You did as he who goes by night and carries
the lamp behind him – he is of no help
to his own self but teaches those who follow – “We need some positive, happy stuff.”
— Dante, Purgatorio XXII.67-69 — Richard Simmons
MODERATOR MOTIVATOR COACH FACILITATOR
CHEERLEADER PERFORMER IMPROVISER
CHOREOGRAPHER “DISORIENTOR” “REORIENTOR”
“COGNITIVE DISSONANCE-INATOR” GUIDE/VIRGILIAN
DISCIPLINARIAN (one who clarifies the discipline, not one who smacks knuckles with a ruler)
DICKENSIAN SCAFFOLDER SHAKESPEARIAN FOOL
No, it isn’t a list of potential Halloween costumes, though I admit I’d like to see Party City’s version of a sexy Virgilian. It’s a list of teaching personas composed by the first-year Brittain Fellows during last week’s Digital Pedagogy seminar. The rationalization of two very different teaching personas/models provided in the week’s readings (Stanley Fish, Businessman-Philosopher persona, “Save the World on your Own time” and Shoshana Felman, Client/Therapist model, “Psychoanalysis and Education: Teaching Terminable and Interminable”) gave Jennifer Orth-Veillon and Christine Hoffmann the idea to ask our fellow Britts how they visualized their own relationships with their students. The responses were unsurprisingly diverse.
I (Christine) and few others in the room landed on the “moderator” label, which includes various descriptions in itself (moderator like Fresh Air’s Terry Gross? Moderator like Brian Williams during last week’s Republican debate? Moderator like the referee in a discussion board thread?) But I think, in general, the moderator wants an active classroom, where students are as responsible as the instructor, if not more responsible, for generating class discussion. The instructor-as-moderator steps into the conversation both as a participant and, when necessary, as a referee or conciliator, but the goal is to be just another voice keeping the conversation going, as opposed to the voice of authority, which always runs the risk of shutting the conversation down.
This brings me to the broad theme of the week’s discussion, which was how to integrate (ethically and responsibly) research into teaching. I find it difficult to immediately reconcile my moderator persona with my desire to integrate my research interests into my teaching. If the responsibility of a moderator is to avoid any too-distracting imposition into a conversation, then it’s difficult for the instructor committed to the moderator persona to steer classroom conversations—tyrannically! dictatorially!—in directions more relevant to her research interests.
But if there was a theme to our D-Ped conversation last week (there were several, actually), it was that this kind of inflexible commitment to a single teaching persona or model is probably not necessary. Classes are dynamic, so teachers should be likewise dynamic, likewise flexible, shape-shifting into and out of personas/models in response to the stimuli of the classroom environment. I got quite a lot out of our conversation, and I look forward to shifting out of my moderator getup and into the gear of other personas: the provocateur, the “disorientor,” the cheerleader (I’m teaching Baudrillard next week, and I anticipate the need for a lot of cheering).
Best case scenario? Baudrillard is a hit, my students are provoked into designing Ferst-Gallery-worthy artifacts for their Assignment #2, and my enthusiasm for trying on different teaching roles inspires me NOT to dress up as punk rocker for Halloween this year, as I’ve done every Halloween since the late 80s.
This year I’m thinking punk choreographer.