Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It's nice to share--except when it isn't

The handout sitting in the copier tray looked familiar--same sample sentences, same font, same page layout as a handout that I've used in first-year writing classes for years. Yep, that was definitely my handout, but not my print job. Someone else is using my material, for which I can only say Hurrah and give myself a pat on the back.

I'm generally not possessive of my course materials; over the years I've been happy to share rubrics, class activities, and handouts with anyone who asks. When I was on the tenure and promotion committee, I frequently encountered familiar-looking syllabi in my colleagues' portfolios, evidence of the impact of a syllabus template I've shared dozens of times; further, among the more popular posts on this blog is one outlining a paragraph development exercise I use every semester (see it here).

And I know I'm not the only one willing to share course materials, often without credit or thanks. The Dreaded Quotation Punctuation Exercise that I use every semester was created by a colleague to whom I always give credit (so my students will know whom to hate), and I have a handout in a literature class that gives credit to a grad-school professor who died years ago. 

So I think we can agree that it's nice to share--except for that one thing.

You know what I'm talking about: that handout or presentation or activity so special, so totally yours that you can't imagine how anyone else could possibly make it work. You developed it, nurtured it, carefully watched it grow--it's your baby!

And then someone else comes along, grabs hold of the results of your hard work, and says, "I'll take it from here, thanks."

What do you do when that happens? Say "Oh no you don't! That's mine and you can't have it!"--and then watch while they replicate your material with just a few changes without offering any credit.

Or you could give your work away knowing that your colleague can't manage it correctly and hoping you'll be present to watch the whole thing crash and burn--except that a spectacular failure of your material is likely to taint its creator.

Or what? Frankly, I don't know the answer. I'm always happy to support my colleagues in any way possible, but that doesn't mean I don't have limits. Go ahead, ask for anything--anything else, that is. Just not that one thing. That one's mine!

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