Hi, Cupcake! I have missed you! It’s been so long, and I’m so glad you’re here! I have been working in the world of academe, teaching First Year Composition I, as well as finishing my MA. I had a situation, so I went in to get advice from one of program’s chairpeople. During our conversation, she told me, “You’re in the unique situation that you’re engendered, so you are probably likely to only hear the unusual.” And of course, my witty response was, “Huh?” as I mentally asked myself,” What the heck is an engendered position, Cupcake?”
She expanded, “Since you’re a coach, and a female coach, the kids probably don’t try to get away with the usual things that they would try to get away with other, possibly more sympathetic, female teachers.”
Now, I’ve looked it up. According to Webster, it is a transitive verb that means, “to cause to exist or to develop,” or even “to originate.” So, maybe she meant that since my ethos originated from Coach, it created responses a little different for me instead of Professor.
Which, in one way, was great. I was not getting the normal, boring excuses for missing homework assignments. In another way, though, it caused me to speculate:
Did I cause engendered reactions, because I used a different title in front of my name?
I had to think about this. I have always been something of an outlier. When I was a public school teacher and coach, I didn’t quite fit in with the English department because I wasn’t considered academic enough, and I didn’t completely fit in with the athletic department because I had both boys and girls in my program, high school and middle school. When I announced to my tennis clients that I was going back to college to work on my PhD in English, most of them were completely taken aback since I wasn’t going further in Kinesiology. Now that I am working on my PhD, I sometimes see the same looks from my professors and colleagues: a mix of “How did she get here?” and “That’s a great idea.”
I am loud, I talk fast when I am excited about something, and I am a sore loser in private. I believe that there is a way—there is always a way—to succeed at something. When reading my students’ final reflections on the class, I realized I created the same atmosphere in my classroom, regardless of the age of my students. I required that they discuss topics and their writings with me and with each other, in person and maintaining eye contact. I expected them to find subjects worthy of their attention, so they would be excited to write and research their ideas. And I did not accept, “I can’t” as a reason for not doing an assignment.
I do not know if Coach gives me a different ethos other than Professor. I know that I am the same person where ever I go, whatever I do. I am the same on the tennis courts with my ten-year-olds that I am in a classroom full of adults. When I host the Turkey Tourney on Thanksgiving week, I bring Krispy Kreme donuts along with granola bars and prizes for the players. When I do something “important” in class that may stress out the students, I bring homemade cookies and brownies.
I let them see that “vulnerable” does not mean “stupid” or “weak.” Click To Tweet One day I was working on my last research paper, and I had to revise and rewrite it because I had found some new research that needed to be added, even though it meant totally changing the paper. My outline was on a notepad. I showed the students, and one asked, “When is your paper due?”
“Tonight at midnight. I have thirteen hours. I’ll finish.”
“You sure?” asked someone.
“I have to, so, yes.” I had everything–I just needed to revise and add things–but we bonded over their comprehension that I understood their writing frustrations.
What my students had to say about this
There are two student evaluations at the end of each semester. One is given by the school, and students post their comments anonymously. The other is in class, as a final reflection over the class, what they learned about themselves as students and writers, advice they would give future students, and anything else they want to add. Most of the reflections echoed the anonymous comments. I was called a “compassionate hard-ass” by one student. Another said, “This class is intimidating at first, but Coach is so awesome and happy and ready to help, it doesn’t have to be so hard! All you have to do is ask!” Even the ones who did not “adore” me found something positive to say, such as, “Save yourself. Go to class and do the work,” and “Leave your excuses at home. Unless you have proof. She has email, she gives out her cell, and she does Google chat. Enough said.”
In one of the reflections, a student wrote, “Do not be afraid to talk to Coach about changing topics or ideas, or anything else. She’s the queen of change and the ten-hour-deadline. She understands.” I wish she had added, but she’ll still make you work. Hey, I have a rep to keep.
The last note that I will share with you is the advice for other students:
“There were days when this class was the only highlight of my day. Sometimes it’s really nice to be reminded that college is not always about dying and stress. Sometimes it’s ok just to sit back, talk about my writing, and eat a brownie.”
If that note came from my engendered—originated—title of Coach, so be it. I choose to believe it’s just because I am authentic, and can relate to others relatively well, but I will be grateful for any cupcakes I can get.
As always, let me know how it’s going, and let me know if you ever created a title for yourself that created your different cupcake self!