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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Question du jour

I'm here in the office, looking over at my desk (my computer is on a table on the other side of the room), and what I see is lots of exploding file-folders and leaning stacks of god-knows-what, and I know that sooner or later I am going to have to dig through it all--and, in fact, dig through the file drawers that I have claimed as my own in the office's shared file cabinets, clean out all kinds of stuff in order to make room for more stuff. (I'm reminded of the George Carlin riff on stuff, which was forwarded to me in an e-mail not too long ago.) I suppose, now that I'm full professor, I could simply have a bonfire on the quad and start all over from scratch--but I grow very attached to handouts and photocopies of essays, stories, poems, which (you never know) I may someday maybe consider possibly using again, so at some point the purge truly does have to take place.

So, the question du jour is: sooner or later?

It's a lead-pipe cinch that I'm not going to tackle it with what's left of today. So the question begins to multiply: I've finished as much of the summer scheduling as I can do; that's now over to Bruce at least until next week. But I'd planned to be on campus this whole week, so do I come in tomorrow? Thursday? I will be on campus next week for more scheduling shenanigans, but I also have a cluster of doctors' appointments in the afternoons (don't remember exactly when, just the image of things written on my calendar): how likely is it that I'll get any organizational work done around all that? (I can answer that question, as it happens: not very.) So, if I shouldn't count on getting any of that done next week, does that put more weight into the idea that coming in this week makes sense? Or do I continue to kick the can down the road a bit further, knowing that there are two days in early June when I'll be here to once again go through training for our online course platform: should I assume that I'll do those workshops and then come back to this roost and try to clean it out a bit?

As for the retraining on Blackboard, I don't intend to teach anything fully online--at least not any time soon. But I would like to be able to use Blackboard for my regular classes--especially the comp classes. It's odd what students can and cannot do using electronic technology: they know about all kinds of apps and social platforms that are utterly opaque to me, but they can't use a word-processing program to properly format a paper, which I could probably do upside down and under water. Still, "technological literacy" is one of the skill sets we're supposed to help them acquire (which, of course, means we need to acquire some skill in that area our own damned selves), and there are some things that they're more comfortable doing online than they are in person. (Like, say, talking.) So I'd like to have a lot of that set up: discussion boards, perhaps, and things available for download so I don't have to carry around as much paper.

But I need to be retrained because the training is not designed to stick with the way my brain works. "Information Technology" people have brains that work in ways that are utterly foreign to me, so they assume things are absolutely intuitive that in fact seem either unduly complex or bizarre in organization or in any other conceivable way incomprehensible to me. What I know, however, from having been to this particular fire before, is that I need to immediately put what I learn in each workshop into practice with real classes and real material: no bullshit "pretend this is your course" stuff, especially as they always want me to pretend I'll be doing things I absolutely will not do and don't spend enough time on the things I really want to do.

As I'm writing all of this, I'm thinking that yes, it does make sense to come to the office after the workshops--but not to clean out and organize files and so on, rather to start getting the "web enhanced" portions of my classes ready, so--as I said--I can practice doing what I want to do with the information I've just gotten from the training session.

If I get comfortable enough with the online stuff, I may get around to applying for a stipend to create an online version of Nature in Lit. I suspect it would run better as an online course than it does now--and even if not, hey: it's a stipend. Not a bad thing.

Which, in my mind, dovetails into the "I like the money I get for being the evening supervisor but gee, some more reassigned time would have been nice" thing. I did ask Bruce whether he'd thought about the next daytime assistant chair. Yep--and no, it wasn't me. No surprise: Cathy. Again, as with the "secretary of P&B" thing, I feel a little pissy about it: not that Cathy isn't deserving and not that she won't do an excellent job, but I do feel very much like "first runner up"--which is another way of saying "not the winner." Ego, Baby, pure ego. "What about me? Am I not good enough?"

Well, not pure ego: more objectively I can say that the two of them working together does put a good amount of weight into any argument, as both of them have that kind of powerful presence and combined, they're mighty--but there are times when they think too much alike and I honestly feel that our students could be better served if beside Bruce was someone with a slightly different agenda and take on things. Not even necessarily me, but someone who can provide a little more balance to the scale instead of all the weight going to one side. But it's his decision, and as I said, I know Cathy will do a grand job. Also, if I subtract my beauty-queen aspirations from the equation, I can see that although the reassigned time would have been lovely, I may be a lot better off in terms of protecting my time and energy to have things as they are. Please heaven we'll continue to get the reassigned time to work in Advisement; given the requirements of seminar hours, I will teach my comp classes--maybe the lit electives too--rather differently than I have, but I hope what I do will be more effective for the students and the demands more diffused for me, so I don't feel quite so hammered when it comes time to grade papers.

The other little bit of whining that I have to get out of my system has to do with schedules for Spring--and I'm on the fence about whether to talk to Bruce about my personal desire here. Normally, the problem I'd have in putting together my spring schedule would be that I have to choose whether I want to request Nature in Lit or whether I'd prefer Native American Lit (when in actual fact, I want them both). However, for reasons beyond Bruce's control, P&B now meets when those courses are scheduled, so I won't be able to request either one. It's not as if there aren't other options that I'd be happy enough to teach, even without juggling the schedule--but I may want to make a pitch for spring 2017, that one or both of my favorite courses run in a different time slot.

Oh hell, we'll see.

I'm also wavering about whether to ditch the departmental assessment committee, as I've been swearing I would do. I'm not sure why I suddenly feel maybe I should stay on it instead of making good on my promise to myself to get the hell out of it, now that I've got the promotion.

Hey! I got the promotion! Every now and then, it hits me: Jesus Christ, I actually did it: I made it. Astonishing.

And ye gods I had no idea I was so wound up and chatty today: the length of this post surprises me. Apparently, it's one of those "oh, yeah, and another thing..." sort of days. (Oh, yeah, and another thing: I don't know how long ago I stopped proofreading and editing my posts but it's been several millennia now. I used to make note of the fact that I was just writing and then flinging the post up onto the blog without combing through; now that's just what I do. Blather blather blather post.)

So, enough of the blather for today. Heaven knows when I'll check in again: next time I do any work of any kind, I reckon. I'll decide about tomorrow when I wake up in the morning: go back to sabbatical work or come to the office? Right at the moment, I'd put my money on the former--but there's also always the "option C" possibility, though I'd be hard pressed to think what a third option might look like. I'm outta here.


  1. I am a Research Associate and part time PhD student at Oxford Brookes University (UK) looking to join an education forum and community. I'm looking to interact with like-minded people who have a profound interest in education and learning. I have an interest in online learning delivery, VLE and technology based learning. HRM Dissertations | Finance Dissertations Thanks again.

    1. Steve--Thanks for contacting me. This blog isn't actually an education forum: although I talk about educational matters, I'm writing very much from a personal perspective, doing my thinking--and, frequently, emoting--"out loud," as it were. I am definitely not up to speed on any of your particular interests (witness the fact that I'm taking a very basic introduction to Blackboard--for the second time), but I certainly have a profound interest in education and learning. If reading my blog is helpful to you in any way, I encourage you to become an official follower. And if you do locate--or create--a more formal "education forum and community," please let me know: I'd like to join something like that, too. Meanwhile, I'm delighted to interact through comments on these posts, so if you have particular questions or comments, please send them along.