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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Accomplished today: approximately nothing

It isn't dark outside yet, so at least in theory I should still have some work energy left in me, but I don't. It's been a hell of a day, and not one minute of it has been used on either the sabbatical project or the psych class--and I'm having leaping anxiety attacks about that "neglect" of the real reasons why I'm not teaching this term.

For one thing, I realized last night that I have a month in which to do the paper for the psych class, and even though it's a short paper, I haven't found a focus, or sources to help me with the focus--and I'm struggling enough to keep up with the reading. I'm delighted that we're done with fish brains, even more delighted that next week we'll be reading and talking about memory (much more interesting)--but then we switch to the mechanics of vision and again, the challenge is to keep awake while I read the material.

I will, of course, want to share this with my students in the fall. I tell them over and over that one of the most important things I learned in grad school was to panic earlier. The fact that I'm already feeling some panic about a 5-page paper that's due in 4 weeks is evidence of what I've learned; I don't much care for the anxiety, but it is a hell of a spur to get me rolling so I can, as Paul says, panic productively. (I think I won't share with them the lesson about learning what not to read: they're not reading as much as I think they should and bitch about it being too much, so I don't want them to think they should read less. But when I was doing my grad course work, the reading list for one of my classes was something like fourteen full-length nineteenth-century novels--in a twelve week semester. That's a case when something has to give.)

I'll also share with them the strategies I use to get through the reading that tends to put me to sleep. One thing is that I read it when I'm most awake: I don't read it at the end of the day but at the beginning (or I try to: I confess, I read the second fish brain article yesterday on the train to Manhattan--but my focus was decidedly impaired by the brain-fade factor). Another is that I write extensive notes to myself, "translating" what I'm reading into what I think I understand. And yes, I, too, have to go back and re-read some paragraphs multiple times. Students think that means there's something wrong with them--and sometimes they may be right--but really it's just what that particular reader needs to do with that particular bit of text.

So, that's my anxiety about the class (that and the fact that I'm afraid I don't understand any of this as well as I need to so I'll earn crappy grades). My anxiety about the sabbatical project is sort of like the thing many of us feel about the end of June, certainly by July 4, when we have a rush of panic that the summer is "almost over." Here it is February, and my sabbatical is "almost over"--and I'm nowhere near where I wanted to be at this point.

However, there is nothing at all I can do about any of that today. Today started with my attending a meeting of the seminar hours committee--because I was enraged by some push-back we got from the administration (through our dean, who has become their mouthpiece) over the idea of tutoring students in a faculty pairing. I flurried around in a tizz about it from Tuesday night, when I read the dean's response, through this morning in the meeting. The upshot of my attendance at the meeting was a request that, with one of my colleagues, we come up with a one page, bullet-pointed presentation of the argument in favor of faculty pairings--but without ever referring to research or pedagogy because, as the chair of the committee pointed out (to our disgust), the idiots we're dealing with see our use of research to support our case as a weakness, and our references to the actual learning process as immaterial.

Pause while we consider that. Kinda leaves one speechless, doesn't it.

I also said I would send the first page of the form we use to indicate our preferences for scheduling so it could be used as a template for indicating preferences for seminar hours. Realizing I might not have that information on the computer at home, I figured I might as well just head upstairs and do it on the spot. And then I figured, as long as I was doing that, I might as well get the draft of the rationale about faculty pairings done. So I went to campus for a meeting that was scheduled from 10 to 11:30--and I didn't leave campus until almost 2.

Then came life maintenance stuff: there were a bunch of errands I needed to run, all grouped near campus, so I figured I might as well do them while I was in the area anyway.

And by the time I got home from all of that, I realized I'm hungry and my brains have turned to pancake batter and I'm stick-a-fork-in-me done. So, using my usual philosophical stance that tomorrow is, in fact, another day, and I can think about the stuff that really matters tomorrow (you know, when I'm stronger), I plan to now shift gears, figure out what to feed myself and sit down with a perfectly dopey mystery and call it a day.

With luck, tomorrow will feel infinitely more productive--and I'll be able to post about a positive end to the week. Always nice to end the day, or the week, or something, on a positive note.

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