Have started to clear out some of the great big piles of paper in the apartment. Threw away most of the old bank statements and car insurance policies. Could not bring myself to throw away the undergraduate term papers, or even the incredibly unwelcome letter from a former boyfriend that I'm glad I never answered.
Looking through my old academic work has confirmed something I've always suspected: I'm really a pretty lousy student. My class notes, such as they are, tend to consist of observations like "I NEVER EVER want to hear the phrase 'discourse of the body' again," and, in one case, a stick-man version of Hamlet; I seem to have recycled a bunch of paper topics from undergrad and used them again in grad school (one even ended up as a dissertation chapter); my papers were filled with snarky asides, random thoughts, and extended references to Monty Python and the Reduced Shakespeare Company; and I clearly hadn't mastered the finer points of MLA documentation by the time I was a senior in college. Most of my profs never called me on this stuff. This bothers me a little, because I do tend to call my own students on it, and I'm wondering if I'm being too harsh. I'm not sure I would have liked to have me as a professor. I liked the old guys with tenure and a perpetual attitude of amused tolerance. It's usually the young, female professors who are strict about such things, and while I liked a lot of them, too, and learned a great deal in their classes, they were never who I wanted to be.
I'm in two minds about what this means. On the one hand, nudging a student toward a more formal and less flippant writing style is a sign of respect -- it shows you're thinking of her not as a cute, precocious kid but a knowlegeable professional. We're toughest on students when we believe in them. On the other hand, I suspect that the underlying message -- and I do believe it is a message most often directed by female instructors towards female students -- is that successful academic writing involves suppressing humor and idiosyncrasy and character, and that isn't what I want to tell my students at all.
I don't really know which is the best way. I do think I want to change my classroom persona a bit now that I have a doctorate and a place to make a fresh start -- you know, joke around a bit more, put my hair up in a bun less often -- but I'm not sure how, or whether, I want to change my ways of commenting on written work. (As a side note, I was also struck by how much more I write on papers than most of my undergrad profs did -- granted, this is more true for comp than lit, and I never took comp. Do the comments do any good, I wonder, or do they just get glossed over and thrown away?)
So, yeah, random thoughts 'r' us.