>So I finally got around to reading my teaching evaluations from last year. Usually I’m better at keeping up with them, especially so that I can use any constructive comments. I was actually surprised no one complained about reading Graff’s Professing Literature in last year’s grad methods class. Oh well, I took it off this year’s plan anyway. And it seems my students did find Chaucer: An Oxford Guide useful, despite the fact that I did a poor job of integrating it into the class. That surprised me, too; again, I was expecting complaints. (Though they did say it would be even more useful if I worked it into class more often.) OK, duly noted for next semester’s Chaucer class.

Overall the evaluations were really gratifying, not only because they were full of laudatory comments that made me blush and even choke up a little bit, but because people took them seriously and wrote the kinds of constructive suggestions I just mentioned. That’s really cool. I mean, I love the praise and all — as you shall see — but the helpful ones are greatly appreciated, too.

But I have to say, my favorite feel-good comment this year was the answer to free response question that asked the evaluator to comment on any strengths or weaknesses of the teaching. This is what s/he wrote:

Strengths — Awesomeness
Weaknesses — n/a

The only thing that could make the awesomeness of that awesome comment awesomer is the poster from Barney’s office on How I Met Your Mother. So here it is:


>I’ve been reprinted!!!!!!!

>I just found out, via a Google search of the name under which I publish, that one of my first two articles has just been reprinted! It’s appearing in a multi-volume set that’s part of a series on critical approaches to literature and cultural studies from an established academic press. The set that my article appears in is devoted to the particular genre that my first book and those early articles addressed. I’m in a chapter called “Critical Paths for Understanding [fill in the specific genre here].”

Woo-hoo! My work is a “critical path”! I’ve been reprinted! My name will live on! I AM BEOWULF!…er, sorry, got over-excited there for a moment. And OMG, you should see the list of names whose company I keep. OK, if you know what genre my first book addresses, think of every famous scholar ever to have written on the subject. Yup, they’re all there. And so am I!


Here’s the weird post-script: I found this book, with its table of contents, on a Japanese web site. Using the ISBN, I also found it in Amazon, but I can’t find it on the publisher’s site. Huh. That’s weird. Oh, and for those of you who might be wondering how my work can be reprinted without my knowing it: I don’t own the copyright to that article; the journal where it original appeared does. Still, they could’ve e-mailed me, for pete’s sake. I would’ve put the info in my tenure file! Well, that seems to be going well without it, so I’ll save it for when I go up for Full Professor.

>OMG! A total rock star likes me!

>OK, not a rock star, but close enough in the academic world. I’ll explain best I can without revealing identities

So the final outside letter for my tenure finally came in — too late for the department personnel committee, but in time for the chair to mention it in her letter, and for all the subsequent levels up the hierarchy. Anyway, it’s from someone in my immediate specialty and it’s someone I was a little afraid of because I thought she wouldn’t like my work because she’s all fancy-pants theoretical and I’m knock-off pants theoretical at best. So I actually didn’t put her on my list of potential reviewers. But my senior colleague did, and she ended up being one of the people solicited, and since her letter was late in arriving I was especially worried about it.

Well…It. Totally. Rocks!!!!! (Yes, I got to see it. As you may recall, we’re a public university in an open-records state. When my chair said it was “absolutely glowing” I just had to read it!) OMG, she likes me, she really likes me! And get this: lo these many years ago, I was an admitted, prospective graduate student visiting Rock Star’s campus and department, back when she was still an assistant professor, I think, and in the letter she makes it clear she *remembered* me. And she mentioned that she knew my work from my articles even before the book! It’s like she’s been following my career or something. How awesome is that?!

I think I may faint, and this time it’s not from whatever’s in my head causing my dizzy spells! This is definitely something for the “love file”! Woo-hoo!

>Woo-hoo for me!

>In graduate school, one of the senior TAs, who had this special TA position specifically designed to mentor the newer TAs (a good system, btw), told us to keep a “love file” in which we put copies of the kick ass teaching evaluations, cool professorial comments, and all other commendations that made us feel like we were doing this thing we do right. I never took that very good advice literally — never created that file — but now I have a blog. And here I can say “Yay for me!” to the whole wide world.

So, two little things made me feel good this week. First, one of my new graduate students, a mere two weeks into the program, wrote me an e-mail telling me how grateful he is for my mentorship as graduate adviser and as the instructor of the research methods class. I don’t *live* for such notes, but they sure do make my day!

And then, in the last day, I e-mailed the organizer of a panel at K’zoo and asked if there were still open spots, because I thought I might have something for it. Not only was there an open spot, but the organizer said she was familiar with my work and looked forward to getting a submission from me. Awesome! Someone’s reading my work!

I love the little things like that. They really matter and they really make my day. They let me know I’m doing things right, that what I do in my job matters at least to some people, and that therefore my existence matters beyond my circle of loved ones. (An aside: one of the cool benefits of being an academic is that people you’ve never met, in far flung places you don’t live or have connections, have read your work, know your name, and value what you do. Even if it’s only 5 of them it’s still cool.) These little things *especially* make my day when there are other, crappy, unbloggable things going on around me that I can’t do much about, that involve systemic problems a helluva lot bigger than me. I can play my little part in those things, too — make up for the inadequacy of others, perhaps — but those are the kinds of things that get me down, and have I to look to these other things I’ve done that somehow brought others pleasure or value of some kind. It’s all I can do.