Dating Class: First Round of Presentations


I had to explain the double-entendre meaning of “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins.” Image from

Today was the second-to-last day of my honors course, and the first day of presentations. We’re super slammed for time, and I came to class nervous about whether I’d have to shut down presentations for length etc. I got there early, as I always do, but this time I really wanted them to test out the presentation software before they got started to avoid problems. I had my own laptop with me, so that if anyone had technical problems with the software (one did) they could email it to me from their laptop and I would show the slide. That worked great. But, we couldn’t get into the classroom until about 1:57 (for a 2 – 2:50 pm class!) because someone from the Honors College had scheduled my classroom for a meeting. So we lingered in the lounge area, with me answering questions there; finally an Honors College person came and rousted the meeters out.

General trend of lounge conversation:

Students: So, uh, about the five-minute presentations. Do they have to be five minutes?

Me: Well, our time is really limited, so I need you to keep them within five minutes…

Students: Uh… what if we can’t fill the whole five minutes?

Me: Oh! Hey! Well! We’re short of time, so, as long as they’re not just 30 seconds, fine!

Half the class then proceeded to give presentations of great primary source materials. They only had to use one slide and to present one of the ten sources they’ll use for their final reflection paper (not due until December 10. I’d had to reassure them a couple of weeks ago that yes, December 10 was the deadline, NOT the presentation dates). Not all of the source materials were from the correct time period, which I nicely pointed out, but they were all really fun to look at.

Sources ranged from a Time article showing  a parent-student panel on dating, from 1957, to a cheesy “true romance” comic book showing a double standard (OK for a boy to date a younger girl, but shocking! shocking! for her to date an “older man”), to a current, colorful, beautifully complicated chart on polyamory. That student also held up a published scholarly study of non-monogamous relationships from the 1970s, which gave me the opportunity to remind them that my parameters on what “counts” as a primary source for THIS class are super-simple: it has to be created between 1940 and 1990, so a scholarly source published in the 1970s was fair game. Another student showed a perfume commercial with a very young Susan Sarandon (STUDENT DID NOT KNOW WHO SHE WAS… I had a moment of, wait, is this a Rocky Horror-related spoof?) and compared it with a very sexy current perfume ad. Here’s young Sarandon:

Then we got off track because I wanted to show this student the famous Brooke Shields Calvin Klein jeans commercials from the 80s. And couldn’t figure out the sound (too many volume controls!) so her whistling in one of them was an ungodly loud nails-on-chalkboard sound. They did not know who Brooke Shields was. When they did recognize her, they said “Wow, she looked really different then!” That student had another video to show, which we didn’t have time for (asked him to save it for the end if we had time, which we didn’t). He was worried that he hadn’t used all of his speaking material, but, they are writing five-page papers on their sources (they are also worried that they won’t be able to fill five pages…), so, he has material now for that.

One student read off an eHarmony “article” about dating “lessons” from horror movies (her topic is dating as shown in horror moves. eHarmony is not within our time frame, but still, a clever approach and a great historical image in the eHarmony page).

The last student presented an article from the 1977 GSU Signal (school newspaper) about a policewoman’s presentation on “How To Say No to a Rapist,” which was all about using your mind to stop a rapist (??) and how treating someone attempting to rape you AS A HUMAN BEING would get him to stop. Another good opportunity to talk about how, while yes, this was hilarious, it’s also pretty awful and not actually all that different from how rape on campus is talked about now. We wrapped up class on that note. Students want to coordinate on how to get food to the last class on December 3… and I’ve got to find out from the Honors College how evaluations work and whether it’s a FERPA violation to give them each others’ emails so that we can coordinate food.

I am really going to miss these students! I am hoping to be able to teach this course again as a 3-credit 3000-level Honors Course, which would give me more time for discussion (which we reeeeeally needed—this is a VERY talky group of students). I’ve also really enjoyed having a smaller number of student to be responsible for (so much different from my 4-4 240 students a semester experience).

