Monday, October 29, 2007

Panic. Panic!

I just got an email from a school where I've applied for a job, telling me that page 2 of my advisor's recommendation letter is missing.

I got a similar email last week, from a different school. I called our dossier people. They assured me that they would resend the letter and that it was very unlikely that the mistake would have been repeated in any of my other dossiers.

Well, the mistake was repeated. I have emailed the dossier folk and will call in the morning. I have politely asked them to resend the letter to all 22 schools where my dossier was sent.

I really hope that they do it.

I mean, seriously--this could hurt me, right? When schools are just looking for a way to shift you onto the reject pile? Not that they'd think it was my fault, necessarily, but--yikes. You try so hard to be perfect, and then there are things you can't control--and that's unacceptable. Yeah, okay, that's a textbook control-freak attitude, but in this case I think it's justified. Argh! Help! How bad is this???

Friday, October 26, 2007

Long weekend, hooray!

It's Homecoming here at Field College, which means that we get Friday off. Huzzah! This is the only, yes only acknowledgment that I will make of Homecoming. I will not attend the parade. Or the game. Nor did I volunteer to serve on one of the many "faculty teams" that will be competing with students in some games of some sort, or something. I did not donate candy to be thrown at the parade (what the hell? There's not enough litter in the world? Or crap in people's stomachs?). Nor did I volunteer to throw said candy. Tomorrow's "tailgate" will proceed without me.

I confess that I'm somewhat mystified by this whole homecoming phenomenon. Yeah, we did homecoming stuff in high school, but my college didn't have a homecoming. Neither did my grad school (unless I somehow managed to miss it for 7 years, but I don't think so) (did I?) (in which case, it must have been very low-key). But it is evidently a very big deal here. There was even some kind of convocation ceremony today--it might be going on right now, in fact. Giant placards with fraternity and sorority logos have been erected all over campus, most of them decorated with American flags. It all seems a little excessive, and weirdly nationalistic.

But hey! I get a day off. A Friday, at that. So you won't be hearing any complaints from this mihi.

And what, you ask, will I be doing with my long weekend? Well,
  • First, I will be finishing the final revisions of an article. With luck, it will attain Fully Accepted status within the next week or two.
  • I am also doing my laundry.
  • Next week I'm teaching (parts of) two pretty big texts--Virgil and Milton, yes indeedy--so there must needs be some reading that gets itself done, and soon.
  • However! In comp we're doing peer workshopping and individual conferences next week: no prep! Lots and lots of student-paper-commenting-on coming up, but no prep!
  • Batch of one-page papers to grade; shouldn't take too long if I can actually focus.
  • And--the boyfriend is coming to visit, today! He'll be here in a few hours. I must therefore get started on the work, as I plan on doing some not-working while he's here.
I know I've been a little bit lame with the posting lately, but really, there isn't all that much going on. I've done some on-line shopping and now have a new coat and some pants and sweaters. The leaves are finally changing. My classes are going fine. I still need to order books--nay, figure out what we'll be doing--in my *three* sections of comp 2 next semester. I am determined to make this class fun for me; if I have to have 60 comp students, we'd damn well better be reading some good books. Right? At least I have a great lit class to round out my courseload.

And, of course, job applications. Wow. I really forgot all about them for a minute there--that's a major thing on my weekend to-do list. Yikes. Okay, I'll be busier than I thought.

(Oh! Sisyphus! You must email me your address so you can receive a present. heumihi at yahoo dot com. And if anyone else wants presents, I've got two more to give away!)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spoke too soon?

Remember yesterday's post? Which ended on an optimistic, I-like-my-job note? Well, of course this morning I was SO

Perhaps because my downstairs neighbors awoke me at 6:15 with a dual tantrum:

Little girl (age 7 or so): AAAAAHHHH!

Mother (age, oh, 30ish): GET DRESSSSSED!

Little girl: AAAHHHHH!


