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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So far, so good. In both classes, I had to ask students who arrived a little late to go scrounge desks from other rooms. After today, I'll try to get there a little earlier myself, count seats, and drag in desks if I have to so we don't have to fuss with that at the start of each class period.

The short-story class felt great. For one thing, whoever had been in the room before had left the desks in a circle: cool, roll with it. It made things feel loose and comfortable starting out. I think they already have a sense that they're going to be doing some thinking in my class: I hope so. There are two senior observers, as well. One of them was charming: after class, she wanted to talk to me at length about how much she has always loved English (despite being a math/science teacher), about reading, about an influential high-school English teacher she had. Quite lovely.

Funny, I mentioned the other day that I had a good plan for how to start off the first class for 101--and, of course, once I was in the room, that went completely out of my head. It still felt relatively comfortable, however. Students seemed a little shell-shocked, though I did get a few of them to smile, even chuckle at a couple of my attempts at humor. Nice when that happens.

I felt good about my general approach and demeanor, too: I let the short-story students know that I'm notoriously tough, that I grade hard--but that I will also work hard to help anyone who comes to me for help--all in a very cheerful, friendly, relaxed way. I kinda forgot to convey that as clearly to the 101 class: I hope I remember to say something about it next time we meet, even though we'll be launched into the semester by then (first reading due, so something to discuss...). I also didn't get a chance to run the time management exercise with them that I was planning. If I get to it next week, fine. If not, ah well.

And tomorrow is another day (an odd expression, when one stops to think about it. Like, well, duh). Who knows what I will remember--or forget--to do or say with them. And I have my first committee meeting tomorrow, which I think is madness, but the chair was having a hell of a hard time finding dates that didn't conflict with ten thousand other things. Well, whatever. I'm just a member of that committee, and have no intention of doing much more than my bump on a log impressions. I'm pretty much in that head-space regarding all the committees I'm on: I'll go (most of the time); I'll listen; I'll contribute to the discussion if I have something pertinent to say or if I think an issue needs clarification (I'm pretty good at asking for the metaphoric cut to the chase); I don't intend to get on any subcommittees or to do any work of any substance. This semester, I want to do a good job teaching my classes, do enough committee work to show that I'm still active (thinking ahead to future promotions)--and put the bulk of my energy into my life outside of school, which is rich, rewarding, and has been changing rapidly in the last six months. Those changes need to be honored: the job can take a back seat for a change.

Though I say that and at the same time, a little hamster is running on the squeaky wheel in my head: "Oh, yeah, and I have to do the first review sheet for the 101 classes, and remind them to check their e-mail for it, and when do you suppose I'm going to do that? And then I need to ... and I need to ... and I need to ..." The ever-growing "to do" list.

Plus, I admit with a blush, that I just asked for an extension on that book review I've been talking about. I know I've already been given one extension, and they may not be able to allow me any more time, but I can't imagine 48 hours will really make or break their issue--and if it will, then they'll just have to go ahead without me, and I'll hope that my review makes the next issue. I drafted the review yesterday, have done some more work on it today, but it needs further revision, not to mention polishing. No matter what the answer is about the request for an extension, one thing I'm particularly enjoying about writing the review is that I can use it as a teaching tool: "Look, this is what my process was. See how I did this? See the ways I reworked, rethought--even the ways I just kept writing, despite the fact that I knew something was kinda crappy?" So as I revise, I'm doing a lot more than I normally would to make my process visible (not erasing, for instance, but crossing out, as I add/rework sentences in what I typed up). We'll see how it works.

Ah, my mantra again: We'll see. But now, here's to successful navigation of the first day--and the switch from anticipation to just dropping into the groove and hitting "play."

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