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Card Catalog Crush

May 11, 2017 • By

Profound discoveries happen behind the wheel of a car and when my mouth is foaming with paste meant for sensitive older teeth.

“I may have a problem.” A meek morning confession began at our common sink.

A problem?” My husband spit.

“Okay, I may have a problem to add to my list.”

“This one?” His gargled monotone was mildly irritating, but he’s had me around nearly forty years.

“I may have an unnatural infatuation with libraries.”

One more spit, a grunt, and he left for work.

I often wondered if there was such a thing as a library craving and if that could ever go too far. There might even be a label for the affliction. Perhaps I harbored latent longings to be a librarian. I didn’t think so, although I had been asked at Border’s several times, “Can you tell me where the biographies are?” Of course I could and accepted the question as a compliment. My husband said it had something to do with the way I dressed.

Teaching undergraduates on several campuses for thirty-one years may have pushed my affection for libraries to the level of problem. What tipped me off?

The final, final exam was proctored early today. Grading began soon after the first was dropped on my desk. Most of the past two days had been spent grading other exams. The rubric was fresh in my mind. An assortment of colored pens ready, I dug in.

Seven hours and twenty minutes later scores were recorded, grades computed on a spreadsheet. Semester over. I was done.

Done.

Done.

I clicked grades off to the Registrar’s office and inhaled the freshest air in four months. Freedom. Weeks and weeks of blank pages on my calendar. And I had a plan: get to the library and stockpile books. After all, I did have one faculty perk: NO DUE DATES.

Lips lifted to a satisfied smile. I ambled past the faculty room. A couple of colleagues leaned on file cabinets sucking down leftover donuts from their morning exam snackfests. I had forgotten to stop and pick up a positive student evaluation bribe—again. My mind was focused on the book wish list I penned before sunrise.

Every corner of the library was occupied. The final crunch of the last munch of information was being shoved into young minds. A few students had taken up semi-permanent residency on the corner couches barricaded by Monster drink cans and chips that could last the week. I weaved my way through computer clusters with eyes straight ahead to avoid casting unmerited looks of sympathy. Some coeds were no doubt visiting for the first time since the early February thaw.

My feet echoed up the familiar flight of steps to the door labeled ‘Quiet Floor’ where one could sleep undisturbed. I paced my quest and pulled the wish list from my worn tote, now light and roomy. Amazing how much weight dozens of ungraded words organized into essays added to paper, to my life.

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Mirror Mirror in the Classroom

April 6, 2017 • By

I teach sociology. Remember that class freshman year? That 8:00 guaranteed-to-get-you-up-in-the-morning class? The one you only showed up for on exam days? That’s the one.

Lecture topic today, self-concept. Self-concept consists of the words I use to describe, well, me. Example, most evenings when I turn the lights out, I decide I am a pretty good person, honest, try hard, and appreciate most of what happened in my day. This self talk has not changed much over the years.

I introduced my eleven o’clock class to Charles H. Cooley. He wrote a lot about how we acquire a sense of who we are, our self-concept.  He agreed with his contemporaries that separating us from the rest of the animal kingdom is the fact that we can act toward ourselves the same way we act toward others.  I learned this in my early twenties. Easy to memorize at exam time, but the reality of what that fact implied came years later. Cooley meant that each of us has the real potential to speak only words of positive self-praise, support, encouragement, and love to ourselves. This revelation was followed by a monumental blow to my own self-concept. If I was such a pretty good person, why did I spend hours every week talking to myself in less than supportive, encouraging, loving, or even friendly ways?

Cooley offered clarity. Using the analogy of a mirror, he outlined the ‘Looking-Glass Self.’ The premise is straightforward: we develop our self-concept by seeing ourselves as others do. A simple three step process is involved and most of the time we are unaware it is happening.I listed the steps on the board to personalize the process for every student.

  • I imagine how I appear to others,
  • I imagine how others judge my appearance,
  • I develop feelings about myself based on those perceived judgments.

Class discussion followed. I posed questions and solicited opinions with examples to support their responses.  Is this an objective or subjective process? Could a stranger make you feel badly toward yourself? Can you change your concept of self, depending on where you are, or who you are with throughout the day?

When the volume in the room softened, I noticed several minutes remained before class ended.  A novel question entered my mind and exited my mouth.

“If you agree we use this process to form a self-concept, and that some people use those around them as their social mirror more than others, can you tell me why I do not use you as my social mirror?”

Silent stares. A couple hands raised high.