Unbelievable. The parenting that goes on here. I tell you. And this went on for, oh, 15 minutes?

So yeah, I wasn't in the cheeriest of humors when I got to the office. The day was fine, though.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

There are moments when I really can't bear it

Yeah, okay, that sounds a little dramatic. When really all I'm talking about is the tedium of job letters.

For yes, today has been a day of the job letter. Having conveniently forgotten just how much I hate writing these things, I came up with quite a long list of jobs to apply for. Yay, right? Yeah, yay, I guess, except when you're spending hours upon hours going through universities' websites trying to figure out the precise teaching-to-research ratio that should be communicated in the cover letters, exactly what courses they need that you can teach, whether they'll care about your subfields or just want a pure Englishy type, etc etc etc. And then realizing that the minute adjustments made to each letter probably won't make that much of a difference--but finding yourself incapable of not making them, because after all you've come so far, and what's a little more?

Gripe, gripe, grouse. I'm not actually that unhappy about it (see "long list of jobs," above)--just a little squirmy from sitting at my desk all afternoon. And I'm not exactly overprepared for tomorrow's classes, you see.

But hey. Classes have been proceeding apace. It's kind of nice, isn't it, how the days pass and the classes get done even if you aren't knocking yourself out to get ready for them? Besides, they're going pretty well. Round about 3 weeks ago, I think, I suddenly quit being so nervous. It's funny. I think that I was pretty scared of my students for the first six weeks or so of the semester, and now--well, I'm not. And I feel much better about my classes as a result, and much less terrified of running out of material (seeing as that hasn't happened, once, in the 9 weeks of teaching--that's, hm, close to a hundred class sessions!--that I've had this semester).

And on some of those perfectly acceptable days? I had not spent three hours writing up detailed lecture notes and mentally rehearsing the transitions between each of the points I wanted to cover. Virtually no difference in my performance--if anything, I think that I was more relaxed and less "performed." Apparently I'm getting the hang of things.

So, to end this post on a note opposite that with which I titled it: Hey! Sometimes I kind of like my job.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A freshly minted plum

I hereby declare myself officially tired of the following words and phrases:
  • freshly minted, esp. in reference to Ph.D.s*
  • plum (adj.)*
  • outside the box (yes, I know, everybody's been sick of this one for years, and yet apparently some people didn't get the memo)
  • didn't get the memo
  • create a buzz, buzzing
  • student learning
  • learning environment
  • student-centered (thank goodness my teaching philosophy is already written, eh?)
(*Can you tell that I've been spending too much time on the Chronicle's website?)

Und so weiter
. There are others. Perhaps I'll add them later. But right now I really need to be prepping for the class that starts in 36 minutes, not thinking of words I hate. Do you have anything to add?

Also, please see my preceding post and sign up for presents, please.

I need to post this before I forget!

Because Hilaire will be sending ME a present, I extend the memely offer to the generalized blog-o-sphere (forgive me; I've been grading). The deal is this:
If you'd like to receive a gift from me before the end of the calendar year, be one of the first five people to leave a comment, and ye shall receive! Just email with your RL address [heumihi at yahoo]. You just have to put out the same call on your own blog, and send out five gifts yourself.
I promise to send fabulous yet absurdly inexpensive gifts, possibly ordered from one of the retailers who advertise in the back pages of Bust magazine, and therefore supporting some independent female crafty person. (Possibly. Can't be sure. Some of that stuff is expensive.)

And I assume that it's okay to receive presents from more than one person? Cause the internet circles in which I move are rather maybe you can sign up with me even if you've already signed up with someone else? I'd hate to only send out FOUR presents!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One-Minute Dance Party

If you need a break from grading or job apps or whatever, go rock out with a dancing cockatoo.

You'll enjoy it. I did.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oy. Just...oy.

