Processing, 25 February

I’ve been working on this book project this for almost four months (with big breaks for holidays and smaller breaks for unexpected difficulties) and it feels like it’s coming together. While I have a lot left to write, I seem to have figured out how to organize and structure my thoughts on teaching.

The Book Book, Volume One

I filled up an entire notebook with notes, quotations, ideas, questions, and “drawings” related to my writing project. It’s the first (of several?) processing notebooks that I’m calling, The Book Books. I’m hoping to scan the entire thing and put it online as part of this project. Is that too tedious? Hmmm….

A Tentative Table of Contents

Through the process of working through my teaching materials, I’ve realized that I’d like to combine my teaching accounts with my students accounts in one (not too big) book entitled, The Undisciplined Dossier: Detailed Records of a Life Beside/s the Academy. Here’s a tentative outline: TOC pdf

A Finished Notebook!

I rarely finish an entire notebook. At best, I leave a dozen or so pages blank at the end. But usually, my writing notebooks are only half-filled with messy notes that even I can’t read. Yesterday, I wrote on every page (minus 1 or 2 pages that had been ripped out) of my green notebook. To mark the occasion of this momentous event, I posted a picture on Instagram:

Now it’s on to a blue notebook. I’m hoping I can finish my book project before filling all 168 pages of this notebook, which I’ve titled “The Book Book, Volume Two.”

Running away from the Academy

a draft

As part of the second phase of my Undisciplined book project, I’m writing about the haunting question, Am I a Teacher? Reviewing my draft so far, I’m struck by these lines:

…teaching became unbearable as I realized that it was bad for me. It was negatively affecting my health, putting too much strain on my relationships, and crushing my creative spirit.

Sara Puotinen

Towards the end of teaching, around the spring of 2011, I was struggling physically and emotionally. Almost six years of living in an unhealthy environment where I was made to feel less worthy and encouraged to think too much and too critically, and to prioritize, above everything else, my academic work, had weakened me physically and emotionally. I managed to teach for one more semester, but even though I really enjoyed my last two classes, I was so drained by being at the University of Minnesota, that when I finished that December, I never returned. I had arranged to be a visiting scholar in the department, but I could not force myself to go back on campus. It was too painful. The first time I recall actually returning was several years later with my family. After riding on the new green line train that went straight to the U of Minnesota, we decided to walk around the campus. It was very hard for me to do. I was surprised by how much it felt similar to the waves of grief for my dead mother that would overwhelm me on her birthday, mother’s day, or the day that she died. 

I ran away from the academy. Sometimes I wonder if that was the most responsible or smartest thing to do. I’m not sure. What I do know is that it felt necessary. I could not make myself return. I had to run away.

In the years since leaving the academy, the act of running has taken on a different meaning. I started running in June of 2011, the summer before my final semester of teaching. Slowly I trained enough to run in a 5k race. Then I kept training. I’ve been running for almost six years now.

I was reminded of this second meaning of running last night when my husband found an old Instagram photo of me, hamming it up right before a 5k race (my second 5k ever) in July of 2012. I look happy and goofy and strong. Would this picture have been possible if I hadn’t ran away from the academy in 2011?

Hamming it up… @undisciplined at #torchlight5k.

A photo posted by Scott Anderson (@room34) on

Evidence of Teaching Excellence

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that another name for a teaching portfolio is “Evidence of Teaching Excellence.” This morning I had an idea for how to “play” with this title.

Not Evidence of Teaching Excellence but…

Evidence of Teaching…
  • Resistance
  • Trouble
  • Uncertainty
  • Burn-out
  • Discomfort/Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Worth/Merit/Respect
  • Generosity
  • Creativity
  • Care
  • Persistence
  • Vulnerability

I might work to streamline this list a bit. These are things that I taught to students, but also that I experienced (in good, bad, and dangerous ways) while teaching. For example, evidence of teaching resistance involves how I taught resistance to unjust/problematic theories, ideologies, practices in the classroom, but also how I was resistant to ways of teaching (I disliked writing on the board, giving lectures, or doing a lot of physical activities) and to claiming the role of all-knowing (or even lots-of-knowing) Expert. And it involves how I experienced resistance from students to what and how I was teaching. I imagine my “evidence of teaching resistance” to be a reflection of some of my strengths as a teacher, but also of my weaknesses.

Processing, 10 February 2016

I’m still working on archiving and analyzing my past teaching documents. Right now, I just finished finding and uploading all of my assignments to unDisciplined.  Eventually some of these assignments and my reflections about them will be included in the first part of my current book project. I’m tentatively calling this first part, Teaching Portfolio, Part 1: Theories, Manifestos, Assessments.

Here’s the tentative title of the entire project:

Making and Staying in Trouble: The Teaching Portfolio of an Undisciplined Educator

Will this title stick around? I’m not sure, but I like the idea of emphasizing making and staying in trouble in my teaching. It is central to how, why and what I teach and my investment in it has led me to a space beside/s the academy.

I also like the idea of making this book a teaching portfolio. Here’s what I wrote about this format a few months ago:

Similar to my first project in which I didn’t “properly” mimic the format of a transcript, I’m not interested in strictly following the format of a standard teaching portfolio. Instead, I want to critically and creatively (and playfully) experiment with it.

Processing Notes

What is a teaching portfolio? 

According to A Guide for the Electronic Teaching Portfolio, “a teaching portfolio is a relatively short collection of materials and artifacts selected to document, summarize, and highlight one’s growth, experiences, and strengths as a teacher.” Teaching portfolios often include a statement of teaching philosophy, courses taught, teaching goals, and teaching materials.

I envision this book project as serving this purpose (to document, summarize, and highlight my teaching), but to also play with (trouble, question, twist, disrupt, resist) what it means to be a teacher inside, outside, or beside the academy.

On Students

As I think through what I want to include in my portfolio, I keep coming back to the idea students. I want to craft some statements, manifestos, or lists on 1. students and their relationship/s to the teacher and 2. the teacher and her responsibilities to students. I also want to play around with how to present data on student evaluations and how to provide stories and moments of my life with students in my classrooms. What could that look like?

Evidence of Teaching Excellence

The other name that is often used instead of teaching portfolio is “evidence of teaching excellence.” Excellence is also used within virtue ethics. It means virtue or arete. Since virtues and virtue ethics are a big part of my pedagogy and my teaching portfolio I think it would be fun to play around (trouble, twist, distort, misuse) excellence in this book. How? Again, not sure yet.