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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well, duh...

Lying in bed last night--OK, technically early this morning--trying to let go and fall asleep, it suddenly dawned on me: I teach a couple of thematically paired short stories in my 102 classes: why not start with something I use there? And suddenly, thinking of one of the pairs, I realized that a couple of the stories in the anthology I chose would work nicely to continue the theme--a theme I hadn't initially considered when I read (and liked) the stories in the anthology. So, I've got specific stories assigned all the way up to when I've scheduled the first significant essay, and have now bought myself a few weeks in which to finish reading the anthology and select the stories for the rest of the semester. Whew. With the feeling of "duh, well, why didn't I think of that sooner?" this morning I did all the writing up of the schedule, polishing off the rest of the syllabus, and am ready to go in to the office on Monday to print, copy--and post stuff to my faculty homepage.

After that huge sigh of relief, I started to read in the book for the imminent review, and am fighting "monkey mind": having a hard time concentrating, as my brain keeps jumping from thought to thought to thought about other stuff. Argh. So I'm taking the blog break, and I think it will help calm the monkey down if I turn my attention back to school work for a little bit here: one of the branches the monkey keeps jumping back to is "I need to pull together the mini-paper assignments and essay assignments for the short-story class; I can do that without the kind of specificity I need for the 101 paper assignments...."

In terms of 101, I've got dates set up for the classes to go to the library and get a lesson in doing database research. I've usually done that myself, but this semester, since I had the assignment schedule planned out enough in advance, I realized I could let someone else teach it (and hope like hell that the person conducting the lesson is one of the better ones: my one experience having a librarian teach the lesson was monumentally awful, but I know there are very gifted teachers among the librarians who conduct the classes). The added advantage to having the lesson taught in the library by a librarian is that the students can stay in the library for the rest of the class period and actually start work--well before the paper is due. They may not appreciate the gift that is, but I know what I'm giving them by getting them rolling on it sooner.

I do need to refine that paper assignment, too, but I certainly don't have to do that this week: it's their second major assignment, and there is a lot I need to pull together before we get there. Which set the monkey off again, jumping around: "Oh, right, and I need to figure out review sheets for the new handbook assignments...."

It's kind of fucking endless. But--I need to remind myself--actually very interesting to me. I resist this work like crazy, but once I'm doing it, especially once I feel like I'm nailing it pretty well, I find it gratifying. Of course, then I use the assignments, find out the problems with them, and the next time I reconfigure, rework, fuss around more....

What's endless is the quest for the perfect assignment, the perfect sequence, the perfect course. No such animal exists, but the search is intellectually satisfying even in all its frustrations. Huh, whaddaya know: it seems I actually like what I do for a living. Who'd a thunk it.

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