Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bluffing My Way Across the Bluffs to Blufferdom

So, I've made it through two grueling weeks at my new, temporary teaching gig. I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing, but I'm bluffing my way through, and pretending to be very authoritative on subjects I know little about. I've discovered this is the way of academe, and hell, life in general.


All will be well.

Be very careful though. "Authority Voice" can easily slip, teeter, creep, and inch it's way into "Crazy Voice," "Angry Voice," or "I REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING BUT I'M BLUFFING BUT TALKING IN THIS MANNER TO TRY AND TRICK YOU INTO THINKING I'M ACTUALLY ON THE BALL Voice" very quickly.

I still remember my first "grad"-ish presentation, and how terribly it went. "Authority Voice" very quickly turned to "Heh heh...jazz hands!" and things got ugly.

I was in one of my first MA classes, and only one other gal and I were newly minted grad students in a room of four PhD classmates. All of whom were lovely as hell, but also QUITE intelligent, and slightly competitive with one another (if any of you are reading know who you are!). We were asked by our illustrious professor, Dr. Diane Goldstein, who is also quite intelligent and also has the disarming habit of staring, eyes peering over the top rim of her glasses, with almost no expression on her face, deeply into your soul as you try and talk to her, letting nothing slip as to her feelings on whatever blither blather you happen to be going on about.

We were asked to do an hour presentation. AN HOUR! Previous to this I had only done roughly five or ten minute class presentations, and one twenty minute conference presentation. We needed to choose an area to look at, go and study it, and come back with an hour "lecture" on our chosen areas, effectively teaching the class something.

I went to the library and spend hours pulling books, printing articles, finding blurbs and gathering materials on the subject. I glanced at them, and started writing notes several times, but would instantly become overwhelmed and quit. Finally, my day had arrived. I decided to bluff.

In the sea of bluffing I have done before and since, I can only say that this was the worst choice of my life.

I took my time, trying to eat up any amount of my "hour" talk, setting up my books, all of which had some sort of sticky note sticking out of pages, and sorting through some piles of articles and placing them in three separate piles in front of me. I took out some scratch notes, and one typed sheet that had very little typing on it. I sat at the head of the conference table where we had our classes and looked out at four PhDs, all of whom were lovely as hell, and apparently ready to take notes. I looked at my fellow MA newbie, who nodded encouragingly, and also had a pen poised to take notes. I looked at Dr. Diane Goldstein, who had a pen sitting in front of her, and her glasses drawn partially down her nose, and her eyes boring holes into my soul. I knew then...I knew she knew and that she knew I knew and that we both knew that I didn't know what was going on. It was happening. My bluff was called before I started, but the whole point of bluffing bluff. So we also knew I had to start anyway.

I introduced my topic, then started to introduce some of the books and articles I had read, really just rambling off a few titles and authors. I said I thought it was an interesting subject, and that if anyone wanted to look at my materials after, feel free! Big smile! I rambled a few facts from the very little I had gleaned--they were rambly and weird, in no particular order, and thus created no particular sense.

I looked up and saw pitying looks and pens slowly slipping to sit alongside blank notebooks. I then, in my best bluffy voice, said, "Hey, I'm a bit nervous, so maybe if someone wanted to ask me some questions about this topic to start, it would get me going! Anyone?"

As a body we all looked at Diane, who looked only at me over the rim of her glasses. She said, "Do you have anything prepared to talk about?" I said, in admittedly the absolute worst choice in voice, cheerfully, "No, I sort of don't."

Diane - "I think I'll stop you here then."
Me - "Ok. Sounds good."
Diane - "See me after class."
Me - "Definitely!"
Fellow MA Newbie - *sharp intake of breath*
Fellow PhD Classmates - *worried and concerned glances at one another*

I'm exceedingly grateful that Diane did, in kindness, give me a second chance, which I did very well on. But hooooo boy. Life lesson taught that there's "Bluffing" and then there's "Bluffing with nothing to really bluff about."

So far in these new classes I'm going to admit I can see the haunting image of eyes staring over glasses with no expression to them from time to time, but I'm ensuring I prepare SOMETHING to say...whether it's the "right" something, who the hell knows. They, my students, stare at me with their dead doll eyes sometimes, but since I make up the tests, at least the weird "something" I tell them counts for "something" later on.

And, of course, I say my SOMETHING in my best AUTHORITY VOICE as I teach in my classroom on the Bluffs of Kamloops.

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