Because of your engendered position, Cupcake


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.
This guy was engendered by me, lol

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
Compassionate Hard-Ass

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.
Liz Cozby, USPTA, MA!


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!


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23 thoughts on “Because of your engendered position, Cupcake

    1. Susan, Thank you for the compliment. I hope that I helped them in meaningful ways. Have a cupcake kind of week! 🙂

  1. Intimidated is a common word used for classes in college. But, as you continue to persevere and ask questions, you realize that teachers are human too. It helps you relax a bit when you realize this. Hopefully, you realize it before you finish the class so you can enjoy the curriculum. Thanks for sharing your experience and being you. =)

    1. Sabrina, I have to agree with some of my students: Some teachers are not human! 🙂 Of course, I am sure they are all cupcakes inside strict brainiacs. Thank you for your cupcake kind of comment! 🙂

  2. You sound like an amazing teacher and the reflections of your students are a testament to this.Their thoughts are obviously about you and not your name or title.I love that you try to teach them vulnerable does not mean stupid or weak – a message I’m always trying to reinforce to my adult art students who have intellectual disabilities.

    1. Tami,
      Thank you for the compliment. I hope that I helped my students, and I hope they continue to explore and expand their own cupcake kind of strengths. 🙂

  3. So glad you are back. Everything good said about you stands out but for me, what is most pivotal & why I think you are so successful is how you are being as in human being. When you are evolved, have worked on yourself & feel comfortable with yourself- that comes across to students, kids, professors, parents, friends. Some may look at you askance because you march to the beat of your own drum, but you are the role model to inspire others to discover, explore and find themselves. It may not be your goal, but it is just who you are being & that is what matters, cupcake.

    1. Roz, I hope so! I hope my strengths echoed what I saw in the students. They were truly amazing. Thank you for the vote of confidence, and have a great cupcake kind of week! 🙂

  4. Reading this, I was thinking about labels in general and how our society seems to love them. The medical profession loves to be able to label a disease. Sounds like the the world of academe might be the same. I heard in this post how respected you are as a coach/professor/teacher. Whichever one your students relate to you from, the experience is much more important than the label and that is coming through from the feedback you are getting. Labels definitely change perceptions, which is the main reason that throughout my life, I have stayed as far away from them as possible. Congrats on all the leaps forward you’ve taken this year. You and your students are richer for them.

    1. Beverley, I have tried to avoid labels all my life, simply because I do not like them. They feel so constraining, and they do not adequately explain all the wonderful idiosyncrasies and nuances that make a person unique. 🙂 This is why you and I get along so well, lol.

  5. Those comments from students are great. Sounds like you demonstrate “tough love” to your students. I totally believe “kids” rise to the expectations. Is it your title of coach, maybe, but I think it simply has to do with who you are and what you expect.

    1. Karen,
      Thank you! I learned from them, too, because I definitely went into the job with wrong “expectations.” I learned from them, as well, so it was a great year. Not to mention, our last day of class, one of the students actually made cupcakes for us. 🙂

  6. I taught at a community college for a few years and loved every minute of it. I had my shared to handing in late assignments, but I found that if you really worked to engage them rather that lecture to them, we both got a lot more out of our time together. Being an outlier definitely has its advantages. Congratulations for pursuing your PhD.

    1. Joyce,
      Thank you for the vote of confidence! It’s funny how that “engagement” seems to be the common thread in so many aspects of our lives, from teaching, to connecting with future customers and teaching others on all levels. 🙂 Have a cupcake kind of week! 🙂

  7. I can relate.. but then again.. you knew that and that is why we get along so well… “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.”… YEP! That’s me… great story… and great that you are one of a kind and didn’t change YOUR way to confirm to the Prof way. You go girl

    1. Kristen, It’s harder than I thought, not to conform! lol. I mean, after all, cupcakes do have certain qualifications so they are not called “pies,” “brownies,” or “fudge.” Thank you, my Cupcake friend; I’m glad I found you! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Joan. I was just grateful that I survived, and I hope I helped them in a meaningful way. 🙂

  8. I would say it’s definitely because of the coach thing. I imagine you’re just as good in the classroom as on the courts. Being the same person, regardless of what hat you’re wearing, is the true sign of authenticity. You got it, babes!

  9. Liz – I remember reading somewhere that girls who excel in sports are, like, a zillion times less likely to be the victims of domestic violence. (Can’t remember the actual #, but it was huge). Anyway, I think coaches are seen in much the same way; they won’t get or put up with nonsense. Professors, OTOH, can often be regarded as candy-ass spineless cowards who are in academia because they can’t “do.” (A wildly false assumption, in most cases). Good for you for holding your students to a decent standard, and being kind & tough in both arenas!

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