Category Archives: Queer Professor

Too Much Fun?

Is it possible to have too much fun in or with a class?  I found myself thinking a little about this question over the past year.  I am extremely lucky to be in a department where they want me to teach courses I love to teach and it seems that lately I have had more and more students with similar interests as mine–all of which has really lead to a fun and thriving work environment. I do feel I am being productive as are the students, however, I cant help but to occasionally wonder are we having too much fun?  Of course, everyone enjoys occasional laughter in class but could there be too much? The idea of laughter seems to in many ways juxtapose the ideas of professionalism and seriousness associated with a stereotypically conducive learning environment. As a professor who looks young and wants to be taken seriously, I often worry about what laughter in class means, especially at the end of the day.  However, laughter can also be extremely useful.

As a student, laughter (or should I say jokes and fun stories that led to laughter) always helped me to remember lectures and concepts, and remain engaged throughout the duration of the class and the semester. In fact, my favorite courses, and often the courses I got the most from generally also included a quick-witted professor or a hillarious study group where we all had the same end goal of doing well in the class. I have not doubts that overall laughter largely contributed to my learning.

In my classroom it seems that laughter largely derives from a number of different places.  One place is a place of nervousness. Sometimes, I or the students will share humorous examples or stories to break tension. These moments are generally very short lived and can be quite awkward but they can really open the door to a greater discussion on the particular topic at hand. Even the idea that we are nervous about publicly discussing said topic can lay a foundation for the discussion or future discussions.  This is especially the case in my more controversial courses of methods, social statistics, and sexuality studies.  However, I also see a great deal of laughter from academic jokes and comments where students are relating or apply material in clever ways.  I greatly enjoy these moments when you can see the synthesis of material and the personality of the student.  I also really appreciate the bad jokes…the ones that don’t quite make it but were a valiant effort.  These moments say to me the students are engaged, trying, and comfortable in the environment.  I have done my job to set up the parameters of a safe and practical learning space.

Laughter effects my research too. Over the course of this summer I have spent a number of Wednesday nights at a colleague’s house taking part in a reading group on female masculinity. This past Wednesday was especially filled with laughter. I almost want to say we were down right giggly, however, that feels like a word that shouldn’t be positively associated with academic pedagogy. But why is that? I am certain that this group has contributed to a continued education for me, in addition to boosting my summer work morale and bonds with my colleague and student. The group has contributed to me reading and re-reading pages and articles I would probably in all honesty put-off until “I needed to.” I have thought about various passages and readings in ways that would apply to the group’s interests rather than just to my own. Further, it has been an amazing amount of fun having a free space in which to just think and talk about issues from the readings (and our lives–work and otherwise) at our leisure.  While I do have some direction with regards to what I want to get from the overall experience of a reading group, it is also nice to just read and allow your mind to be free from that tight task-orientated focus that it often acquires when you are working specifically to address a single question or issue.  On the whole, I think the group has spurred more questions, inspiration, and motivation for everyone involved.  I also think the laughter has largely contributed to the continuation of the group and its productivity.  So, in the words of a Daryle Singletary song:

“Too much fun? whats that mean?
Its like too much money theres no such thing
Its like [too much coffee] or too much class
Being too lucky or a car too fast
No matter what they say I’ve done
I aint never had to much fun”


Southern Sociological Society currently visiting NOLA

Have I mentioned how much I love conferences!  In fact, I get so excited about them (especially if I am getting reimbursed) that I am like little kid on the eve of their favorite holiday/birthday.  I even have trouble sleeping a night or two before because I get so excited.  And this year, “Southern’s” is in my city (that means it is cheap for me to attend).  Southern’s is one of my regularly attended conferences. I especially like it for when I am presenting on topics of social psychology and queer studies.  However, I do prefer my “home” conference of the Southwestern Social Science Association when presenting on topics of demography or to reunite with my grad school people.

