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I know I’ve been totally slack on the blogging, so two posts in one day is NUTS.  But I’ve had a lot going on!  And I wanted to do a student-oriented post and not just a bitchy annoying faculty-member post, because as annoyed as I am with bitchy faculty-member-related shit, I’m in love with my students right now.  So, this shall be a Random Bullets of Crap style post that deals with my students:

  • I am teaching a Gen Ed lit course right now, one in which I do not use an anthology, which asks a Big Question, and which is, for a Gen Ed Course that isn’t a composition course, totally writing intensive (by my design: not because it’s required).  So, their last paper assignment was a critical analysis essay in which they were asked to choose one text from anywhere on the syllabus prior to the last unit (so from weeks 1-13) about which to write in relation to the Big Question.  In the week before the paper was due, I assigned two pretty reasonable short stories, assuming students would choose one of those on which to write.  Not only did I receive papers that analyzed stuff from across the semester, I received papers that addressed some of the most difficult texts on the course syllabus.  I have 25 students in the course.  I got papers on: The Odyssey, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (which many of them say was their favorite text of the semester, so stop with the Franzen-HATE!), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, Philip Larkin’s “Talking in Bed,” Jane Eyre, Alexander Pope’s “Eloisa to Abelard,” Ovid’s “Hero to Leander” from The Heroides, James Joyce’s “Eveline,” and Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love.”  None of these students are English majors.  Fuck yeah!  Who says that students don’t rise to the occasion?!?!  I can’t be prouder of the work that they are doing.  And now we’re reading Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel The Marriage Plot.  And they are really reading it, and they are engaged.  And I explained the “turn to theory” in literary studies to them and they took notes.  Note: there are no formal tests in this class, other than a final that is take-home in which they have to answer the course question with support from the literature that they have read.  Seriously: to this point, there are just quizzes, two papers, a blog post that is totally connected to their real lives, and an annotated bibliography that is about them pursuing what interests them.  Oh, and participation, which honestly with the exception of 3 of them is A’s all around.  And they are so invested.  I love them.
  • Dude, one of them, I like to think of him as “facial piercing goth dude” finished The Marriage Plot two weeks ahead of time and he asked to talk to me about it in advance because “he was so into it.”  SERIOUSLY.  Again, not an English major.
  • My Survey of Brit Lit after 1800 students: SO MOTHERFUCKING AWESOME.  Animated, thoughtful, perceptive, and just generally amazing.  They come in with QUESTIONS. They lost their MINDS at Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse.”  (And apparently after our class on that on Monday they have no problem saying fuck constantly, which I sort of love.) They criticized Ted Hughes’s “The Crow’s Last Stand” not because they had Sylvia Plath associations but because, “this is so much like Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ‘Carrion Comfort.’”  My work here is done :)
  • I’m also teaching a split grad/undergrad course on The British Novel.  This course has been wonderful, and I anticipate AWESOME student papers on Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Midnight’s Children.  Huzzah!  (Yes, I taught more than those three novels, but apparently those three really spoke to people.  They’ve all written on at least three novels beyond the one for their final papers :)
  • My Critical Theory students are… fucking unbelievable.  In a good way.  In the best way.  I am looking forward to a papers in which students interpret Django Unchained through Fanon, Divergent through Marx, Adorno and Horkheimer, and Angela McRobbie, Beowulf through Spivak and Bhabha, Fight Club through Butler, The Awakening through Irigaray and Beauvoir…. and those are just the ones that immediately come to mind. I must confess that in introducing one of them who won a scholarship at our department awards ceremony I might have read part of something he wrote for my class in order to demonstrate to my colleagues that our undergrads are so much more capable than so many of them think that they are.  (He was embarrassed and proud: and his comment to me after was, “WHY DID YOU READ THAT?  IT’S THE WORST SHORT PAPER I WROTE FOR YOU!”  And it was the worst short paper he wrote for me, but it was the one that he turned in this week, and I had it on hand, and it is totally better than most things anybody writes for any of my colleagues’ classes.) Now, my publicizing his writing won’t hurt him at all – it will show off that he is motherfucking awesome and a number of my colleagues commented on his awesomeness to me on the basis of my excerpting of his writing – but I should admit that my motives were kind of bitchy.  Because I teach them the things that many of my colleagues all say they aren’t capable of doing!  And that they don’t know how to push them to do!  But to be fair: it’s all the student.  It is a luxury to teach an undergraduate who can think the way that he thinks.  He is original and a hard worker and intense about literary criticism.  And, as my chair said, “so many students think about graduate school and there are so few who belong there, and he belongs there.”  And, as the student said to another student at the ceremony, “I wish that my plan for after graduation would just be to spend my life reading Foucault.”  Fucking A!!!!  (Yes, I have given him the talk about the horrible job market and the way that grad school compromises your humanity and finances.  The decision is his, and, in fact, you can count on me to dissuade him, as much as I will support him ultimately if it is what he decides he wants.)
  • This is a great moment to note that BES has decided to leave her PhD program, even though she was doing very well, which is a decision that she has made thoughtfully and a decision that she made without looking for my approval, while at the same time I think she was able to make this decision in part because she knew that I would support whatever decision she made.  Dude.  There are lots of life paths that one can take, and the point is taking one you believe in.  And if you decide an academic path isn’t yours, better to admit it sooner rather than later, and better to make your decision when it’s time to make it than to postpone it because you’re afraid of what your mentors might think.  She is awesome, in all ways, and I want for her to have a happy life.  We all know that an academic career isn’t necessarily (or even most of the time) a predictor of that.