I have done very little writing today (relatively speaking), and yet my hand is all cramped up and achy. This is making it even more difficult than it would normally be to muster the strength to grade any of the 24 remaining papers from last Wednesday (I got through 6 this evening; the target is 8. Modest, yet undoable).

I also just had one of those moments where you start to read the next paper on your pile, decide that you're in no way strong enough to make it through that particular paper, and shift it to lower in the stack. Once I start down that path, the productivity outlook is bleak indeed.

I spent most of the evening feeling gloriously on top of things. But that's only because I'm stubbornly refusing to think about the things that I have to have done for Wednesday and beyond. Readings for the two different preps on Wednesday? Not done. Reading for Thursday? Not done. Don't even ask me about Friday. Oh, and right, I'm supposed to have a prompt for a major paper ready by class tomorrow! And I have meetings for most of tomorrow morning! But this is work that can be postponed; they don't have to be done by dawn tomorrow, after all. Hours and hours of potential work-time remain. So long as I get up at 4 am, that is. (Or, realistically, 6.)

Also, I discovered today that it'll cost me more than $500 to fly home for Thanksgiving. Which means that I might not be flying home for Thanksgiving. This pains me greatly, although I have to admit that the prospect of two fewer days in airports this semester is not terribly upsetting. A whine: How come I'm always the one--the only one--in my family who has to travel for the holidays? Obviously because I'm the only one who lives far away from the rest of my family. Nonetheless, it sucks mightily.

Ugh ugh ugh. Maybe I'll call it a night. I haven't really had dinner; does ice cream count? How about if I eat it with TV?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I might have made a mistake.

I ate some questionable tofu for dinner, and now I'm feeling a little ungood. It might just be heartburn, but it also might not.

...Okay, a confession: When I realized that the tofu was indeed questionable, I thought, "Hey, if I get sick, I can take a day off!"

Evidently I really wanted tofu. Or a day off. Or both.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

File under "Yeah, Right"

Apparently course book orders for the spring semester need to be in by October 12.

As in tomorrow.


Equally apparently, no one else has theirs together yet, either.

But I will be leaving all that behind, sort of, for a couple of days! I'm writing this from the airport: In just 5.5 hours I will be in the Metropole with the Boyfriend. Hooray! Long weekend!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Well, That's Over

So I met with the problematic student yesterday. For like 2.5 minutes. It was shockingly anti-climactic; he was totally agreeable, just said "Sure, yeah, okay," and I pretty much ran out of things to say after a few sentences. Well. What could I do, in the face of zero resistance? I told him that what he'd written was unacceptable in an academic context--not just my class, but any of his classes--and that there was no difference between this and racism/anti-Semitism/what have you. Eh. That's over.

And I'm feeling pretty much done with it, myself, so that suits me fine.

In better teaching news:

I had my students fill out mid-term evaluations this week, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. The upper-level and survey courses got generally very good reviews, and my comp reviews were surprisingly decent (not stellar, but fine--any dissatisfaction with the course seems linked to our choice of textbooks and the basic structure of the comp sequence, not to me in particular. Although I have been accused of using "too many big words." Um...k?).

There were a couple of funny comments in the reviews. Someone wrote (in pencil) "Seems very intelligent" next to the rate-the-professor question and then erased it; another student praised me for being delicate with students who weren't quite on the right track and managing not to just tell people that they were "wrong." My first thought in reading the latter was, "They're on to me!" Because I often have the sense--especially in that particular class--that I'm doing a lot of heavy damage control: putting out the Fires of Error without snuffing out the Flame of Enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Error-Fires tend to feed on the dry twigs of Easy Agreement to Score Participation Points, leading to a raging inferno that threatens to spread into even the minds of Sound Timber--I'm losing track of my metaphor--get the idea? Yeah. In plainer terms: Errors compound when they go unchecked. But I'd rather have the students correct one another than just tell them the right answers (obviously). So when someone says something that's just not quite accurate, I'll ask the rest of the class if they agree--sometimes this works fine, but at others I find us charging headlong down an obscure and troubling path--

--and, okay, I'm spending way too long describing a not-innovative strategy. Y'all know what I'm talking about.

