous successful and well-received shows. I also hold a Ph.D in theatre with a specialty in Theatre for Youth, which means I’ve read, researched and written on a wide range of subjects. In addition to teaching Introductory courses, I’ve taught advanced level courses in Non-Western Theatre, Theatre for Young Audiences, Feminist Theatre, Studies in Drama, Theatre for Social Change, Puppetry, and Theatre History among others. I’ve also, which is unusual for many professors who specialize in one field, taught Intro and advanced level courses in Writing, Research Writing, Honors and Education. In other words, I am a well-rounded, experienced teacher.
My job, as I see it, is to:
- create a course that lasts the entire semester
- develop a syllabus that outlines this course (I spend hours on this, and try my best to stick to it).
- prepare for lectures and or course presentations for each class, as necessary
- create interesting assignments that reinforce or support the learning goals of the course, and explain my expectations for those assignments
- grade assignments in a timely fashion
- answer your questions or meet with you when you have problems
- keep tabs of your attendance and participation
- lead class discussions
- answer your e-mails
- turn in grade reports and other official documents required by the school, in a timely fashion
In addition, as a concerned teacher in an arts discipline who likes to challenge her students and explore new ways of teaching, I try to:
- create interesting assignments that ask my students to think creatively
- create assignments that allow for students to use their strengths. While I believe it is important to have written assignments, I try to provide assignments that will allow people to use presentation or art skills as well.
- since this is a theatre class, provide opportunities to make presentations, act, and/or try some of the other skills required in the world of theatre.
- avoid doing things like testing memorized facts, but rather ask my students to think about how what they are learning in my class might relate to their lives or the real world.
Nowhere in those lists does it say that I am supposed to be your Mother.
As one of the assignments for this class, I asked you to attend a performance of a production put on by your peers at the college, and write a review of this. I selected this production because it was less expensive than attending professional theatre, especially with your student discount, and it was on campus, so you shouldn’t have had any difficulty finding it or finding parking. I told you about this assignment on THE FIRST DAY of class, and reminded you as it approached.
“Where is it?”
“How much does it cost?”
“Where do I find tickets?”
“When is it?”
These questions dominated the classroom for several weeks. I did my best to answer them, repeatedly.
Then, this past weekend, mother nature threatened us with another storm that (upon initial reports) could have been of epic proportions. It fizzled out to be a cold, slimy, mixture of rain and snow that didn’t do much except create an incredible wonderland this morning.
However, to be cautious, since I thought the shows might be cancelled, I came up with two alternative options of other shows that would happen on campus later this semester. I sent that information out to you. Some of you, it seems, have chosen to pursue those options instead, and I can’t penalize you for that. But, that’s not what this letter is about.
It’s about the fact that I am not your Mother.
After I sent the e-mail with the options I got numerous e-mails asking things like:
“How do I know if the show is cancelled?”
You all walk around with these fancy pieces of technology that have the power of accessing the internet to look things up, and–even more amazing– can enable you to talk to other people and find out information. If you wished, you could pick up these amazing pieces of technology to either look on the school website to see if anything has been cancelled, or call the box office for news. This is how I would find out myself, so why must I do it for you?
Because you want me to be your Mother.
Dear, dear students. You are adults, or on the verge of being adults. It is your decision if you want to come to class and be there on time, although class participation does affect your grade. It is your decision whether or not you do the reading, although I often do check-ins on the reading which is part of your grade. It is your decision whether or not you want to do the research and preparation required for your group projects. I am willing to help you with suggestions, but I cannot do it for you. On the creative projects, where I ask you to make design choices and present things to the class, I specifically created them to allow for all types of presentations. I have given you the guidelines, but I refuse to give you line by line instructions. If you are not willing to break out of your comfort zone, and want me to spoon feed you all the information and details as to how to approach a project, then you are in the wrong class.
I am not responsible for your inability to organize your schedule around my class. I don’t ask for much, just that you come to class. I know that this assignment was outside of class hours, but I gave you plenty of notice (approximately 6 weeks) so there should be no reason you can’t arrange your work/play/ or whatever schedule around seeing one show.
When you miss class, I am not responsible for making sure you know what you’ve missed. I’m not responsible for sending you the handouts and making sure you know what assignment is coming up. I’m happy to send that material to you, or make it available on-line (where you can find most of it already), if you contact me about your absence, but you must initiate the contact. If you have been absent for a long time (because of illness or something else major), and expect to turn in all of your assignments, it would help if you contact me before you’ve missed the classes, not after you got back.
I’m not an ogre. I’ll work with you and help if you have situations, but I’m not your Mother. I’m not going to just allow you to do things on your own time because I feel sorry for you. You need to show some initiative, take responsibility, and acknowledge that my time is as valuable as yours. I am not at your beck and call 24 hours a day. I am not responsible for taking care of your issues the moment you have them. While I check my e-mail often, I don’t have a phone that notifies me every time someone wants to send me something. Nor do I want one. I actually have a life outside of this job, and I try to keep that time separate from the time I work.
Even though work often bleeds over and my paycheck gets smaller and smaller.
I am indeed a Mother. Yet, I try to teach my daughter some responsibility and initiative. This past weekend, we went on a family outing to a winter festival at the nearby botanical gardens. “Bring your snow gear,” I said to my daughter. “We will be outside.”
She brought them, and then left them in the car. “I didn’t think I needed to carry them,” she said.
“I don’t tell you to bring things just because I want to tell you to do something,” I said. “You can go back to the car and get them, or you can do without.”
She did without. Should I feel bad? No. She made her choice, and she suffered the cold-handed consequences. She still got to pet an alpaca, however, which I think is pretty cool.
I humbly request that you recognize that there is a difference between an Instructor and a Mother, and act accordingly. Actually, I hope that you show more respect to your mother than you currently do to me.