So that is my student news.  Oh, and I’m working with an amazing student on her honors capstone next year, and I’m also working with a grad student on her capstone next year, and I am infinitely excited about those of those culminating projects.

 

Survey Says

One of my biggest frustrations in academic life is a tendency, whenever there is some sort of controversial issue or problem or difficulty of some kind, toward “gathering information” or “gathering opinions”  As if this “gathering,” followed by “reporting” that is totally disconnected from meaningful recommendations toward a way forward, constitutes some kind of action all on its own. I know, this is not very “democratic” of me.

Don’t misunderstand me: I do believe that we need to have adequate information to make decisions and take action.  But there as a point at which decisions need to be made and action needs to be taken, and in my experience and from my perspective, that point is usually three or four ad hoc committees ago.  At least on the humanities/fine arts/social sciences side of my campus.  (I’m trying to be clear here that what I experience might not be some sort of universal truth on every campus, and it is not true even on my own campus in some disciplines that are far removed from my own.)

So why is this so frustrating to me?

  • Part of it is totally just my personality.  More and more I realize that I care a whole lot about tangible, concrete results.  Even if they aren’t perfect or if they don’t make everybody (or even me) happy – as they pretty much never can or do.  I am happier with an imperfect or even crappy compromise than I am with never acting. I just want something to be done, which I recognize is not always the best thing, but it is how I operate. This is not very squishy and literature-professor-y of me, since I hear that we are supposed to be the idealists on campus, but there it is.
  • Another part has to do with having been around for a decade at my current institution.  I used to think that surveys and ad hoc committees and forums were a good thing, back in olden times before I’d seen that nothing typically happens as a result of those things.  Now, I’m more likely to resent such things, because I have little faith that anything will ever come of them, based on past experience.
  • Part of it, too, is that I feel like all of this gathering and reporting, especially in my department, tends to be initiated by people who refuse to do that unpalatable service that requires real heavy lifting.  So people who don’t do committee work all year long, and who aren’t in their offices meeting with students, and who aren’t developing innovative courses and assignments, and who aren’t active in research, and who don’t really pay attention to what’s going on around campus wake up sometime around April 1 to some “issue” that they decide is of “urgent importance,” and then they demand that we need an ad hoc committee about it, which of course they would love to serve on, and then they generate a survey that requires a lengthy narrative response or they insist on additional meetings (when the rest of us are at the end of our rope trying to squeeze in capstone defenses and meetings with students about final papers and various student events and end-of-term activities) and all that comes of it is a lot of talk and no action.

