Monday, November 5, 2007

letting go and Facebook

Salvia indigo spires is still blooming. I love the deep blue color, and so do the bees. There are not too many bees left around this time of year, but the few in the garden go for the indigo spires. It is time to cut down spent flowers and plant for the cool season. A few weeks ago I bought some cool season annuals and biennials at the local arboretum sale, but I still did not get to put them in the ground. I cannot find the time or I deny myself the joy of digging around as long as I am still working on that essay that has been accepted for a volume and which I have to submit asap. I also have a hard time to cut down and get rid off the plants that still look somewhat fine, like the sweet potato vines which went crazy this year. They are no longer perfect and linger along, but they are too nice to throw out. The same holds true for my essay. I finally renamed my initial version again "the quarry,"and am now cutting and pasting, even though it means letting go of entire sections, all worked out well, with tons of footnotes, all that work!

At least I am not teaching today. There are still tests to grade, but I will focus first on what is most important at the moment and will do some grading later during break time while eating lunch in the back yard. I still have to force myself to take care of my writing first, and not go right away for any tests or student papers. One of my colleagues always says that you do not get tenure for grading student papers, it is only your research that counts. He is a good teacher, I am sure, but he also knows what he wants to accomplish research wise and he acts accordingly. That is not bad at all, even though I have sometimes a hard time when I see how he has no problem whatsoever to make use of other people's ideas, actually lets others rewrite sections of a paper when we do writing sessions together. But I guess I am just envious that he is able to do so, be so open of accepting and open about own possible shortcomings. I am sooo protective of my work. I am extremely generous with my thoughts and ideas, and I have contributed massively to papers of others, but I am protective in the sense that I want to write everything myself. Like a child, no, no, I can do that alone!!! I do not need your help! And I am putting on my tiger costume.

This morning I heard a story on NPR about Facebook and online advertising:

"The social-networking Web site is set to announce a new partnership that could rake in millions in ad revenue. To advertisers, the social networking sites are giant databases about potential customers offering information advertisers normally pay big bucks for."

I am ambivalent about Facebook. I have read some of the discussions - if faculty should have a Facebook profile or not. A couple of years ago, students showed me in the beginning of a class how Facebook works, it must have been fairly new at that point. It was in a multi-media classroom, and I put up a profile right then and there. So yes, I have a Facebook profile, but I hardly ever access the page. It is a great tool to keep in contact with former students, but I feel almost guilty, like snooping around. I know now that x is gay, even though he is not openly gay. It is not expressed explicitly on his Facebook page, but there is an almost hidden link to a blogger page, and there x talks about it. I have noticed how colleagues change their attitudes if they know too much personal stuff about their students. Two former colleagues at Christian U have excellent Facebook profiles. They both write about politics and whatsoever, one on the Facebook page, the other with a link to a blog. I think they do a great job since they show the students that they are real people, not only with their heads in books or serving the students, and that is how many students do perceive us. I am just not ready to engage in a similar discussion with my students, I am too private for that. So I am not truly engaging in a Facebook exchange, which I see as only fair. One of my colleagues had a horrible experience with Facebook last year. A student of Y vented about the class - Y is not the most exciting instructor, more traditional, but knows the material - and the animosity in the class grew when other kids also chimed in, even those who were not in the class. "Y is sooo evil," along those lines. I did not read the exchange at that point, but Y found out from another kid who started to feel bad. End of story, Y came to me (I am considered a "teaching expert" with excellent student rapport) and asked for advice after having set up a Facebook account and having read the venomous exchange. Y was devastated since the initial comments were from an extremely smart and intelligent kid. The result could be called a good learning experience: the kids learned first hand to watch out what to write on Facebook, Y learned to be more receptive to student comments. But it was still very hurtful and embarrassing. Such an experience makes me wonder where to draw the line. I am holding back, I do not wish to know too much about the kids, I want to stay as neutral as possible. If they need venting, let them vent, but maybe not on Facebook. The time students spend on Facebook is another matter. Now advertising is going to exploit the curiosity about the self-representation of others. But who am I to talk, sitting here and blogging away. I approached this blog first as an online diary, but how can it be, if I know that others could possibly read what I am writing, not exactly like Facebook but along those lines. Back to the never ending essay.

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