Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"The Office" (workstation series) 095 (fine-tuning the focus edition)

I write this blog for a number of reasons, almost none of which were clear when I began it--that was more a product of blind fury at the criminality of the incompetent buffoons and greed-poisoned CEOs in the Bush Administration. After about a year of posting that was, I belatedly realized, entirely too angry, too reactive, and too redundant compared to the genius of various other bloggers, I decided to shift the tone and consciously hone in on specific targets (see the Blooger Personal Inventory in the side-bar for a more detailed exegesis). That enumeration of topics (see the banner above for the keywords) brought things much more into focus.

But what really finalized the focus, I think, was arriving at a conception of the target audience for whom I thought I was writing. That is not to say that other individuals and groups might not find the thing useful--at least I hope so--but that, as a writer and a coach of writing, I knew that I could further focus by having a reasonably clear visualization of who the writing was targeting. I realized that I might have most tangible, conscious, intentional, insightful things to say about the day-to-day craft of being a public intellectual: in the classroom, in the public prints, in scholarly research and publication, and in the fora of public opinion; that is, the stuff I do every day. That in turn suggested that the potential audiences might include those for whom this information and commentary might be engaging, educational, or useful: fellow educators; others working at the nexus of education, public policy, and political/community activism; a circle of friends and contemporaries with whom I share some past history; and, perhaps most important to me personally, those who might describe themselves as my students: graduate students, junior contemporaries, and so on.

I don't worry too much about who might read this blog--if I were worried about that, or the nefarious or vindictive purposes to which someone might put that information, or if I were not yet tenured, I would maintain a far higher level of anonymity (my current benchmark is essentially "minimal deniability by my employers"). But I definitely think about who I hope reads the blog, and that is those who might benefit by whatever experience, observation, and insights I can bring to bear.

That's the genesis for several of the principle themes: the theme of "how do you be a public intellectual committed to major socio-political change, and also keep your job?" (the "radical politics" tags); the theme of "how do you maintain some kind of a research identity and work-stream while also being a teaching professor?" (the "Office" series); the theme of "how does it actually work, day-after-day, teaching your way through an academic year or semester?" (the "In the trenches" series).

I learned, long before I was able to so articulate the insight, that my highest level of centered satisfaction came from a life that involved a healthy combination of teaching, playing, and creative activity. I learned to articulate that as "make sure, each day, that you make something and that you teach something." Those are necessarily defined very broadly: consider myself to be "making something", whether it's a radio program, a lecture, a pub session, a tune, a blog post, a scholarly article, a transcription, or a meal, and consider myself to be "teaching something" if it's a lesson, a class, or, again and overlapping, a radio program or (certain) blog posts.

Some colleagues and close friends rib me about it: "Oh, jeez, there he goes teaching somebody something again" (I heard this more than once in China), and I recognize that there are myriad social interactions in which the pedagogical impulse just needs to be shut off. That's usually when I shift to "making" as opposed to "teaching".

But these/those are the ways that I create human value in the world. It's how I give back.

Being a teacher, then--in the medium of the classroom, teaching studio, radio program, or, hell, even a thinly-anonymized blog--feels to me like an enormous gift. I am privileged beyond measure that the Universe permits me to do this.

1 comment:

Kim said...

I've culled and used many concepts, ideas, etc., from this blog, and plan to continue doing so.