Because of course you want to see the 1977 Signal article on rape prevention, right? (Full article here—image below is cropped.)


And, a teaser of sorts for the next iteration of this course: thanks to Twitter for reminding me of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, a great resource for historical moving images, with images rooted in Texas but with all kinds of applicable ideas. I wrote a whole paper on postwar girls’ educational film (‘I Don’t Mean to Be Defiant or Anything…’: Instructional Films for Girls, 1945-1960) for TAMI’s founder, Caroline Frick, in library school, and did an independent study project there as well, so I’m embarrassed not to have thought of searching in their collections. And I’m glad I did, because here is this, apparently a new acquisition for them, just perfect for opening a discussion on race, school segregation, and prom:

(alas, can’t seem to get the embedding to work…)

This has been a bit of a “what would my life have looked like if I hadn’t mired down in 4-4 while finishing my dissertation?” couple of days.

Passing Tones: Spirit Toon

image of Sadness, from Inside OutSadness is my spirit toon. Not just because I’m feeling worn thin and, well, sad. But also because I loved how, in Inside Out, Sadness was about empathy and connection: when Sadness was able to dislodge the “running away” idea, Riley was able to tell her parents how she really felt, and the three of them were able to connect and bond through their shared sadness about missing Minnesota. Without Sadness, Riley became disconnected from her parents, her old friend, and from hockey—she became alienated and isolated. It wasn’t just that she was missing Joy; it was also that she was missing Sadness, who represented the connection that a sense of loss represents. I’ve always thought of that in terms of what it means to miss someone, that that missing someone represents connection (and speaking as someone who’s moved around a lot, for me to try to shut down missing people has always felt like trying to cut off parts of myself. There are reasons to miss individual people—that’s why they’re individuals). And I loved how admitting to sadness, which was also admitting to her inability to keep up a happy front, brought Riley back her feelings and memories—both the core memories being coded blue, and the new, mixed feelings.

I have a number of things going on right now that I can’t write here about. I wish I could, because I could really use some reality checks from people who are “real” academics, and I could also use some general validation of myself as a whole person. For me that means some acknowledgment of my older, “realer” identities as scholar and poet, identities which it sometimes feels like my current position tends to expect me to vacate. I’m also feeling overwhelmed and drained by the amount of emotional labor that’s being required of me. This is the time of the semester when being very far from family and friends who know actual me feels punitively hard: I need some care myself, and there isn’t much of that here. I’m needing some of the empathy and connection that Sadness represents. I’m needing to get to winter break… and to Christmas card writing.

Image from Disney Wiki. (Oh, and check out Riley’s mother’s name…)

Passing Tones: Random Bullets of Post-Conference Notes

ProFamily_ProChoice_The_Religious_Coalition_for_Abortion_Rights_button_circa_1973I’m back from a small, state-based archivists’ conference. Not just my first archivists’ conference (the big national one will be in Atlanta next fall), but also my first time doing any kind of driving to a point outside of Atlanta for a very, very long time. My old car probably could have managed a longer road trip, but the “probably” part worried me. My new-to-me car is newer, so it was a good opportunity to get back into the hang of highway driving etc. It’s my mom’s old car, and my mom is a major road warrior, much more so than I’ve been since moving here, so I imagine the car being happy to be back on the road again.

I co-presented with my archivist colleague about our co-taught reproductive-rights materials exercise (which I’ve added to my publications page if anyone’s interested) and also the variation on it we’ve done for my honors course (also on same page, though just in worksheet form—I still need to write it up in the lesson plan format we used for our original exercise). We’d presented at OAH a year and a half ago on our co-teaching more generally, but I realized when we were writing up this presentation that that had been much more speculative, “we’d really like to do X kind of thing,” and in the year and half since, we’ve actually accomplished many more substantial things.

Takeaways from the conference:

1) There are others interested in primary-source/archival literacy. In Atlanta and beyond.

