Saturday, May 17, 2008

In which I seem to have wandered off

...for, like, a month? Or something. How 'bout some bullets then?

  • I am in a very bad grading place. I've had assorted midterm crap for more than a week, and have only started in on it this weekend. And I've promised everything back on Monday and Tuesday of next week. The UChaos papers are pretty good, and I only have about 8 more to do, but the Big Willie class has exams and essays, and I'm kind of dreading them.
  • The official annual meeting with my committee was last week and... it went surprisingly well. I have a new title and conceptual structure for the diss (basically, I'm sticking a keyword on each chapter to guide the argument a bit more), so I wrote up a little outline for the committee, along with summer writing deadlines. Prof. Persnickety? Loves the new approach, and has revised his memory of the past year so that he's always been a fan of my topic and my approach. I'm finding this simultaneously encouraging and even more frustrating than before.
  • Currently, however, I am not actually writing anything. My already-awful time-management skills have been further deteriorated by this four-day-a-week teaching schedule.
  • Did I mention that my new title is awesome? C. suggested it, and it is indeed all poetically evocative and crap.
  • Jobs for next year? Who knows. I've put out a whole bunch of applications for UChaos stuff, in hopes of covering at least my tuition (because I'll be damned if I'm paying them for making me stay an extra year), but I've heard from exactly none of them, and I'm not expecting to until god-knows-when. Last year, I didn't hear about my fall teaching for the first-year thingy until July or August.
  • I did at least get some departmental funding to cover the last conference I went to. It's a pittance, but it's something.
  • As for non-complainy, non-schoolish stuff, there was visiting mom, going to Cubs games, a very pleasant Cinco de Mayo party, and what may be permanent success in quitting biting my fingernails. Go, me!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In which I am conspired against

I'm pretty sure the Chicago Transit Authority is trying to kill, or at least maim, me. Last week, I slipped on a rainy train platform and went down hard. Result: Two days of a very achy flank (Achy Flank--either an awesome imaginary band or the saddest burlesque performer ever). This week, I was on a bus with a driver trying really hard to play human dominoes with us poor bastards standing in the center aisle. Result: Becoming new best friends with the young man whose lap I ended up in, and a rather wrenched left arm.

On a more positive note, the two days of 60-degree weather is making me forget that it freaking snowed last weekend.

Classes: Good, chatty, interested. I'm a little suspicious of my Big Willie class, as they keep asking questions about precisely the things I have planned to talk about for the day. I wonder if they have insider knowledge from friends who have already taken this class with me. Which, on the one hand, makes me feel boring and predictable. But, on the other, I'm just happy they're asking things, even if they're set-ups. And, really, if they're doing that kind of research outside of class, at least they're thinking about the texts, right?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In which I am addled

You know, without the little thing on my phone that not only tells me the date, but the day of the week, I would be utterly lost. Apparently today is Thursday--quelle shock!

Also, the left side of my head is trying to secede from my skull and we're experiencing a very rare midwestern monsoon. In five hours, I will be able to nap and then watch baseball while recording 30 Rock. All will be well, soon.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In which the prophecy fulfils itself

I wound up forgetting my text yesterday. I was so exasperated with myself that I came clean to the class, told them about my stupid dream, and relied heavily on them for specific quotations. They came through like champs and we were able to move quickly along to Ovid, which I did have with me.

Which reminds me that I want to write up my thoughts on my new How the Sausage Is Made theory of pedagogy. Anon.

Monday, April 07, 2008

In which we are back at it

Week one, in the books. Week two, just now dawning. I'm feeling ok about my classes (despite an anxiety dream this morning which involved me losing control of the class entirely, neither bringing my text nor having read it--Frankenstein, for some reason--and, most mortifyingly, wearing a scrunchie in public). The UChaos class is talkative and interested (or at least faking it convincingly), and the St. Happy class contains students who are willing to disagree with me, which I lovelovelove because it gives me a chance either to be ostentatiously right or to model ways of researching and testing claims. Be still my nerd heart!

Nothing going on the dissertation front, though. I haven't yet figured out where best to shoehorn in the work, before class or after. A crucial book just came into the library, though, so maybe that'll jump-start my brain.

The very best thing about this week, though? Sun. Our weather is finally at least entertaining the possibility of spring. I was out with bare knees on Saturday, and it felt marvelously decadent after four months of wool tights.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

In which I come to account

What I Did on My Spring Break, by St. Eph

On my spring break this year I reached level 70 on World of Warcraft. It was a good break.

Yeah, so that happened. And there was the conference in Post-Apocalypic Zombieville (but with lovely public sculpture), which was a nice break from this terrible, horrible, no-good winter that will never end. I fell in with a bad crowd (Marlovians!) and had a good time and some decent Tex-Mex food. My seminar was beautifully run, with a good-sized crowd of auditors as well, and I think I'll be in touch with a couple of participants about some diss-related topics down the road. And the professors' dance party was fascinating and delightful. I can see why Cheerleader Advisor has been pressing me to attend this particular conference for years.

