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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal/Theological Notebook: A Fellowship Won 
24th-Feb-2006 03:29 am
I See You!
I received notice Thursday from Professor Thomas Hughson, SJ, the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Theology, and the Chair of my Doctoral Qualifying Examination Board last November, that I have been awarded one of the two Graduate Teaching Fellowships for next year. So that's a huge relief to know that I have another year's wages as I work on my dissertation. Yeesh, this brings my scholarship total now to something like $133,000: amazing. I don't know what the classes or the teaching load will be be, yet: if it's the Introduction to Theology course, that wouldn't be much of a surprise. It would be useful to develop and flesh out those lessons before going on the job market, since it's a given that wherever I would end up, I--like all other professors--would inevitably end up spending some of my time teaching an Introduction.

There's a lot from my high school lessons that I will be able to transfer. Given that theology is one of those disciplines that totally isolated from general education, even here or at Notre Dame, the undergraduate Introduction to Theology really is in some respects operating at a high school level, if not even lower, just because you have to assume absolutely no previous knowledge on the part of undergraduates, and virtually no philosophical or abstract reasoning ability. That may sound grim, or even insulting, but that's just the way it is: if an entire discipline is censored, even in the name of some notion of intellectual "freedom," the result is never one of enlightenment or skill, but just of clumsy and simplistic reasoning and prejudices. The class has to begin with just coaching students in learning to ask careful questions and recognizing what actually constitutes an adequate means of answering their questions. Being thrown into a literature that I had never encountered, in the fall of 2004 in Andrei Orlov's Apocalyptic Literature seminar, gave me a good refresher experience for sympathizing with the frustration I see in students as they try to come to grips with a discipline for which they have no preparation. That, I think, will be the hardest part of an Intro class for me: just being aware of how much I cannot assume in their understanding, and reining in my expectations to a realistic and achievable level, even as I try to hold the hoop high.
24th-Feb-2006 11:34 am (UTC)
congratulations! i'm glad for you. i can imagine what you mean about the intro class -- i was never really taught the kind of thinking that such a class would require. hope you enjoy teaching it, anyway.
25th-Feb-2006 12:53 am (UTC)
It should be similar to a lot of what I've done before, if that's what I am in fact teaching, so I'm not too worried about that: I find teaching to be a blast.
24th-Feb-2006 12:01 pm (UTC)
wow, congratulations, you're amazing!

*throws confetti*
25th-Feb-2006 12:58 am (UTC)
"Lucky" or "blest" is the word I would have chosen....
(Deleted comment)
25th-Feb-2006 12:59 am (UTC)
Thanks, C.
24th-Feb-2006 04:11 pm (UTC)
that's awesome. congratulations. =)
25th-Feb-2006 12:59 am (UTC)

A big relief!
24th-Feb-2006 04:29 pm (UTC)
For the first: that's stupendous! That's wonderful! It's... rather early in the semester for such announcements!

As to the second paragraph: yes, yes, and yes some more -- rather sounds like Freshman Composition, as far as radical reconceptions of what "college level" work can feasibly be, at times...
25th-Feb-2006 01:02 am (UTC)
Hey, Em,

Early? I suppose. Maybe since it's in-house material rather than sending out offers to applying students? I can't remember what the timetable was for that, but I thought it was February, too....

Yes, as to that latter; you hate to sound like a snob, but you just have to deal with the facts that so many more people at the university are trainees rather than students....
25th-Feb-2006 03:14 am (UTC)
Well, we're just now sending out offers to our new students, and our fellowship-thingers seem to be announced in May, which was the blinky-surprise.

RE: the latter -- yesterday I tried to have a logical discussion with one of my friends about how the teaching of comp requires a radically different skill set than what I'm asked to do as a teacher of literature (for precisely the trainee/student distinct -- I do like that!). It didn't go over very well...
25th-Feb-2006 07:09 am (UTC)
And your friend thought you were being an awful person because of it? Or at least that you were saying something awful?
25th-Feb-2006 08:35 pm (UTC)
Yep, because it implied (in her mind) Yet Another Example of the denigration of freshman composition, which is the foundation of the English Department. (Research? Literary Criticism? Hm?)

As I come from an undergrad where "freshman composition" was in no way related to the English Department, I tend to rather disagree about that.
25th-Feb-2006 10:03 pm (UTC)
Makes sense to me.
24th-Feb-2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
WOW! You guys get paid so much over there, even taking into account the exchange rate. It's well known here that it's a good idea to go to the states for a postdoc and get paid shedloads of money, then come back rich. Then you might actually be able to get a foot into the housing market...

But congratulations on getting it!
25th-Feb-2006 12:52 am (UTC)
Whoa!!! That's $133,000 of scholarship and assistantship aid over five years: it's not money in my pocket. I'm only making about $17,000 next year and that's before taxes. It's still great--it'll keep me alive--but I'll still have to probably do some student loans to make ends meet. I thought it was you guys in the hard sciences, who can sell your research to the corporations, that always made the big bucks at the university....
25th-Feb-2006 12:05 pm (UTC)
Ah! I thought that was for one year! As PhD students, in astronomy and physics at least, we get £12,000 a year from the government untaxed (EPSERC and PPARC funding). A new postdoc gets about £18,000 taxed, so not much more overall. However, you are a bit screwed for getting a house, because the average house/flat price is about £120,000 in Glasgow, and usually much more in the West End. However, it's plenty to live on if you don't try to buy a house.
25th-Feb-2006 12:08 pm (UTC)
I have to marry someone with a real job in order to buy a house. Or rather, to have one bought for me....
24th-Feb-2006 07:55 pm (UTC)
you have to assume absolutely no previous knowledge on the part of undergraduates, and virtually no philosophical or abstract reasoning ability.

In some ways, though I'm sure not fully, I do feel your pain. I'm taking a 300 level theology course right now, and though the professor is a very nice older priest, the class is driving me crazy.
We have to give ten minute presentations on a topic we choose and in it, present both sides of the argument. We also have to turn in a paper on the topic with an eight source bibliography. I chose the topic of embryo adoption, and gave my presentation on it on Wednesday. I used power point as an aid in the presentation, and gave Father an outline copy of the power point presentation. He counted that as the paper. That, I suppose was strange, but what really irked me was the grade I got on it. He gave me a 13/15 for a two page outline. *sigh* How would a two page outline ever be acceptable for a paper worth 15% of a grade, and beyond that, how would it suffice for a B/B+ grade?
24th-Feb-2006 07:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, *mad props and congratulations*
25th-Feb-2006 01:03 am (UTC)
That is an odd situation--are you correcting him and handing in the real thing?

And thanks!
25th-Feb-2006 07:01 am (UTC)
Yes, I am. I can't, in good conscience, let that stand as a B/B+ paper in college.
24th-Feb-2006 09:32 pm (UTC)
many congratulations.
25th-Feb-2006 01:03 am (UTC)
Thank you! It's a huge relief to know you're employed for another year!
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