Thursday, August 23, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 25 (light at the end of the tunnel edition)

Gettin' dug-out all up in this crib. Meetings meetings meetings emails continue, but many of the problems begin to be resolved. And the big one: first Faculty meeting of the semester, and I didn't have to go! Boo-yah, baby!

A bunch of hires (TA's, adjuncts, new TT faculty teaching Music Appreciation) looking really good--a huge relief. This is a year when the third leg of our Musicology teaching tripod (undergraduate majors, graduate majors, and undergraduate non-majors), the music-appreciation courses for the general undergrad population, goes through final curriculum revision. I was brought in in 2000 with the stated mandate to "modernize the department." We completely revised the undergraduate music history curriculum (a huge job in itself, made unusually successful because not only did upper-administration say they wanted a completely new curriculum, they actually meant it and supported it--a very rare occurrence). We completely revised the graduate curriculum, structure, and offerings (in the midst of, over 4 years, replacing 3/4 of the faculty in the division) and were successful.

Now, because of a particular coincidental watershed moment represented by departures, leaves, or shifting assignments, we have the opportunity to overhaul, streamline, integrate, telescope, and make-consistent that third leg: the music appreciation courses for non-majors. We've now brought into- and on-line a full suite of such courses (History of Rock, History of Jazz, Masterpieces of Music, plus seminars on hip-hop, vernacular music, and adjacent topics), fully supported by multi-media, smart classrooms, online component--a huge job. We're now in train to develop fully online/distance-learning versions of same: that's one of the key tasks for this year. By this time next year I expect us to be enrolling over 1500 students per semester, with concomitant credit-dollar generation, in the Music Appreciation courses.

What makes all this possible--the straw that stirs the drink--is the superlative skills of the tenure-track, adjunct, and teaching-assistant faculty we work with. These people are top-notch, they're up-do-date, they're collegial, they're imaginative, and they work their asses off. I am incredibly fortunate to having this staff--all the revisions, technology, shifting pedagogical paradigms in the world would mean nothing in the absence of staff who can work into the classroom and light those fires.

These off-the-hook meetings, emails and planning sessions are mainly designed at making sure the staff has what they need in order to do what they do at the calibre of which they're capable. When I started teaching adjunct (sometime back in the Pleistocene Epoch) nobody at my alma mater knew squat about the topics I was to teach, no materials existed, and there was neither mentoring nor oversight. Fortunately, my personality is sufficiently akin to that of a big mean dog in the back yard that I didn't want anybody messin' in my stuff, and was happy to get on with the process of teaching myself how to teach those topics.

Similarly, I want to leave my staff the hell alone to get on with doing what they're so good at. Contrastingly, though, I want to make sure that my guys know there is a support network here, that we in the musicology division work together, sharing ideas, brainstorms, materials, and problems, and that we believe they are entitled to all the support and assistance necessary to let them excel. I am absolutely convinced that they will. But I'm going to be out of town most of the semester, and I want to anticipate and fix as many problems or unclarities as possible now, so that, when the bell for the First Round rings next Monday at 10am, they walk into their classrooms knowing we've got their backs.

To quote one of my favorite TV characters ever:

"We're a group. We're a team...We win together, we lose together. We celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories are sweeter because we did them together... You're my guys and I'm yours... and there's nothing I wouldn't do for you."
Toby's right. They're my guys and I'm proud of them.

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