Classroom Incivilities, Gender, Authenticity and Orthodoxy, and the Limits of Hard Work: Four Lenses for Interpreting a 'Failed' Teaching Experience
William & Mary J. of Women and the Law, Vol. 12, pp. 299-732, 2006
34 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2009 Last revised: 14 Dec 2012
Date Written: April 17, 2006
This article reflects on a "failed" teaching experience and consequent tenure denial. Some twenty years after the experiences I place them “under the microscope” combining personal narrative, rigorous analysis, and the shifting perspectives provided by four different lenses.
The first lens draws on the research on what Robert Boice termed "classroom incivilities" - behaviors by both teachers and students that can sour the classroom climate - for insights into the factors that generated bad teaching evaluations. Applying the second lens, gender, I address the complex role of gender in teaching evaluations by students. I argue both that gender can be a significant factor in poor student evaluations and that gender is mediated by other characteristics, including the composition of the student body and faculty. The third lens recognizes the tension between two realities - institutions create dominant orthodoxies that define "good" teaching and authenticity is recognized as critical attribute of a successful teaching persona. I argue that the need to comply with orthodoxies defining “good” teaching can restrict the individual teacher’s ability to create an authentic teaching persona, especially if the teacher is an "outsider" due to gender, race, ethnicity, or other factors. Finally, the article acknowledges the widespread and sometimes counterproductive tendency to think to think that working harder can solve all problems, and is therefore the appropriate response to unsatisfactory teaching evaluations.
Keywords: teaching, tenure, classroom incivilities, gender, student evaluations, outsiders, orthodox, authentic, mentor
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