Now, you might say, why don’t you just ignore this?  I would.  Except if you don’t participate then the only voices that get heard are the voices of the checked-out and disgruntled people, which is not ideal.  So I find myself responding to the demands of a minority who seem to have a knack for taking over the conversation and the agenda.

I realize as I’m writing all of this that probably my real problem is one with the fact that people who should be leading don’t actually lead.  Because, yes, leadership involves listening, but it also involves insisting on action after the listening has been accomplished.  There should be an end point to emoting and thinking through an issue.  And once that end point has been reached – say, after the first survey, after the first ad hoc committee – leaders need to act, or they need to delegate action to others.  And when somebody calls for yet another committee and yet another survey, they need to say “no, we already did that.”  What I have witnessed over the past 10 years is that those in leadership positions have been unwilling or unable, for whatever reason, to say, “no, we already did that.”

Here’s what I don’t get about that: it’s inefficient and ultimately a waste of time.  We never get over whatever the issue is, and it just breeds further animosity and resentment.

And we don’t allow for this sort of thing in other areas of our academic jobs.  Let’s take the example of a student who objects to a grade that he or she has been assigned.  So you hand back the papers, and the student is like, “this is a travesty of justice!”  The first thing that you do is to tell the student to schedule an appointment with you to discuss it.  You need to gather the facts, to review the situation, to get the necessary information to address the issue that has arisen.  Totally.  But let’s say you look at the student’s paper again, and you stand by the grade.  And the student is still unhappy.  Fair enough.  You don’t keep having meetings with the student.  You don’t keep meeting with the student over weeks and months and years until the student gets the answer that she or he wants.  Either the student accepts your verdict, or the student has to move on to some other avenue for the complaint – first the department chair, then the associate dean, etc.  All of this is clearly outlined in the university policies.  There is no ambiguity about it.  And at some point, relatively quickly actually, it comes to an end.  The student doesn’t have the option of continually bringing the issue up for years until the student gets the answer that he or she wants.  And if the student tries to do that, we say, “no, we already did that.”

It’s not that I don’t believe that there is room for questioning or for dissent.  Or that there is no room for the gathering of viewpoints or the issuing of reports.  But I do think that there is a point at which we should say, “no, we already did that.”

So let me give a general example, which, to be clear, has nothing to do with my current frustrations:

Let’s say that a small group of faculty are worried about salary compression and its effect on faculty morale, which worry is basically generated from their own unhappiness with their own salaries.  So they want to organize a committee and issue a survey about that.  Good.  You do that.  You find out if this is a widespread feeling, and you find out if there are any ways in which faculty morale can be improved without a large infusion of cash (because seriously, regional state university).  This committee then issues a report, and that committee’s report synthesizes the responses, most of which don’t appear to have the problem that this small group of people have, but then the report says, “the only way to solve this problem is to raise associate professors’ salaries by 10K next year,” which of course is impossible.  So then nothing happens.  The report is filed away. And two years later, the same small group of faculty says that they are worried about associate professors’ morale, and they want to form another ad hoc committee for another survey.  That is the moment when I think somebody should say, “no, we already did that.  Here is the old report.  Perhaps you should look at the data that we already have and come up with recommendations that are doable without a large infusion of cash.  If you come up with three recommendations, then issue another survey (for I’m even ok with a NEW survey!  That builds on the old one!) to see which one people think we should implement.  And then you can figure out strategies for implementing it.”  If those people are insistent that they REALLY need a new committee, with no reference to the work of the committee from before, you then say, “No, we already did that.  Maybe you should bring your concerns to the dean.”  You don’t keep wasting other people’s time with the concerns of a few.

