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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Making an early day of it

I am, as is frequently the case, buoyed up by the energy generated from the events of the day: an observation of Cathy's wonderful teaching, an enormously helpful meeting with colleague Christina on the structure of an online course, the subcommittee meeting (complete with fruit bowl and water bottles), and a fine class.

The subcommittee is going to be very interesting. I tend to resent the hell out of the work that is involved (oh, you could tell?), but once I'm actually engaged in the discussions, I often get fired up--and this meeting was one of those that got things flowing nicely. We've backed up to reboot/start over territory--which involves a lot of what academics do best: talk. Not do: talk. There are some elephants in the room that need to be pointed to: we all know about the systemic lack of trust on our campus and how hard it will be to proceed with actions that will heal the trust, but it's important also to acknowledge the ways in which we in the faculty tend to create rifts, pitting discipline against discipline, the job training folks against the scholars. Possibly the most important "realization" of the meeting was something that should be absolutely obvious and weirdly is not: the importance of having a vision and mission that emphasizes the campus as a community. The issue isn't simply that we're situated in a community and have an obligation to be responsive to the needs of that community. The issue is that we ourselves need to be a community, a communitas. We're not. And as open-minded as we want to believe we are, there are often unacknowledged ways in which we see others in our community as second-class citizens. Unless all our voices, all our strengths, are included and valued in the workings of the institution as a whole, we will never be a community.

So we're getting very excited about the prospect of a full-day symposium, with a guest speaker and break out groups with Active Learning type tasks.... I hope it happens. I might even be persuaded that I should get involved in the planning.

Because I cannot cannot cannot seem to learn to sit on my fucking hands and not volunteer for things--and then I bitch endlessly about how overworked I am. Prof. TLP, do you happen to see any connection between those two things? Any way you might want to reconceptualize something in there?

Case in point: I may have roped myself into being a co-editor of the Nassau Review, the literary journal produced by this campus. No one else wants to do it solo, and Christina (the helpful colleague mentioned above)--who has been doing it solo for a number of years--is sticking firm to her decision to take at least a year's break from it, so someone has to step in or the journal will die. I said I'd "consider" doing it if I could do it with someone else: not solo, co-editor. But even that...? Jayzus, what am I getting myself into here?

And there I go, projecting into the future again. Nix.

Class was great: we really are down to the students who are engaged, responsive, thinking. I have been rather smugly saying how I'm experiencing less attrition than usual--and that's been true (so far, always that caveat) in terms of the 102s. But I counted how many students are still in the SF class--and the attrition is as near as dammit to 50 percent: the numbers have dwindled from 32 to 17. Fortunately, we're not yet at the point where I can be called on the carpet about that--but it does mean that the discussion can get beautifully complex and intelligent. Even the students who are trailing behind are mostly catching on to enough that they have contributions to make, which is very cool. And the bright ones have stopped resisting and are simply grooving on the ideas. Love it.

I have a ton of work to mark for them, of course: I've been collecting their reading notes for more than a week without returning anything, plus I have their second essays. All of that goes on top of the triage stack. In fact, all of that comes home with me this weekend.

It is a mystery to me how my work load seems to change even when what I'm doing really doesn't change much. There was a long stretch of time in there when I could routinely get home in time to ride my exercise bike for 40 minutes and still feed the cats and have dinner myself at a semi-reasonable hour--and I didn't have to bring work home over the weekends. Then things shifted so I couldn't do the bike ride any more, because I needed to stay on campus later in order to get the work done so I wouldn't have to bring it home over the weekend. Now, I stay on campus later AND have to bring work home over the weekend.

What happened to that whole "make full professor and everything gets easier" thing??

We all know the "problem" though: I've said it many times. If I simply didn't give a shit, my job would be much easier. Or if my idea of "giving a shit" was different than it is: if I didn't have such a deeply entrenched sense that this particular way of doing things is the only way I can do things and feel happy with myself.... I keep trying to find ways to address that: to let go of some things I feel are part of my "standards" and recognize that I'm still doing a fine job at important work but accomplishing the work in a way that is more relaxed, that allows me more time that is not devoured by my job.

My life, my teaching: works in progress. I can always do better--and by "better" I don't mean driving myself harder: I mean finding ways to accomplish what matters while being calm, relaxed, and rested.

Yeah. Well, when I figure that out, I'll be sure to let you know.

Now, however, there is still lots of light in the sky--but I'm going to start packing up to depart. I was here ungodly early (for me), so an early departure makes sense, but in addition, I'm trying to put into practice exactly what I was just talking about: creating an opportunity to rest, relax, be calm. (Plus, my right eye is twitching like mad. My ex would ask, "What is it you don't want to look at?" and my answer would be "the image of my face with steamer trunks under my eyes because I haven't gotten enough sleep, thank you very much." I feel energized, but my body knows better.)

Water the office plants. Shove things to be marked and my wonderful editor's desk into a bag. Look around to see what I'm forgetting. Get in the car...

and see you all next week, unless the impulse strikes for a weekend post.

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