2) I had a great conversation with Spelman’s archivist, and now I really, really need to visit Spelman’s archives. Intellectual girls! Yes, there’s Agnes Scott here too, but I’m looking for ways to find African-American girls. Also, Spelman has Audre Lorde’s papers, who I’ve encountered as Audrey Lorde, whose first poetry publication was in Seventeen.

3) Another argument for teaching the honors course a second time: brainstorming with our popular music archivist about a session on dating and historical love songs. We have all things Johnny Mercer, plus other related materials, and he may be getting some more things soon that would be directly relevant to my course.

4) It was good to be able to talk in positive ways about what I’m doing now and what I’d like to be doing next. Because right on cue, something relevant to that was posted during the conference.

5) I’m not alone in feeling like it’s important to set boundaries when expectations become unrealistic. I do feel alone on that fairly often, and it was good to talk with others who also don’t see setting necessary limits as “not being service-oriented.”

6)* It is always a good thing to seek out bookstores and coffee shops outside the conference. Especially when poetry starts showing up in my notes. I’m trying to get better about making sure I find a space then where I can sit and work out the poetry, rather than just ignoring it. I found a copy of Mary Renault’s The King Must Die (1958), published with its sequel. The King Must Die is a key book in Dinny Gordon, Sophomore (1961): Dinny’s father gives it to her for her fifteenth birthday; sitting on the family’s glider, she reads it at once, in one sitting, then falls asleep. Her father has to wake her to introduce her to Brad, a grad student in ancient history, who is clearly figured as her future husband.

*Special asterisk for how driving to a conference allows for this: hey, I don’t have a plane to catch, I can linger in town post-conference!

This conference presentation (co-presentation!) marks the end of the hard part of my semester. I only have one more class to teach for someone else (in early November). I still have my own class to teach, but my focus now is going to be on getting them through their final projects and working with them on Zotero. We have one more hands-on session in Special Collections (on sex education) next week, but after that, the content part of the teaching is pretty much over. There will be a week of presentations, then Thanksgiving, then more presentations on the last day of class, with projects due a week after the last class. If I teach this course again, I will probably drop the Zotero component. The time limitations are making it too hard to do the other stuff, much less stuff in any more Zotero instruction. It was a good idea, but again, I have so little time with them, and I’d rather focus on the primary-source skills than on Zotero.

cover, Sarah Projansky, Spectacular GirlsWith things lightening up, hey, maybe I won’t have to work late all the time, and can get back to Seventeen and girls’ intellectual history in general. I’ve been reading Sarah Projansky’s Spectacular Girls (2014) (with its spectacular cover), which is giving me some interesting ways to think about intellectual girls as alternative girls (also to wonder about the Science Talent Search girls as spectacular girls in a more limited media environment). I’m in the middle of her chapter on girls as media critics, or “thinking girls” as her term is, but I’m not sure we have the same model of “thinking girl” in mind. My list of people I’d like to send a fleshed-out draft of the Seventeen article to is growing, and I’m really starting to want to have something better than the conference paper to share with those people, and talk about as well. Thanksgiving will be here soon, after all…

Citation for button image: W022_artifacts_004_018, Anne Olson papers, Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women’s Movement Archives. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University.

Reblog: Reading Notes: Eef Masson, Watch and Learn: Rhetorical Devices in Classroom Films after 1940 (2012)

A rare happy moment in Habit Patterns (1954), which features the meanest narrator EVER.

A rare happy moment in Habit Patterns (1954), which features the meanest narrator EVER.

Reblogging this in honor of “Educational Film Day” in my dating-history course, and my joy at discovering Amazon offering the Eef Masson book, new, for $6.50…  it arrived today, and now Amazon is back to offering it at its usual $40 price. Did I somehow stumble onto a hidden Dutch-educational-films-text sale?

Post features several films that I assigned, though our best discussion was on the disturbing Boys Beware (1961), which equates homosexuality with pedophilia…  and which recently got a high school teacher in Missouri forced into retirement).

