The Academic Tourist-An Autoethnography

The Academic Tourist-An Autoethnography - Pelias / THE...

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10.1 7 /107 80 403251759 ARTICLE QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / June 20 3 Pelias / THE ACADEMIC TOURIST The Academic Tourist: An Autoethnography Ronald J. Pelias Southern Illinois University The essay argues that academics, similar to tourists, often only manage to get to the sur- face of any area of inquiry they pursue, in part because of the nature of what constitutes full understanding and in part because of the habits of academic life. Written in an autoethnographic style, the essay offers a sociology of the academy through descriptive details. It invites emotional identification. Keywords: sociology of education; communication pedagogy; academic life; ethnog- raphy; autoethnography Students just keep coming and you think you will remember them, but most of them fade, like the class lectures you keep using, even though you always plan on writing new ones with new ideas and new strategies that will make for an even better class, and sometimes you do, but mostly you rework what you’ve done, copying again what you know has worked and hoping you can bring enough enthusiasm to teach this once again, and you figure since there is nothing but new faces out there, it really doesn’t matter, but you really think it does, but you just don’t have the time to do anything about it, so there you are standing in front of the class saying what you’ve said before, caring about what you are saying, but feeling a little bored and trying not to show it, and having said it so many times that you have forgotten how it might be complex, because it surely isn’t for you anymore—it’s more like the Lord’s prayer or the pledge of allegiance that you can recite without thinking—but you sense that they aren’t getting it or that they don’t want to get it, so you try explaining it in a new way, and you find yourself getting excited about the ideas and in the middle of what you take to be the key point, a student asks if this will be on the test, and you feel tired, but you push on thinking about how the test in your file drawer can be adapted to make sure this will be on the test, and you’re glad that you only have fifteen more min- utes before the bell will ring, and when it does, you rush to say a few last things, as if it mattered, and then you leave, chalk dust on your pants and fin- 369 Qualitative Inquiry, Volume 9 Number 3, 2003 369-373 DOI: 10.1177/1077800403251759 © 2003 Sage Publications
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gers, knowing that you’ve only scratched the surface of the subject and know- ing too that at a time when education is more about packaging, more about FTEs, more about supplying the economy with a labor force to build the American industrial complex, little is likely to be complex; instead, your lec- tures are postcards from the classroom, your supportive words are photo- graphs to be placed in the family album, and the diplomas you hand out at the end of the year are souvenirs for hanging on the wall, and you are, at best, the tour guide who really never knew your way around, and as you begin again,
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This note was uploaded on 02/03/2011 for the course COMM 304 taught by Professor Jerrycatt-oliason during the Spring '11 term at Boise State.

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The Academic Tourist-An Autoethnography - Pelias / THE...

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