Friday, February 29, 2008

The wingable and the unwingable

I've been thinking, lately, about the things one can wing.

The list of Things Wingable probably varies by individual, but I suspect that everyone's list grows with age--as we develop more confidence and a greater store of knowledge (of our subject area, of our audience, of ourselves). Still, I feel comfortable asserting the following:

All performances may be winged (or, following Dr. Virago, wung). Thus a class, a meeting, or conceivably even a talk--though your Flavia is not remotely expert enough for that last one and suspects she never will be. Anything done live and leaving no permanent record can be carried off without a great deal of formal preparation if one has enough charm and bravado.

Written things cannot be winged. They're permanent. They should reflect, if not careful thinking, then at least careful writing. Those things take time, and although time alone doesn't guarantee that they'll be good, writing can't be faked in the same way that a one-off performance can be.

Grading also cannot be winged, and for the same reasons.

Administrative tasks, alas, also cannot be winged. They require paperwork, meetings, paperwork, email exchanges, paperwork, phone calls, and more paperwork. And while writing can be almost infinitely deferred, paperwork WILL NOT BE IGNORED.

So, when something has to give, you know what it is. I've been winging a lot of classes lately, and I hate it. I hate the fact that, because I have forms and applications and committee work with absolute deadlines, I come into the office, spend four hours on that stuff, read or skim the books I'm teaching the next day, and show up in the classroom without more than a few dogeared pages to guide me.

I've also been doing precious little writing, here or elsewhere. But I'll tell ya: getting paperwork in on time? Returning students' papers promptly? That's all you need to do to aquire a(n entirely undeserved) reputation for efficiency.


Horace said...

Y'know that late-hair-metal band? Winger? Yeah that's me lately. And with just under 2 weeks to devise a 30-minute talk (that I will need to have written out), and fresh out of grading jail, I am quickly learning what can and cannot be wung (winged? wang?).

But I will concur with you on the outsized respect one gets from turning in forms on time. Who knew that procrastinating from big tasks with small ones could be so productive?

SEK said...

Written things cannot be winged.

Proof positive you don't read the flagship journals in your field. You should be ashamed, I tell you, ashamed.

Dr. Virago said...

All performances may be winged (or, following Dr. Virago, wung).

Exxxcellent! I have started a trend. Perhaps it will *wing* itself around the interwebs!

And Horace, it's wing, wang, wung. Thus: I frequently wing, yesterday I wang, I have often wung.

But seriously, Flavia, I hear you. Oh how I hear you. Try winging a class on Middle English morphology! Gah -- borrrrrring and less than organized.

Belle said...

Wing, wang, wung. Love it. Next Thursday I will wing a talk. Today I wang my class and managed to survive. I cannot count the times I have wung. I hide the attempts to wing writing. Not pretty and one reason I had to buy a new shredder.

RLB said...

I totally wang (love it!) two library instruction sessions today. And I don't feel great about doing that, either. But, c'mon -- two afternoon classes on the Friday before spring break? Like they were gonna be paying any attention to database searching techniques, anyway. :) And, I was literally saved by the bell in the 2nd class -- the fire alarms went off. It was 2:45. The regular instructor and I looked at each other, shrugged, and told the students to have a nice spring break. :) (Yes, our spring break is way early. Sadly, it doesn't matter to me one way or the other, as the library is open and staff are there as usual.)

Flavia said...

Scott: oh, shit! I'm so busted.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Oddly, we've been getting a lot of up-close comparison opportunities in our team-taught class lately. What's interesting is that the winger is always more interesting and informative than the prof with detailed notes. So, who knows if you're actually shortchanging the lectures?

But you're absolutely right on the papers. In the end, few people actually care about detailed comments, and those who do will frequently ask for them afterwards. I was amazed by how many people (at a professional school, not undergrads) were complaining about paper-return lateness last term. I mean, seriously? You care? Really?

Jack said...

You know what I love?

The giggles that references to Winger (owned the eponymous album I am horrified to admit—bought with my hard earned money slinging sliced beef at the mall Arby’s) and wangs can still bring on.

Wang. He-he. I knew I got into this profession for a love of words

priscian said...

Flavia, I've been inspired to new poetic, um, heights by your post! I'm going to call this one "An Extempore Effusion upon Extempore Effusions":

The best of intentions can spite us
When promise is moldered detritus;
  "So I've wasted the day—
  I'll just wing it," you say,
Although winging it gives you gastritis.

I'll take my answer off the air for obvious reasons.