 * * * *

I’ve been revisiting a paper I wrote in library school, for a class called Politics of Preservation, which could also be described as a course in the history of film preservation (I also think of it as “one of the few courses in which it was explicitly OK for me to talk as a historian”). I wrote my paper on postwar girls’ educational film and how access (or lack thereof) to these films shape our understanding of how educational film addressed girls. Yes, say it with me: the Prelinger Archives and all those goofy mental-hygiene films.
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Dating Course: Still Here, Still Teaching

I love October. I love autumn in general.

I love October. I love autumn in general.

So, September is finally over, thank goodness. September is a hard month in general because most of my teaching-for-others takes place in September. There’s usually a small handful of sessions in October and November, but generally my instruction clusters in September. This semester has been particularly challenging because I’ve been doing a course of my own in the midst of all this instruction. Meeting with students individually was hard to fit into my schedule, especially since it took twice as long as I expected it to. It was worth doing, but involved a huge amount of time. Then this past week I was grading, which required a lot of effort since I responded to each student’s proposed topic and suggested sources, directions, etc. Those assignments have been turned back to the students, and I won’t have any more grading until the end of the semester.

Plus, more intangibly, there’s What Happens when you get your first graded assignment. I’d forgotten about that, how that changes your perception of the course, ending the honeymoon and letting you know who’s paying attention, who isn’t, etc. Also lets you know what you need to fix, if possible, going forward. Originally the Honors College asked if we could make a lecture of theirs a required class period for the students (swapping out one of our class periods). Because I am a good little girl, I said yes, and gave up one of my class periods for this. (My precious, precious 50-minute slots…) Well, it’s apparent that I need that class period back. 50 minutes per class has meant that I can barely cover what I’d hoped to cover; the class really “wants” to be a twice a week class or at least have a longer timeslot, so that we can spend some time talking about the source type of the week AND do some searching. But I barely have time for just the searching, and it’s become hard to do administrative stuff.

I was quite sure, after the grading went back, that I’d never offer this course again in this format. The 50-minute slot just feels punitively small, and for what I’m doing, I think more class time (even just a 75-minute slot!) would actually be less stressful for the students. We’d have more time to talk about concerns. In fact, thinking about it, the thing that probably frustrates me most is that there isn’t enough time for discussion; it’s like I have to choose between discussion (which I want to do!) and the hands-on searching stuff (which I want to do!), and my own personal style would be to have a little more time to do both, because I want the space for relationships to develop. The short time period feels stunting to me in what feels like a relational sense: I want more space for talking and responding and yes, for reassuring.

After finally having a session where I got caught up on the administrative stuff, I’m back to being able to view this course as a first draft again. Both of my parents have taught, and both ended up being good sounding boards for me struggling with grading and time problems. When my mom asked, “What would you do differently next time?” I had good answers. When she asked, “What can you do differently now?” the first thing I said was “Forgive myself.” One thing that I’ve found unexpectedly valuable about a return to what I’m thinking of as “long-form” teaching (that is, a course going over a whole semester, instead of one-shot library sessions) is the greater flexibility of not having to cram everything into just one session. Not everything has to be crammed into one session, so, not everything has to be perfectly organized. That is something I knew when I was teaching, and it’s something that you don’t see or talk about in the library world, where I feel more ambient pressure to Get Everything Just Right Because There Is Only A Small Amount of Time. So now I’m having to put some real energy into forgiving myself for not anticipating the “right” amount of reading correctly, for not registering how short 50 minutes is, etc. The wiser teacher in me knows, and is happy to remember, that you never know these things until you are actually in the classroom, just like you never know how students will respond to a particular exercise until they do, and even then, a different class might respond differently. So in a way, the longer-form class allows for a lot more fluidity, and more opportunities for course correction and, in my case, self-forgiveness. All of that is worth recalling.

I still have things I want to write about “impostor syndrome,” but I need to wait until I’ve gotten some distance from what is causing me to want to write about it.