This morning I went to a wonderful research incubator session where “older” (meaning more experienced, nothing related to age ) scholars chime in on the work of younger (less experienced, perhaps even new to the field) scholars.  The room was set up like a board room and I my heart beat for these two, yes only two graduate students who were presenting their work to some big names in the group process world. Luckily, for us, Group folk are very nice and really do want you to succeed.  Some of this session really took me back to when I was first presenting on my dissertation ideas and the way that presenting really further develops, not only one’s actual work, networking, etc., but also one’s confidence and demeanor within academia–you know the things our mentor’s tell us as to why its important and why we should do it.

Like most who are indoctrinated into academia, I have always thought that conference attendance and presenting at conferences was important and very practical, however as a graduate student and early professor I took for granted the many different more subtle ways your research and you as a researcher and teacher gain from conference participation.  Things we “know,” but only really realize after our nerves settle–usually because we have some presentations and publishings under our belts. For the last couple hours, I have not stopped thinking about these more subtle nuances.

First and foremost, I have been thinking about how it helps us to build our identities as academics. As young scholars when we critical of something we hear and are validated by other responses…this allows us to feel right and builds our confidence…the same thing as when we are understanding and agreeing with presenters.  My favorite is when you have the same question as a “big name.” This is the best because the question means something is unclear to you…but then when “big name” brings it up it just really seals that you may have had your eye on the ball and were hearing things in the same way.  This is always a confidence builder. Q&A time also allows you to see who thinks like you, who things differently, and who thought of something new to you, all of which in my opinion can really spur one’s micro-creativity. In fact, after attending just one session this morning I have a new paper idea–something that is always exciting.

None of this is not to say that presenting at conferences gets easier…rather presenting at conferences just gets different. I do miss the days when I was rather naive and did not recognize the faces in the crowd as “names.”  In many ways this was quite helpful. The good news is that for every name you recognize in the crowd, you probably also can see a “friendly” face too and that always helps. A “friendly” face may be a friend you have made from academia and your conference attendance, or it may also just be a friendly face.  In fact, one of the most friendly faces I have ever seen actually turned out to be the mom of one of my fellow panelists.  Throughout my entire talk, she held eye contact, was constantly nodding yes, and just sent such good positive energy my way. I didn’t know who this person was, but they loved my work and I was a more awesome presenter because of it. I have a friend who has similar story, however, her friendly face ended up being a big name in the field.  So you just never know.

Conference attendance also makes me a more efficient teacher and researcher.  I get to hear about and learn about a number of papers and topics that I, in all honesty, would probably not have known about or looked into.  It further allows me to remember the research(er) with out really trying.  A context is created for the researcher, their work, and that time period in our field and in my life that gives a much bigger insight into the research, field or even academia than merely reading the paper.  It also saves a great deal of time. I will see many more presentations in one day and hold on to that information, than I would if I read as many papers. Although I guess one could make the quantity vs quality argument where  you perhaps would not use all that you saw but would read papers that were more focused-in on specific topics of interest.  But in the case of conferences, I actual prefer former.

I prefer to attend sessions that are outside my areas of interest just to stay up on the field and what is going on.  I find this helpful especially for my teaching and for the students.  While I do try to peruse at least one of the main journals each month…that goal often goes unmet. And once again, being exposed to these different areas and their perspectives really does stimulate my own brain and research agenda.

It also helps with my colleagues. I like to go to their sessions to support them, this in turn creates a fuller understanding of them academically and a fuller understanding of what they do. This is  especially helpful in advising graduate students and also discovering new possibilities for collaboration. All while building closer ties with colleagues and boosting morale.




Time To Get Back To Work

The first day back from any break is always the most freeing to me.  Seems odd, but breaks leave me feeling disruptive and out of “academic” shape so to speak.  However, the first day back is the day I clean-up, re-organize, and get back to work.  I really love this pic…I am not sure if it the tractor, the big tires, or what exactly, but I definitely want to thank my Facebook network for sharing this pic with me as it fits my mood for the day perfectly.

Mardi Gras Break, Making Choices, and Actually Writing

When I first learned of Mardi Gras break, I thought; “wow, great, more time to focus on writing and research.”  It will be like two spring breaks each year! However, ever since moving here it has been significantly more challenging than I expected.  The whole town seems to somewhat shut down, and of course friends and family always want to visit. What it essentially comes down to is a complete and total distraction. A distraction from my type A scheduling and a distraction from my writing habits.  I like to think that normally I am a pretty good sport, however this year the weather has also been bad and I have quite a few deadlines looming so it seems especially…in my way.  Sometimes you just have to fight it out no matter the distraction.

