Monday, January 30, 2006

The Tutor and the Beast: Part Four

In which I show up all my insecurities and ScaryLecturer doesn't come off as badly as I feel he ought to.

(Reading the first three posts in this on-going saga is not entirely necessary to understand this one, but just in case, they are here, here and here.)

As far as I can tell, tutors in our department score a free copy of the textbook (which is kind of what you would expect in most jobs, but in the buy-your-own-pens-and-no-phone-calls-to-mobiles-from-the-office land of academia these "perks" are not always guaranteed.) Last year, however, I was handed a sparkly new copy -- the first new textbook I have ever owned, in fact -- along with the syllabus and other course-related info, and I penciled notes in it, filled it with post-its, and generally made it my own. No one ever asked for it back and I'm not sure there's any reason why they would want to.

Well, today I braved ScaryLecturer's den to find out whether he plans to use the same textbook this year. And the answer is yes-ish. A new edition. So he hands me a copy and asks me to compare it with my old one to see how extensive the differences are. Because I just can't shake my deep-seated desire to be Supertutor and make everybody like me, I spend the next hour meticulously comparing the two versions and making notes on the places where they differ. After all, we'll all need to be aware of page-numbering issues, and if the examples aren't the same, it's best to be forewarned before the students start whinging. And there's a whole new section in chapter five, which, you know, we could photocopy for the students with the older versions, and and and...

After just over an hour, I return to ScaryLecturer's office, carrying both textbooks and the notes I have made. I clear my throat.

"Ahem. I had a look at the textbooks, ScaryLecturer, and I think you'll find that they're rather different. For example -"
"Fine. I'll tell the students they can't use second-hand copies, then. Thank you."

ScaryLecturer then walks over to me and takes both copies of the text (mine and the new one). Then he obviously has second thoughts, hands me the new one back, and says, "You'll need this." The old edition -- my copy -- goes onto his bookshelf, and ScaryLecturer goes back to his desk, turns his back, and takes up his work.

I clear my throat again, briefly, but when he doesn't look around, I realise I don't even know what I would say. I don't even know for sure whether the textbook technically counts as mine. Maybe he put it on his shelf absent-mindedly, or maybe he's following some sort of policy. If it were anyone but him, I could probably bring myself to ask. But why should I really care, anyway? I've exchanged a free outdated edition for a free new one.

So how come I feel like he's stolen my book? (The bastard!)

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shrinkykitten said...

He sounds really absent-minded and not very connected to the student experience. How very annoying, and so invalidating when you spent so much time and energy into comparing the books!

This may or may not help, but you *do* need a copy of the new book in order to be most effective in helping students. One option (as I would imagine going back to him would be hard - though that's where email comes in handy) would be to contact the publisher directly. Publishers give out desk copies/exam copies all the time and most are more than happy to give you a copy. If the publisher has a website, you may be able to order it directly from there.

StyleyGeek said...

Oops, maybe I was unclear. I do have a copy of the new edition -- he left that with me, but took my old one. Which I inexplicably want back. I think I've gotten attached to it in a security blanket sort of way :)

Although it would, come to think of it, be useful to have that copy to help students who might have bought a second-hand version, despite his instructions.

Aha! A reason to ask for it back. Thank you, ShrinkyKitten.

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