Dating Class: Fifty Minutes Is NOT ENOUGH TIME

2015-09-03 15.02.55Something I would never, ever have said when I was teaching 4-4: “Fifty minutes a week is not long enough!” Funny how perspective changes. Funny, also (or maybe not) how teaching a smaller load gives you more time to experiment and play. Funny, that.

The pictures from class today didn’t turn out well (whiteboard wall paint does have a glare to it, and I couldn’t get the right distance). But they did write on the wall, and one group got artistic.

These are their responses to the following articles in the July 2004 OAH Magazine of History:

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Pictures from a wall. A scholarly wall.

Pictures from a wall. A scholarly wall.

Honestly, so many directions to go. Next week we talk about advice manuals, which follows beautifully from the things that came up today, about how girls perceived themselves in these situations, and how adults perceived them and/or how they were told to be, especially in the Alexander article. But the librarian in me wants to be sure we have time next week to do some searching (use the laptops—we didn’t today) because their spontaneous use of hashtags suggests a great way to segue into keywords and subject headings. Fifty minutes just. isn’t. enough. time!

These Honors courses are offered at the 1000 and 3000 levels. And in a way I’m tempted to consider reoffering this as a 3000-level course. Cynically, though, there’s a reason not to do that: I got a significant chunk of professional development funds for teaching this course (I used mine to fund going to Dartmouth). There’s a considerably bigger chunk of professional development funds that come with a 3000-level course, but, the catch is, that money goes to your department, and not to you individually, and in my case, I’m not sure I’d see much of it. If I did, I’d love to use it for conference-going or… oh, gosh, a research trip! Like, to the University of Oregon to look at Anne Emery’s papers! and Maureen Daly’s papers! And Helen Bratton’s research notes for her junior novel on Interlochen! (Santa, are you listening?) But it’s not clear that I’d get to use it for any of that. Plus there’s also that I’m not “real” faculty (though I do have faculty status) so I’m not sure if TPTB in the library would be OK with me teaching a 3-credit course. (There’s some rule that doesn’t allow me to adjunct). But maaaaaybe I need to look into that. Because this 1000-level class kind of seems like a way of acclimating to teaching again, and, who knows, maybe I’d want a three-credit opportunity, especially as a way of refining a course I’d already taught once?

Honestly, did not know how restorative I was going to find this (admittedly, small-scale) return to teaching.

Speaking of restorative, a friend sent me this article today. Speaking as an extrovert in a heavily introvert-oriented workplace, it was lovely to read something that acknowledged that extroverts who feel pushed to be introverts can really struggle with feeling suppressed. I’m thinking, since I’m such a ham when I’m teaching, that maybe this teaching is providing me with the restorative experience described in the article—a work experience where can be myself. That’s incredibly ironic, given that my primary reason for leaving academia proper was that I couldn’t see myself teaching 4-4 forever. I wanted a lighter load and the ability to do research. With a lighter load now, and without any pressure for “coverage,” I have more of an opportunity to see teaching as playful and experimental. It’s going to be an interesting semester, I think, with lots of opportunity for creative effort. Will be interesting to see if the poetry comes back.

Dating Course: Quick Happy Dance

Clara Bow after a night out at Coney Island. IT (1927)

The semester has started here. My honors course has met once, and I was literally walking on air afterwards. I knew I was looking forward to teaching my own class again, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to feel as restorative and empowering as it did. Does! Very different to realize that I don’t have to pack everything into one session because, hey, I’ll see them again!

Just the time I’ve spent this week prepping for tomorrow’s class, in between all my other stuff, has felt like a joy. It’s the closest thing to poetry writing I’ve gotten to do for a long time, and while I’ve always known that poetry writing and history writing are connected for me, I don’t think I’ve realized—literally, until I typed that just now—that poetry writing also relates to teaching for me, too. But that makes sense, given how I write anyway. What’s a syllabus but a kind of outline? Or a collection of weekly “stanzas”? That’s going to be very rich for me to think about as the course moves forward. I’m thrilled to have what feels like my very own little laboratory for creative instruction and work.