Am I on crack, here?  Isn’t this just common sense?  If you give people license to keep badgering, with the idea that if they do it long enough then they will get the answer that they want, isn’t that just dumb?

Obviously, I think it’s dumb.  And yet.  I appear to be in a feedback loop in which I must respond to the same dumb surveys over and over again that never lead to anything, and they never lead to anything because the people generating the surveys don’t appear to have any interest in doing anything and administrators never insist that they do anything.  Or, alternatively, the views of the people generating the surveys never change because they are not actively engaged in the life of the department, college, or university, so they don’t understand that time keeps marching forward and things do change.

As the person who was the architect of the first true overhaul of our major since 1972, and as the person who is now the architect of our department’s first workable assessment plan ever (both of which processes did begin with fact-finding and opinion-gathering, but which continued beyond that initial phase to action), I have no remaining patience for these fucking endless surveys about my goddamned feelings and opinions.  Which apparently when they don’t line up with the ad hoc committee members’ feelings and opinions are totally dismissed.

Survey says?  No more fucking useless surveys.  Please.

 

So the thing of it is, this semester has been… intense.  For lots of reasons.  As my last post indicated, there’s been a fair amount of department drama, which has the appearance of having calmed down but which has totally not calmed down, but that isn’t the only thing.  We are also in the midst of some massive administrative turnover, arriving at and working out the implementation of a new strategic plan, I’m responsible for getting us to a program assessment plan for the major designed and implemented (which I took on willingly because I’m a masochist and because with my curriculum experience I am very qualified for such a task), I’m teaching four courses (four different preps: a general education literature course, a sophomore-level survey, a junior-level theory course in the core of the major which is effectively half a new prep because the book I used to use went out of print, and an advanced undergrad course that I’ve never taught before), and I’m now on a five-day-a-week schedule for the first time in years (which is wonderful, ultimately, but it also means that I have a lot more consistent face-time with people and so I’m less inclined to write here when I’m done with that).  And also, my personal life has been very… full.  There has been a lot of socializing, with friends, and a lot of dating and its concomitant drama.  It’s not that my life is terrible or anything, but it has been very chaotic.  Lots of dreams about crumbling houses and floods and such other obvious symbolic dream things about being out of control and flailing.

But so I won’t lie: I have wondered over the past months about whether I should just close the blog down. I’ve thought about this for a couple of reasons.  First is the fact that I am not writing here consistently.  I post on Facebook, I actually now have a real-life twitter account, which, sure, I don’t really use consistently, but I could and might, and I’ve returned to actually writing in a journal consistently, which I basically do instead of writing here.  Second, I wonder sometimes about whether I really have anything new to write in this space, what with being a mid-career-style academic these days.  Sometimes it feels like I’m just writing the same damned thing over and over again. (Being in this mid-career space often feels to me like being in the movie Groundhog Day.)

I know that one option to alleviate the above concerns, if I want to continue blogging, would be to transform this blog into a more “public” blog, as opposed to its current incarnation, which is a more “private” one.  I could be more journalistic, comment on “issues of the day.”  I’ve never been attracted to writing that sort of a blog -for even when I write on issues of the day I tend to write about them in a very “private” or personal way.  Part of why I’ve felt this way is because so many of “public” sorts of blogs already exist and do it so well, and partly because that sort of “public” writing doesn’t really interest me very much, as a writer.  So converting to that sort of a public voice really isn’t going to happen with me.  That much I know.

So I want to continue the blog (that much I know, too) even if I’m a shitty blogger who hasn’t been posting much lately.  This July will be my 10-year blogiversary, which is like 50 years in blog terms – and the fact that I’ve maintained the blogging over that long of a stretch makes me feel like I shouldn’t just pack my bags and high-tail it out of here.  I think that I actually do say stuff that people find worth reading, when I do write, whether because they identify with it or because they think I’m a jerk or whatever.And I can imagine that maybe I’ll be energized about this space again sooner or later, even if I’m not energized about it right now.  So no, I don’t think the solution is to relocate or to change the sort of blog I write or even to quit, but I do think that I need to have something happen that energizes me to write more in this space, and I think that something like that must happen sooner or later.

