In the last series I wrote, I concentrated on research, how the multiple tributaries that I’ve studied and followed helped me to get to what I am going now as an organizational narrative scholar. Now it is time to attend to the second part of the research-teaching-service triad.
I ended my last blog with the following:
“I’ve been on the tenure track for four years, but I’ve taught 14 different classes.
How the hell does that happen?”
A lot happens. A lot. I find it even more remarkable that I have taught so many classes because, unlike many of my peers, I never taught in my Masters program. Since I worked at Saint Louis University, my tuition was paid for, so I didn’t need a teaching assistantship. The first time I stepped into the classroom is when I started my doctoral program at University of South Florida.
Like just about all graduate teaching assistants, I started off teaching the basic public speaking course. I did so for a year and a half. In my second semester of my second year I was able to teach Interpersonal. What happened next was sort of unusual.
Some of this was undoubtedly due to changes in the department. My first year there, Carol Jablonski, retired from the USF, and two years later was ordained into the Sacred Order of Priests in the Episcopal Church. Later on, the man who would be called dean - Eric Eisenberg - stepped down as chair and went on sabbatical when Ken Cissna became the chair. Now I have to give some shout outs here, because Eric and Ken trusted me. They put a whole lot of trust in me.
How so? For one Dr. Jablonski was the big time family communication researcher. Eric asked me if I would teach that class. I said yes. I’m not sure why, except to think a) he needed me and I didn’t want to let him down, and b) I figured it would be good experience. Let me also be very honest. I’d never taken, never mind taught, a family communication class. And there I was (in the second semester of my second year, mind you) on the first day of class standing in front of a bunch of seniors, with a family communication book in my hand which I had never read, and with a syllabus that was pieced together from other syllabus I’d found online. Of course the students didn’t know that, and I sure as hell was not going to tell them. I had some weird things happen in that class – some dilemmas – that I will talk about in a future blog.
At the same time, I was given the chance to teach my first ever Organizational Communication class. Eric asked me what I wanted to teach, and being an org comie I said, “Org.” What I didn’t know at the time was that it was originally supposed to have been taught by a post doc or a full-time faculty member. And we forgot to change the cap on the class. The class had 40 students in it and was scheduled for three hours on Wednesday night. So here was another new pre, for a class larger than any other class I’d ever been in front of, with three hours to fill. That class was the worst class I ever taught. I had neither the classroom management skills, nor the time management skills to handle that class at the time.
(In retrospect, now that I’ve taught classes with 300 students, I laugh at my younger self!)
Teaching two new upper level preps in a semester as a graduate student is – well, it was dumb of me to say yes. This class contained “The Incident.” I won’t tell you the whole story now, but it starts with baby momma, baby daddy, and baby daddy’s ex – all taking Org Com at the same time. What could possibly go wrong?
And then the man who is now called Dean Eisenberg stepped down as chair, and Ken Cissna was up. And that changed what I taught too. I still taught Interpersonal and I still taught Organizational, but a new member of the family needed to be taught. Ken, if you did not know, is a group communication scholar (although he is more than that too). Since he was chair now, he needed someone to take over that class. And there I was. He asked and I answered.
Again, perhaps I was being foolhardy. I had never taken a group communication class. Another new prep. Again, the first time I taught it was a disaster. I ended up despising the book I’d chosen. Some of the activities I planned out went over like lead balloons.
But I learned. Just like when I worked in information technology, I learned by doing.
When I graduated from USF, I’d taught five different classes:
SPC 2600: Introduction to Public Speaking – 8 times
COM 3120: Organizational Communication – 2 times
SPC 3425: Group Communication – 5 times
SPC 3301: Interpersonal Communication – 5 times
SPC 4301: Family Communication – 1 time
I struggled. It was hard, sometimes daunting. Sometimes I barely felt like I survived, but I did. And this laid the foundation for the next step. If it was not for the teaching that I’d done at USF, I never would have taught at Mizzou.
But that story, although shorter, also has to wait.