The classroom I’ve been assigned to, in the Honors College, is much smarter than the ones we have in the library, which was extremely intimidating to me in the orientation. Since I haven’t taught taught in ten years, the library classrooms are the only rooms I’ve taught in since leaving academia proper (and I was never in the smartest of classrooms to begin with). Luckily there’s good tech support, and I was able to get set up with my assigned laptop so that I can drive the classroom’s screen wirelessly from the laptop. (Shoutout to patient, helpful tech guy, who will probably get cookies from me at Christmas.) And, one entire wall of the classroom is painted with whiteboard paint. So I wrote the course URL in big purple letters, with the Zotero URL in big pink letters underneath it (after, uh, testing the markers and erasers… flashback to high-school math class where I wrote out a problem, incorrectly, on the whiteboard IN PERMANENT MARKER, thus creating a permanent record of the many layers of my stupidity). The students got a kick out of me having written on the wall. I did, too. It’s a great, anarchic feeling to write on the wall—different from writing on a whiteboard.

So, of course, I immediately went out to Staples and bought these:


Tomorrow we’re discussing four very short articles (yay, OAH Magazine of History‘s issue on dating/sexuality history!), one an overview of dating history, and three on different populations of girls (working-class girls in New York; girl crushes/crushees at Barnard; African-American elite women) in the early 20th century, to lay out some themes, get them thinking early on about race/class/sexual orientation. I’ll be asking about all of those for all of the articles, so that it’s clear from the start that ALL of these girls have race, class, and sexual orientations. They all have to read the general overview, and then they counted off by threes and each group was assigned a particular article. Tomorrow I’ll do a little lecture and then they’ll break into group discussions, with a worksheet to guide them. And they’ll write out their brainstorming/answers on the wall. Really want to get a photo of that.

If anyone’s interested, I’m teaching this course from a LibGuide (common library software) rather than from the campus LMS. Using BrightSpace as minimally as possible; LibGuides are much easier to use and edit. Tonight I was able to add in the discussion questions for tomorrow plus some cool media/images relating to each of the articles. So, the course guide is a work in progress, and by the time the course is done, I’ll have a record of the course and its assignments all in one place, with an easily shareable URL. (Not sure what happens if I leave this library, but that’s a bridge I’ll cross when I come to it). The URL is

When I tweeted it out last week, Springshare, makers of LibGuides software, tweeted it out also as part of their #straightouttalibguides series, as an interesting use of LibGuides, and they’ve mentioned that I should let them know how it goes. It is going to be a fun experiment at a number of levels.

It’s also very striking how good it feels to be teaching a class that is wholly mine. No having to persuade anyone to let me try out X, or Y, or Z, and there will be two sessions building on the co-teaching I’ve been doing with our women’s and gender archivist—exercises using her reproductive-rights collections, one on teen pregnancy and one on sex ed. It’s going to be an ongoing challenge to keep within what feels like a very limited time frame (only 50 minutes of class time a week). On the other hand, the approach really suits me—the smaller frame means that it really can’t be a full-on content course, and since I always struggled a little with content/coverage etc., this is fine for me. Even when I was teaching American Studies, I was interested in using content to teach skills. I think if I’d had lighter loads (I never taught anything other than 4-4, and during my first two years of teaching almost all of my classes were 60 students each. I had a grader for exactly one course during those two years) I might have felt better able to deal my anxieties about content, and found more creative ways to blend the content/skills. Teaching a small hybrid-y course (in the sense that it’s a mix of history and library instruction… damn you, edtech, for forcing perfectly good words into one limited buzzword-meaning) feels just right to my always-slightly-too-interdisciplinary self.

I’m excited, and my library colleagues don’t quite get the full extent of my excitement, so I may be doing more burbling about this course here. I’m going to leave you with a clip from Clara Bow’s IT (1927), which I taught pretty much every time I taught Intro to American Studies, because it’s such a great setup for Kathy Peiss on treating:

“So you’re one of those Minute Men*!” (Note: dude is HER BOSS, by the way).

*Not THAT kind of Minute Man.