I Am A Full-on Theory Whore!

And lovin’ every minute of it.

I made a rather big mess for myself last week when I canceled my class due to being sick. At the time I thought “Well, it’s not that much reading so we can just cover it all next week.”

When I started to feel better a day or so later, I thought “Well, we’ll be tackling memory in the Enlightenment and Romantic eras as well as in the Late Modern period, so that’s a lot, but that’ll be workable. And there are close connections to be made, so maybe it’ll all actually flow better this way.”

Then, as I was preparing for today’s class, I started to realize just how much I had bit off. I refreshed my memory on who the authors are in this section and thought “Crap!” Then, as I reread the readings and reworked my initial notes to take into consideration where we were, what things we’d tackled that I wanted to harken back to, what issues I knew we would be covering that I wanted to foreshadow, I started to realize what a big task I had before me. And I said “Shit!”

Let me interject here to say I am not a lecturer. I never learned well from lectures, never saw a particularly good lecture (a presentation at an adoption-related conference I attended in October was probably the closest I’ve come), and do not generally enjoy the sort of nonstop listening to myself talk that is needed for a good lecture. I am much more a conversation, asking interesting questions and hearing interesting answers, dialogue sort of instructor. Maybe if I had found a better way to incorporate my perpetual sarcasm into a lecture without seeming like a poseur…

Anyway, today I found myself not only needing to tackle a number of philosophers ideas on fairly complex matters, but I also needed to do some lecturing around things like phenomenology, semiotics, the role of history, etc.  Thus you see why the “Shit!”

I will admit I headed to class today with a bit of trepidation — and not only because I was going to have to cover all this but also because students in my program don’t generally take kindly to lectures. While I didn’t expect an all out revolt, I did expect some…shall we say…displeasure.

And it was definitely there. Some people had scowls throughout the day (well, until I gave out candy for answers about the readings. Though many of those scowls came back as we made decisions about a group commemoration project. Rather than simply assigning them what to do and how to do it, I let them be actively involved in the decision. The idea was they would be more invested and would be able to learn not only by doing the project but also through the process of deciding what it is. The jury is still out on whether any of that was achieved).

Many people, though, went with me. That’s not to say they got what I was saying all the time (some of fabulously expressive faces that I’ve learned to read over years of knowing them, so I can tell when they just have no clue what I am trying to convey. Great thing is, if I’m tuned into that, I know right away that I need to try to explain it another way).

What surprised me the most, though, was how much fun I had teaching theory.  My dear friend Pi and I have often joked about being theory whores (a term of endearment, in our view) but I’ve never really tried to teach much of that theory before. Today I found myself understanding things in a much deeper way (what’s the old saying about really needing to know something to teach it?). I found myself loving the theory I was teaching. And I found myself really, REALLY wanting them to understand it (of course, I always want my students to understand what I’m teaching, but today was something even more than that — I wanted them to know they understood it and to like learning it).

I can’t say how successful I was at all of that, but I can say I got to watch several of those a-ha moments — where someone’ face went from the frown and furrowed brow of confusion to the wide grin and lit-up eyes of comprehension. One student even said that semiotics sounded fun (gotta’ love it!)

Maybe the true measure of a theory whore isn’t how incomprehensibly they can write, but how well they can help form those theory whores who come along behind them.

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1 Comment

Filed under education, memory

One response to “I Am A Full-on Theory Whore!

  1. princess24

    it was a lot of information but it wasnt too bad! and giving out candy definetly helped in the end!

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