Always have two out…

In grad school we were taught to always have at least two papers out for review, at least two projects in the pipeline, and to be thinking about two new ideas for future work. I think in light of the tighter job market this has increased to five.  Personally, I can not really fathom having five papers out at once. My record is three I think, maybe four. However, this month I have managed to sign myself up for some serious writing deadlines.  Cross that with the fact that I have two conferences to attend and another to help organize next month.  I have to keep telling myself that it will get done…and it does, IF you sit down and do the work.

This actually brings up the main point of this particular post. You have to do the work. Over the past weekend, I feel like I lost my writing mojo. I have excuse after excuse for why I am not in the mood to write or why I can’t get to work. My schedule was disrupted, I don’t have access to that one thing I FEEL like I NEEDED to start, or the best is that an old friend is in town and I don’t know when I will get to see them next.  But thanks to an email from a very attentive grad student late yesterday evening, I realized that it was just that all excuses and at the end of the day (so to speak) you just have to sit down and start writing.  It is so easy to see when it is not you…of course the social psychologists know this, yet we still fall into the trap.  I am actually very grateful attentive grad student emailed me looking for tips since zi was “beginning zis work on the paper for [name of course] over the break.” I realized we were in the same boat. “Beginning to work” that was the red flag.

I am working, and actually writing…

For me getting started is the hardest part.  I am currently at a place where I am just “starting to” write about my latest work.  For the past few months, I have been editing, revising older work, and writing abstracts for paper and panel proposals but now I need to actually write for some of those deadlines. Enough of this starting and beginning…its time to actually write and get back in the habit of writing from nothing.  I decided to start with this blog piece. I could offer a few of my favorite tips for students and remind myself of how to find the mojo again.

Tip 1:  Know thyself

For me this means I have to set the mood.  I know where and when I feel the most productive.  I knew I would look forward to coming to my fav coffee shop on this first beautiful day after a series of gray days and that a hazelnut latte would really kick me into gear. I also need my earbuds in–whether music is on or not.  It’s all part of a writing tradition for me and a Pavlov’s response that gets me almost immediately focused.  (In fact a parade just went by and I am still writing…also I just took a moment to realize there are children playing within 5 feet of me and I only just now noticed).

Tip 2: Be prepared to be focused and actually write

This means having everything you need to do your writing. In addition to your research materials, outline, etc., and making some time to write, this also means a charged battery or power source for your computer, a full stomach, and an empty bladder.  Do not underestimate how distracting these things can be and what a damper they can put on your creativity and productivity.

Tip 3: Actually Write–Something, Anything…

Start by writing something, anything…  On the worst of days, I have even begun by writing my reference sections or title page.  Anything to get your fingers moving and your mind going.  I also prefer to write something that I want to write…whatever I am most interested in writing first.  Sometimes, if I am lucky, it is for that looming deadline, but other times it is for something bureaucratic or for fun (the mosquito that I have to kill before I can focus). And if none of these work for you, then just write a list and start with item one and go down from there (writing a list counts as writing too!).

Taming the wandering mind…

For me it is also helpful to not be so worried about the end product, not at this point just yet. That comes later.  Although, I do need a clear outline or focus to start writing–otherwise I am a wasteful writer, as I like to call it.  This means that I am likely to trash, delete, or heavily revise previously written words.  This is not a bad thing necessarily, but this is usually what is most frustrating for my students. For some reason, they do not like to “delete” what they have previously written.  However, if I have a clear focus, outline, or set intro I am able to be much more efficient and less wasteful of my time and productivity.  I can keep my eye on the ball so to speak.  With every piece we write there are so many interesting issues to discuss or avenues to explore it can become overwhelming.  I have since learned that, for me, part of being a producing writer is making choices, editing yourself (much like Tim Gunn would suggest with designing clothing), and completing projects. Furthermore, you can always explore and expand on those “less appropriate for this piece” nuances in future papers…so write those ideas down elsewhere, save for later, and keep your focus on your current project. Caution should always be used when taming the wandering mind because we definitely do not want to squash our enthusiasm or microcreativity.

