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SamR’s Sarcasm

Topics/tags: Teaching, autobiographical, short

As I was walking into work the other day [1], I was reflecting on the Avital Ronell case [2]. I’d been keeping up with the situation and found myself wanting to react to some of the comments I’d seen. Of course, I was also thinking more broadly about the issues. I’m not sure exactly what words I used, but I said something to myself like,

Faculty members should understand the power dynamic at play. Students aren’t going to challenge your idiosyncratic personality nor the expectations your style of interacting with others raises. It’s your job, not your students’, to reflect on how these kinds of interactions affect your students and to correct, as necessary.

Then I swore.


Because that comment could easily describe me. One of my defining characteristics is that I regularly use sarcasm [3] in my teaching and other interactions with people [4]. I think of it as friendly sarcasm, but I expect that not everyone finds it that way. I did try to tone it down a few years ago, but teaching felt less natural, and I went back to my old ways.

Nonetheless, it’s my job to reflect on how my interactions affect people. Teaching felt less natural is not an excuse. I commit to doing better.

Postscript: One of my other idiosyncracies is what we might call my righteous anger. While that’s not something I use with students [5], it’s something that affects others. I also need to work on that.

Postscript: In case it isn’t clear: While I was inspired by my reaction to the Avital Ronell situation, my sarcasm does not come anything close to what Ronell is accused of.

[1] That day was an @Grinnell day.

[2] Those who don’t know about the case can read about it in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, or even The Los Angeles Review of Books. As you might expect, Chronicle also has a broad array of related articles.

[3] Or snark, if you’d prefer to define it that way.

[4] I do have other defining characteristics. I care deeply about my students and about the process of teaching. I tend to overcommit. You can find others.

[5] However, I have been known to use it on behalf of students.

Version 1.0 of 2018-09-09.