On the horizon, there are some potentially inspiring things.  I am going to Italy for a conference where I don’t really know anybody in June.  And the conference relates to an author that I’ve worked on, but I’ve always been fearful of joining the community related to this author (for a variety of reasons, mainly related to the author himself, who is dead).  CF and I might be writing a textbook together (we have interest from a press) for an “Introduction to English Studies” book, and I am finishing up with my current book project and potentially know what my third book might end up being.

In other news, my students are totally inspiring this semester, and a bunch of them are following me to a course in the fall that I’ve totally revamped, and the course promises to be AWESOME, in no small part because of this core group of students who are already enrolled.

So perhaps once this cruelest month of April is done, I’ll be back here more regularly.  Things look good: one of my two 30-year-old suitors just texted me to inform me that he is leaving town for a job in TX on Saturday, so that will give me a little more free time :)

 

 

Short version: budget cuts, unilateral moves by department administrators without adequate explanations, and People Going Crazy.

What hurts my feelings most about this is that I am stressed the fuck out (a) and that people who ACTIVELY HATED ME AND COLLUDED AGAINST ME not so long ago are now seeking me out as an ally (b).  Because, you know, allies.  (The thing about me is that I will say what I think but I have no interest in being an active member in any faction.  Which perhaps makes me ill-suited to life in most English departments.)

You know what I think?  First: do they think I have amnesia?  That I don’t remember when there was a target on my back, placed there by them?  FUCK THEM if they think that I will just join their fucking club as if I DON’T recall when these people went after me.  Second: I care about STUDENTS and not about either this bullshit administrative shit nor do I care about my colleagues (or even me) getting preferred teaching schedules.

Jesus MotherFUCKING Christ.  I am so filled with stress and rage that I can’t even talk about it.

It’s Been Forever

Why?

  • New strategic plan
  • A search for a new dean
  • Life (which involves some poor choices, some fun dates, etc.)

So I’m not dead (a) and I shall return in a real way soon (b).

So, every other year (in theory – ha! see what I did there? – but I say in theory because while I have an agreed upon 2-year rotation of courses, it seems that this is up for debate periodically because of various vagaries of department politics, the fact that other people refuse to have a two-year consistent rotation, etc.) I teach a theory course that is required in one track of our three-track major.  I am teaching it for the third time this spring.

The first time I taught it (2009), it was a rough ride, in part because it was my first time teaching it and in part because my dad died in the middle of the semester.  The second time I taught it (2012), things went quite well, though I was still working out kinks, and a fair few students withdrew (so I ended up with like 14 students, as opposed to the 20-25 who really should be in the course), but those who remained were engaged.  This third time – in spite of the fact that I had to change the theory anthology because the one that I adored is now out of print in the U.S., so the syllabus has changed considerably, in ways that seem to actually be really good (because the anthology I found to replace it is really, really good) – I seem to have locked this course down.  I’ve got 21 committed students.

Now, some of those students are committed because they need the course to graduate, and they intend to graduate in May.  But that is the minority (maybe seven of them).  In general, I’ve got students who are there both because they need to be and because they choose to remain.  They’ve had one short paper (a 1-page assignment I do that kicks their asses but that teaches a whole bunch – they will do three more of these) and one test (2/3 of them did fine, 1/3 got a giant wake-up call).  I also feel like I should note that all but two of the students in the course have taken our “new” (first taught 3 years ago) intro to the major course, and I think this is making a difference in terms of attrition from the course, in that they are entering knowing that such a thing as critical theory exists and that they have a sense of what critical theory is and why it matters to our discipline, and I also think the fact that the course is now only offered once per year is making a difference in terms of attrition, in that this schedule change is motivating them to remain even if they don’t adore what is happening to them, and they can’t just withdraw and take it with somebody other than me – so this ain’t all me, the fact that the students are committed and engaged and whatever.  There are contextual factors.