Tip 4: Recognize and Reward Yourself!

It is always great to end on this positive note by recognizing what you did accomplish at the end of the day or writing period. Even if it is just a mental note.  I am always more excited to get back to work the next day if I have made note of what I accomplished in my last session once its over.  Sometimes I may be so proud (or glad to be finished) as to boast on Facebook or Twitter.  I also like to plan my next attack…this gives me a starting point for the next session which generally saves me a bit of time and keeps my focus on target.  Also, remember to reward yourself.  While I generally do this upon completion of a project, sometimes I also do it when I am having an especially hard time with a particular section or peice.  My favorite reward is a massage or taking myself to see a movie in the middle of a weekday afternoon.  I can be completely guilt-free even though I am not working. However, be careful when using rewards as it can be detrimental to attach them to every part, section, or thing…the real end reward should be the completed project.




Getting Started…

This is me blogging.  Im gonna become a blogger and I will blog most every week at least. I will blog about all sorts of issues that come up in my daily life as a professor and academic who is also recognizably queer and also studies queer things.  I say this, in this way because of a piece of advice that I once was given by an elder, more established queer academic. Essentially, I was told you can be out or look gay if you don’t study gay things, but if you study gay things, forget about it.  It just doesn’t work.  Or you have to be really hot.  (I wont be naming any names…so no fear to anyone who ever talks to me about anything).  This has always stuck with me…and for some dumb reason, I just never followed it and thankfully that has worked out for me.

What I will probably blog about mostly:

I am technically trained as a social psychologist and I love to talk anything related to group processes and social interaction, especially thinking about how people make decisions based on what information they have…I know that is cliché but its true.  However, I also enjoy queer demography, and thinking about how people make decisions in relation to their sexuality.  “I ran out of people to date here so I am moving…”  This is an actual quote from someone I know.  I find this to be very interesting.  I will keep it lay and it will be stream of thought.  I am also interested in issues of queer spaces, stereotypes, and identities. For example, I consider my self a country person and I sometimes feel very out of place in “the city”—or maybe its really just in traffic and around concrete that bothers me—but there seems to be a theme in my life where people are surprised that I like the outdoors and rural communities, and the idea of one day being a farmer/moose rancher. Now I realize that you cant tell completely whether I am joking or not…but that is not the point. The point is that I find it very interesting that this is so surprising to people primarily because I am queer. Yet it makes perfect sense to me.

I also think a lot about being out in the classroom.  As a professor, I really have to be comfortable in front of the class otherwise I can not do a good job.  Yet, there is also a stigma (another topic I love to talk about) to being queer in most places and spaces.  On top of that I look young, and I am a woman.  Some of my students also think I look like Ellen, although I tell them it is really just the sweater vest and sneakers. My students also often expect me to be a black man. On all fronts it becomes an interesting mix as to what issues come up and how I feel about my classroom interactions.  Another reason for this blog (beyond that of being cathartic and fun) is I think it is important for students and graduate students who want to one day become a professor to have an idea of what it is like and can be like, especially if they are queer. While I know they will not have my exact experiences. I often had to look long and hard to find queer mentors.  In fact, really I only had a couple.  My primary academic mentors were not queer at all, but they were completely supportive and often I never felt queer and as such I think I lucked out in that I didn’t obsess on how I should be or if it would be ok.  I just always thought:  WWJorDD? In some ways my ignorance/naivete  saved me. More and more, I believe this is a very important topic that rarely gets addressed if you don’t feel completely comfortable with your mentors or know other queer academics. I mainly feel this way because at most every conference I attend, queer grad students come up to talk to me under the guise of my work…but in the end it really is “how do I do what you are doing and be so comfortable with it?”  Well the truth is, I don’t always feel comfortable and I may have some answers for you, but I am still trying to figure it out myself.  Perhaps, with more discussions and experiences we can figure something(s) out.  That is the point of this blog.


This will not always be about queer things, or academic things, and yes I don’t always use apostrophes when I should but unless the software auto-corrects me, its likely it will stay that way.