And then I came home and perfected my chocolate-chip cookie recipe. Seriously, it's absolutely perfect now. I can do no more. I also slept a lot, played video games, studiously ignored my diss, and finally cleaned my apartment. (This last because the landlords had work done on our floors and then surprised us with one day's notice that an appraiser would be coming by. We do nothing, apparently, if not on deadline.)

The one real accomplishment, though, is that C. talked me through a total re-structuring of the dissertation. I had already planned for a introductory chapter where I'll do a kind-of lit review, but I wanted it to be more conceptually organized. So, now I have a keyword for each chapter (report, account, register/narrative, reckoning) that I'll set up in the intro as the argumentative thread. Yah! Like so! It's really far more exciting to me than it should be, but I take what I can.

And with this accounting here, I'm officially putting the mess of winter term behind me. It was a dire time, a hangover of a quarter, but it's done. Now we look forward to: my really cool UChaos class, which has a waiting list, even! And another jaunt through Big Willie at St. Happy, which is as familiar as a bathrobe by now. In both classes, though, I'm going to try out an approach to presentations that I heard about from a fellow seminarian in Zombieville--a mini-panel each week, with 3-4 students acting as the experts on the texts. I think the UChaosers will dig it, but I'll have to pitch it to the Happys as being experts on their own critical opinions, which may still be a hard sell. But the more I teach in my own field, the more I think that having some kind of accountable ownership over the text adds immensely to both the individual experience and the group dynamic. I'm probably projecting here from my own undergrad experience, where it was exactly the feeling that a particular text was mine that lead me to... well, where I am now, actually.

Also on the horizon: baseball! Opening day! (Sadly, I'll be on a bus or train for the first pitch. Grr.) A trip to see my mom and visit Niagara Falls! Old 97's releasing a new record and playing my town! Possibly leaving my apartment for things other than class! Rumors of spring and/or summer!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In which my grasp on time is tenuous

It occurred to me at about 11 this morning that in order to be on a plane at 8:15 tomorrow morning, I will have to leave my apartment at 6, which, in turn, requires me getting up at... 5? 4:30? Right now?

And I had thought all these farmers'-waking-hours were over with my last early class. Alas.

Making up for this, though, is the promise of 84 degrees and 15% humidity in Dallas.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In which I remember

It strikes me that I should have done this earlier, but if any of the four of you who are reading who are not my mom (hi Mom!) are going to be in Dallas this weekend, I will be too! And we should totally get coffee! Or go see the Turner exhibition! Write me!

In which I clean house

Literally. It must be the end of the quarter, since I only just now got rid of the eight giant boxes filled with packing material that have been hanging around my dining room since January. I am not proud.

I picked up another class for next quarter: Big Willie at St. Happy again. It's at a good time, my syllabus is already set (though I may swap in a new play just to keep me interested), and the cash is welcome. I'm also thinking that I need all the help I can getting out of bed and working every day.

The other excitement yesterday came from the arrival of my new phone. So tiny! So shiny! So slide-y! I spent all last night making new ringtones for it; C. is now "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," replacing his previous status as "This Charming Man." And I, in turn, am "Trouble" on his phone. Yes, I'm easily distracted by fancy new electronic whatsits. Blame my dad, the gadget-man.

Monday, March 10, 2008

In which we conclude

Tomorrow's the last day of the first-year class I've had since fall. I kept 17 of them in the transition between quarters, and I'm really glad to have had the extra time with them. Fall was very much about them moving from being the smartest kids in their high-school classes to just another average brain in a very smart place. For some, they were just managing to keep their heads above water, but others were flopping back onshore, gasping, just about every day. While I really liked teaching those classes, every one was a challenge; I could never tell what they'd immediately get and what would take some hammering on to make sense of.

This quarter has been a really fruitful continuation of the work we started last quarter. I've leaned pretty heavily on the collection of ideas that we've built up and the continuity of discussion. I know this sequence doesn't follow the standard freshman-composition structure, but I've seen marked improvement in the critical-writing and -thinking skills of just about everyone. I feel ok sending them off into their real interests, which mostly lie outside Humanities.

We're doing an in-class peer editing thing tomorrow, and I'm still working out the structure of it. I've never done this kind of in-class work on argument, though I've done small workshop versions of it. This is why it's nice to have C. around; even though he's incredibly burned-out on comp, he's a good teacher of writing, and he has some good suggestions for how to run such things. I think I'll have them do some mirroring of claim and organization of evidence in pairs, and then have the pairs turn into quartets and do the same thing. Or maybe after the pairs, I'll have the "listening" partner present the "speaking" partner's argument to the class as a whole.

(This reminds me that I need to bulk up my bag o' tricks when it comes to composition-based teaching, as I know that's inevitably in my future. Tips welcome.)