So, hum. I have job apps to work on. I need to read for Thursday (because I'm booked from 8am to 9:30pm tomorrow). I'm not fully prepped for Wednesday. I need to figure out an assignment for Monday (no class Friday, huzzah!). And...maybe I'll just turn in early.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Teaching Query

This is probably a long shot, but has anyone out there taught That Female Poet of Ancient Greece* before? We're reading her for my upper-level course this week, and, while I have some ideas for how to approach her poetry (how we read ancient texts, articulation of desire), I'd be interested in hearing how other people have addressed her poetry in the classroom. (*Deliberately obfuscated to avoid Google searches.)

So yeah, I have some ideas, but since the upper-level course is well out of my AOS and I've only ever read FPAG (what an awful acronym) in preparation for this very course--like five weeks ago, and then again this weekend, to be honest--any and all suggestions would be welcome. I love her poetry, by the way:

I do not expect my fingers
to graze the sky,

for starters. Anyway, what I'm interested in is how we draw inferences based upon such small scraps. But since they haven't had any critical readings on this (other than the introduction to our edition), and this is hardly my area of expertise, I'm not sure how far I can go with that idea. Any resources that any of you would recommend? Other approaches to her poems?

I'll come up with something, I'm sure. But hey--y'all are a resource, and, in the Great American Tradition, I might as well exploit you. Right?

Friday, October 5, 2007

No Show

Yep, that's right: The Student didn't turn up for our meeting.

He did come to class, though--about 10 minutes late. And wandered out halfway through the hour for a while (to go to the bathroom or something; I don't know--this is unprecedented behavior on his part). When I walked up to him after class (standing over his desk, all severe) and said, "You missed our meeting this morning," he replied:

"What? Oh, right. My bad."

"11:00 Monday morning," I said.

"Yeah, okay."

Maybe someday, someday, this stupid situation will be resolved. In the meantime, I like to think that I have him on the run. At any rate his passive-aggressive techniques (if that's what they are) aren't actually bothering me all that much.

So much of my anxiety about this situation--and about teaching in general--seems to have melted away this week. I don't know why. But I'm hoping that it lasts: everything seems kind of...fine. For one thing, I'm not sweating through my shirt every time I stand up in front of a class. And I'll take that as a sign of success.

It's Friday, and I'm feeling good.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dr. Mihi, Thesis Advisor! (And also an update on the Situation.)

So yes, I am a Thesis Advisor! (By the way, am I alone in preferring "advisor" to "adviser"? Is "adviser" really the only correct spelling?)

I'm really excited to be working with this student: she's doing a thesis on a topic WAY the hell out of my field, but she seems very bright and enthusiastic and it looks like an interesting project. And if you're wondering why I'm advising a thesis that has nothing to do with my own work, it's because the English department at Field is tiny and there's nobody else to do it. Normally, VAPs and first-year faculty aren't really supposed to act in an advisory capacity, but the chair encouraged me to take this opportunity.

I feel!

In fact, I'm having a really good week. Nothing especially good has happened; I'm totally stressed and somewhat behind, of course, but that seems to be pretty much normal and I'm learning to live with it. Maybe that's the thing: I'm learning to live with the job. This whole gig does represent a pretty radical change of lifestyle, after all, so it's natural that I'd be a little overwhelmed, or even freaked out, for the first few weeks.

Class today was great, also. I made the conscious decision--and told my students that I was doing this--to relax my hold on the discussion. This is my upper-level course, and I really want it to be discussion-based, but I'd noticed that lately my grip upon the class had been tightening, ever so the point where I was literally back behind the podium. So today I made a tremendous effort, the students had clearly done their work, and I actually didn't even use my notes. Trust me: this is a major breakthrough.

(We'll see how long it lasts.)

