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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Long silence, followed by marginal panic

I have been working on my sabbatical project--sorta kinda, and not for very long stints in any one day--but I confess that mostly I've been spending time on personal pursuits and enjoying myself in other ways. Now that the primary distraction is no longer available, I'm feeling waves of anxiety about how far behind I am on the time-table I put together for the sabbatical application, and about the fact that even the part I'm embarked on seems to be taking much longer than I anticipated. Part of the reason it's taking longer is that I'm not relying on memory but am going back to the source material and taking clear notes, so I can talk about this portion of the project more clearly and precisely.

I'm aware that I'm still being mysterious and vague about the project itself--because I don't want anyone to raid my idea and beat me to the punch (or to potential publication). I really doubt that anyone reading this blog would think, "Oh, hey, cool idea: I bet I can do that better, faster, and leave Prof. TLP in the dust"--but I'm possessive of my project, so until it's found some final form--either as the book I most hope for or an online publication of some sort--I'll continue to be vague in what I say about it.

I know that talking about the sabbatical isn't talking about teaching per se, but it does have direct application to my work with my students--and it does require that I continually keep the student mind in mind, if you will: I tell my students to remember their audience, and the same applies to me in this case. I have to remember my audience, the students for whom the end product is intended. My tendency is to provide too much information in too dense a fashion, so I have to be on guard against that as I put this thing together. It's good practice for me anyway: maybe I can also figure out how to make my assignments more clear, precise, and comprehensible too.

I continue to think about how I want to attack my classes in the fall--yes, even now, this far in advance. I haven't given a lot of thought to the MDC course that I've been offered; I have some ideas about it, but I haven't gotten serious about looking for readings, figuring out assignments, that sort of thing. The current plan is to get to that late in the spring--about when I'd normally be sending things to be printed in bulk. I do have to remember that many of the MDC students probably can't write a paper (certainly not up to my standards), so I want to find other means of measuring what they know and don't know. And I realize, writing that sentence, that the first thing I need to do is to figure out what exactly I want them to know or understand by the end of the semester. That's still a bit vague.

Seems like things are vague all around.

On the other hand, I'm also embarked once again on being a student: I did manage to get enrolled in the master's level psych course I wanted to take, and the first class meeting was last night. I was both appalled and amused to hear the professor say a lot of the things I say to my students, especially about cutting and pasting information from others' work into their own ("I can tell when you've done that") and the importance of doing the reading prior to class. I felt a little shabby that first class meeting, as there was an e-mail address snafu which meant that I didn't get the information about the first reading, which should have been done prior to last night's class meeting: oops. But I also can say that a lot of the information was covered in the undergrad psych course I took a few summers ago, so I wasn't utterly lost. However, I can also say that if I am every quizzed on the parts of the human brain, the names of the various structures and what's responsible for what, I'd flunk unless I could refer to the book. It simply doesn't stick for me somehow, so I'm going to have to spend a fair amount of time either engaged in rote memorization or figuring out handy mnemonic devices. The professor did reassure us that we don't need to memorize it all (thank god), but it is important information, and I dislike the feeling of having to relearn it new every time I come across it.

Still, I'm delighted to be in the class--and it will cover an interesting variety of topics. The purpose of the course is for the students to hear from a number of specialists in different areas talking about their thing, which is mighty nifty. The overall focus is largely on neuroscience, it seems, which indicates to me an interesting shift in how psychology as a field is viewed: as we get a better sense of the actual systems and processes, clinical practice is bound to change. Pretty cool beans.

I suspect that, this semester, blog posts will be more sporadic than they are when I'm teaching--and that they'll often focus on my experiences as a student rather than on my sabbatical work. But it's all pretty wonderful--and it doesn't feel like drudgery: it feels like a very serious and intense form of play. I could get a little too used to this, I'm afraid.

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