I'm a Leaf on the Wind
At Senor Fluff's advice, I have taken to revisiting a crucial scene in the feature film version of the sci-fi/western series Firefly--Serenity. In this scene, the ragtag band of plucky heroes must sneak through enemy lines; the pilot guides the malfunctioning spacecraft between hostile and much more powerful ships and finally into a landing, all the while repeating the mantra "I'm a leaf on the wind."
You can follow out this metaphor as you wish. I chose to apply it in the numerous meetings that I've had this week (and yes, it's only Tuesday). Here, several situations in which faculty propose to significantly alter student experience are up for grabs. Because of severe character flaws, I am compelled, in these situations, to speak to the ways in which these alterations have reverberations in other components of student experience that we're not fully taking into account. [My apologies to all for the ambiguity of this post...] I'm not totally in favor of these ideas, but I am willing to bend to the will of the majority (because ethically I think that's the right thing)--as long as we make clear to ourselves and the students how this will change what's expected of them further down the line. What I'm seeing, however, is that no one is willing to take all of the reverberations into account before advocating for the changes. And keep in mind, these are changes that will not affect us as faculty (except for the uncomfortable experience of failing students), but will certainly affect the students themselves (if they have to repeat courses). And for the record, for those of you on the ground here: it's not the just single Monday proposal I'm thinking about--it's happening in a number of places in smaller groups... Perhaps scholars/writers are not particularly systematic thinkers; unfortunately, our role as faculty put us in the position of developing, delivering, and assessing systems (majors, minors, concentrations). I'd like to see us take that responsibility as seriously as we do our own research, and the teaching that goes on in our individual classrooms.
Normally, it would take every fiber of my being to hold myself in the chair as we capriciously decide on changes without examining possible ramifications. If I were 15 years younger, I would be screaming and pounding a table (yup. that's what I was like. still am, on the inside.). Instead, I am a leaf on the wind. What kind of strength can I really exert here? How do I imagine that I can, as one person, turn the tide? The leaf remains the leaf even as is it borne in a direction it cannot control. [And the real question here is: what kind of f*cked up messiah complex do I have that I need to save students from a badly-designed system? Good grief, Fluff, get over yourself!] Ah, grasshopper, finally, you are learning.
I have, my friends, a new mantra. One that will hopefully keep me from bouts of depression and rage over uncontrollable events. I, like the Firefly pilot, am a leaf on the wind.
[Of course, a good close reading of that scene would remind me that the pilot lands the ship successfully only to be immediately impaled by psychotic humanoid creatures who rape, maim, and cannibalize. Hmmm.]