BUT.  The level of motivation I am seeing from these students in what is, ultimately, a junior-level class, is stellar.  STELLAR.  Particularly since the first test.  I will note that on the morning of the first test, I had to show up early to allow a student with a medical appointment to start early.  I arrived an hour before the class meets, and the first thing I saw when I got off the elevator to the English department floor was a couple of my students studying together.  Yay, right?  But what really shocked me was when I got to the classroom 10 minutes later and there were like 4 students already in there (when did they arrive?!?!) studying silently.  And then, the student that needed to start early got there, and by the time we were 30 minutes out from “test time” about 2/3 of the class was in there, studying.  Silently.  Intently.

Now, I’ve got colleagues who claim that our students don’t care about studying, are too preoccupied with life stuff to study, whatever.  (These are the same colleagues who claim that their office hours are a ghost town, which I have never experienced myself.)  But for a test that was worth 10% of their grade – just 10% !- about 2/3 of my students were intense about reviewing the material.  (Not all of those did well: some of them even failed.  But my point here is that they took it seriously, even if only 30 minutes before the test.  They were not just phoning it in.)

Since they got that first paper and that first test back, I’ve had deep one-on-one conversations with nearly half of them as a result.  They are dying to master this material, and they are dying to do well.  In a junior-level course about shit that they don’t understand and don’t, really, care about.  You don’t choose the major in English because you care about theory – if you did, you’re major in Philosophy.

The student who did best on the first test has taken to coming to my office for private consultations about his questions before class, mainly because I encouraged him to do so, I think. (Note: his initial response to his first test grade – which he saw on Bb before I handed the tests back – was “Is my grade a typo?” – because it was so high – which might be my favorite grade challenge ever), but even the students who did poorly have come to me – they want to get this shit.  They care.

This week, the students in this course read Lacan, Deleuze and Guattari, and Zizek. Ultimately brief readings from all three, but dense.  And not only did they do the reading (which was evident from their questions and their freaked-outed-ness, but also from their furious note-taking as I guided them through the readings), but also they really, really care about getting it.

My favorite part of all of this is that I had two of my students, two of my best students (one a returning student, one a traditional student), say to me today that this is the first course in the major in which they really feel like they are uncomfortable, like they are really taking intellectual risks.  Like they are doing work that isn’t just about just getting the grade.

Here’s the thing: it’s easy when you’re “good” at something never to take a risk.  You figure out what a given professor wants, and then you give that to them.  You get an A.  Done.  If you are “good” at something, and you are a “good” student, you can easily stay in your comfort zone and still be impressive.  This theory class that I’m teaching is shaking them up, but in a really exciting way, both for them (most important) and for me (less important, but awesome).  And also: I will take credit for the fact that I make my course a safe space for them to take those risks, that they know that I care more about the risk than I care about them agreeing with me.  That is all me, and I am proud of that.

But you know what else is my favorite?  That the students who are NOT the best are still really digging into the material and making sense of it for themselves!  And learning to ask questions that they never would have asked before about the literature that they love!  I don’t actually care if those are “original” questions in the sense of actual originality – they are original to them!  They are working it out!  And they are still taking risks!  Risks for them!

Ultimately, they all are taking important and challenging and meaningful and amazing risks!  And their heads are buried in their notebooks and their books when we have class so that they can write things down and figure out what the fuck is going on!  They aren’t texting or daydreaming or sleeping or worrying about shit other than critical theory!  And not because I made some technology policy or because I’m nagging them or because there is a participation grade.  Nope.  They are engaged because it feels to them like it’s worth engaging.  I’m not quizzing them on the reading, and I’m not underestimating their ability to get it on their own and just lecturing 24/7.  No: I am trusting them to learn.  And I see them learning.

