Monthly Archives: November 2014

My Real Research Statement

Several months ago I wrote about my real teaching philosophy, which boils down to creating a solid structure and sitting down and talking to students individually early in the semester. They are much more likely to continue showing up for class, to do their readings and to pay attention to comments on their assignments even when they disagree with their professor about many things when said professor has expressed interest in them. This type of conversation builds solid professor-student relationships.

Once I have these kinds of relationships, I can more easily convince students to show up for class, do their readings and read the comments I put on their assignments. For example, last Monday, one of my students asked about my weekend. I said it was great because I got all this writing done on my book manuscript. The student seemed a bit confused about my implicit equation between writing and fun, but I told the student about my writing on purpose. I want my energy around writing to rub off on my students so that one day they will love going to the library, coming home with a fresh stack of books and writing. For now, their ostensible interest in my current book project is enough. (They are polite Midwesterners whose true opinions I cannot always decipher so they might not, in fact, be interested in reading a groundbreaking book about Mexican literature.)

I also have colleagues and friends who are finding it difficult to finish their dissertations. On the surface, their struggles are different from those of my first-year students who struggle with basic mechanic and my beginning Spanish students who struggle to put together words in a new language in a sentence. Underneath, they are quite similar. Neither group has paid enough attention to my dissertation writing reflections. The philosophy behind these reflections is simple. Make a plan for the semester and then divide it into weeks. Make writing goals that seem too easy. Then, write every day. Well, write every day except Sunday or another personal day of rest. Use pomodoro. Write for five minutes, write for ten minutes, write until writing becomes the way to deal with anxiety rather than the source of anxiety. Write a blog about tacos. And then go back to the task at hand.

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Detroit Tacos

Today I took a small class of students to the Detroit Art Institute to see Diego Rivera’s murals about the auto industry and to eat tacos. I could have easily spent hours just looking at the murals in the Rivera court; instead, I talked to some of the docents and learned that there is going to be a special Frida and Diego exhibit coming to Detroit in the spring. Lesson I have learned from the Midwest: talking to people is always the right choice.

After we left the museum, we went to a restaurant recommended by one of my students. It was quite full, so I asked him to take us somewhere else. He said that the route to get there was not that nice looking, but that the restaurant was clean and nice. So we drove past many dilapidated buildings and I pondered how the world came together to save a museum but could not come together to provide a city with free drinking water (especially when corporations have, apparently, gotten water in Detroit for free). Needless to say, it was amazing. Among the best tacos I have eaten in my life, nestled between a taco truck, a laundromat, a Catholic Church and other community centres. The tacos were better than Chicago. Better than Mexicantown, Detroit. Better than El Paso. I have not yet been on a friend’s “Deep chilango” (“Real Mexico City”) taco tour, so I am leaving the possibility that there are better tacos in Mexico City. But taquería el jalicense is the way to go. Some of my students ordered quesadillas, others ordered tortas (sandwiches).

Tacos. Because posting pictures of students without their permission is wrong.

Tacos. Because posting pictures of students without their permission is wrong.

Imagine what could happen if we listened to our students more often.