And that feels really fucking amazing.

 

I haven’t been writing about work because things with work are, aside from non-important irritating things, really, really good.  Moving back to the 5-day-a-week schedule has been a revelation.  Turns out, being on a consistent schedule in terms of work and sleep really makes a difference in one’s quality of life.  I’m not saying I’d have this schedule if I taught a 2/2 load, or even a 3/3.  But with a 4/4?  WOW it is good.  CF and I were talking about it today, and even she says she notices the difference in me.  “You don’t look tired anymore,” she said.  No, I don’t.  Why?  Because I’m not!  And also: I am on top of grading and also caught up or ahead with course prep.  And I actually know most of my students’ names. And I don’t wake up in the morning with my first thought being, “God, I wish I didn’t have to teach.”

And I’ve actually returned to my book manuscript, and I have time for that plus time to juggle the dating and to have quality friend time. Sure, the weekends are short.  But as I am caught up, I really get to do no work on the weekends.

So it isn’t that I don’t have anything to say about professing – it’s just that there isn’t drama with work at all right now, and that is pretty fucking great, and I don’t want to just talk about how great my life is here, because seriously.

But so let me briefly report on the professing stuff:

  • I have the greatest students this semester, in all of my classes.  They are motivated and smart and engaged.  Yes, it’s true: in my one gen ed class, this is not the case for all of them.  But most of them are into it.  And attendance is really good, and even the least engaged amongst them are learning.
  • My theory students are terrified and overworked and feeling like they might die, but I feel like that is just about right for this point in the semester.  They just had their first test, and 2/3 did just fine.  The one third that didn’t?  Well, they either will step it up, withdraw, or fail.  And I’m ok with that.  My favorite moment so far this semester from them was that they took their first test, and I posted the results on blackboard before I handed it back.  I’ve got this one STELLAR student, and he totally came to my office to ask if his grade (he missed only one point – including extra credit) was a typo.  Like he couldn’t believe he’d done so well.  When was the last time you had a student challenge a grade that was over 100%?  It was awesome!
  • My new prep is going very well and I’m very pleased with their engagement.  I wonder if they realize the work I do in order to prep for our small class – I read my course evals from last semester and students negatively commented on the fact that I was using a discussion-based model, for they thought that I didn’t have to prepare to make that happen.  Because, you know, it’s so easy to get a good conversation about difficult material going and to make it feel natural.
  • And I am loving my survey course partly because I’m teaching it 3 days a week (for like the second time ever) and partly because FUCKING KEATS!  FUCKING MATTHEW ARNOLD! FUCKING ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING!  And Wednesday is FUCKING GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS!  I bitch about the survey a lot, but it gives me the opportunity to teach a lot that I love that I don’t have room for otherwise.
  • In non-teaching news, my agenda for program-level assessment for the department progresses apace, and it is going to be great when it all comes together.  Assessment is often a thing that faculty hate to hear mentioned, but I think I’ve made it palatable if not enticing, and people are on board.  And I’m excited that I have the skill to do that, and I’m excited about the potential for the work that I’m doing to positively impact our major and minor.  Because, frankly, I don’t give a shit about the external reasons for us doing this, even though the fact that we are doing it will put us in a good position in relation to those.
  • In other non-teaching news, my institution is working out the kinks in our new strategic plan.  All in all, I think that the new strategic plan is good.  But I would adore it if I never had to hear the word “transdisciplinary” again.  Especially because most of the people involved don’t know what the fuck it means.

See what I mean?  I don’t really have anything of note to report.  Which is why I’m busy being boy-crazy on this here blog.  But really the most exciting thing for me upcoming is that I will be going with my friends T and S to see Lydia Loveless, whom you must check out, for she is awesome.

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