Now for the less cheery news: The Student. I'm meeting with him tomorrow; I returned his paper yesterday. I'm not looking forward to this meeting, but I am (obviously) much calmer now, and I think that it'll be fine. I'm going to meet with him one-on-one and start off by telling him that this is simply inappropriate, that racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. speech is not acceptable in an academic setting. Period. And then maybe I'll talk about the issues with audience and voice and whatnot--we'll see. He handed in another paper yesterday that is riddled with sexist stereotyping and generalizations, unfortunately. Fortunately, however, the latter paper in no way addresses the assignment! So, while I've written comments all over the draft (it was just an ungraded first draft) that say things like, "Evidence?" and "This is in direct contradiction to your earlier argument" and "What basis do you have for arguing that all women are like this?" and the like, ultimately the problem, for our purposes, is that he has not done the assignment. Hooray!

One rather amusing upshot of this whole situation (and by the way, this is a comp class; I think I forgot to mention the context) is that some of the other students have started overcompensating for his sexism. As you might recall, he made some unpleasant remarks in class about women (basically that we're all backstabbing gold-diggers, although he didn't use those words), so the rest of the class is aware of his views. For this last assignment--which was to critically examine a social construction (or stereotype) about a particular group of people--I received a spate of "Women are equal!" papers. No, this doesn't really address the question either, and one of the things we're going to talk about when we discuss revision is the importance of adhering to the prompt. Oh well. Anyway. My very favorite one--it made me laugh aloud--came from one of The Student's friends. He wrote about how it's a shame that women are made to feel like they have to be thin to be beautiful, or are treated as though they can't do all the jobs that men can do. Women can do anything at all, he says. And all women are equally beautiful in his eyes.

Ummm....yeah, whatever, dude. I do appreciate the effort, though, even if he is just giving me what he thinks I want to hear; at least he's thinking about his audience!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Calm after the Storm (and before the Meeting)

So I'm feeling much, much less upset about the awful student thing. Thank you, everyone, for your ideas and support. I've now spoken with my department chair, division chair, and dean; they all had slightly different approaches to the situation, so I'm still deciding what to do.

I don't think that I'm going to move to kick the student out of my class, at this point (if he does anything else, though, that might happen). That probably wouldn't be in his or my best interests, since he has a lot of friends in the class, and he might end up just feeling stifled for having unpopular views. This is not my primary concern, but it does figure into my calculations.

The best (realistic) outcome of this whole situation would be if he were to learn that saying and writing such things is totally unacceptable and wouldn't do anything else to press these points in class, ever. Ideally, of course, he would also rethink his views of women. The latter is unlikely to happen anytime soon, however, and my kicking him out of the class is very unlikely to reform him at all--although, again, that is definitely a secondary or even tertiary consideration.

So. What to do? Well, two options. (1) I can have a formal meeting with him and another campus authority in which we take the "This is hate speech and will not be tolerated" approach. In this scenario, I wield my power like a mighty ax and emphasize the awfulness of what he's saying, how it makes people uncomfortable, etc. Or (2) I can meet with him one-on-one and discuss how what he's written is not a good example of persuasive writing, the importance of taking one's audience into account, and how such vitriol is precisely what alienated him from the article he's responding to in the first place. I could then move into talking about the effects of using sexist language in class, and how that's unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the future.

In both scenarios, he re-writes the paper.

At the moment I'm actually leaning towards no. 2, with the intention of watching his future papers and comments very closely and also of talking to his coach to make sure that this isn't part of a visible pattern of behavior (because obviously it's part of some larger pattern, unless he's really just trying to upset me, which I doubt). The upside of no. 2 is that he might actually learn something, and the fallout for me will be less: like I say, he has a lot of friends in that class. And if I present it as calmly and professionally as I intend to, then he'll be denied any satisfaction that he might have hoped to derive from upsetting me--if that was, in fact, his intention.

The downside is that I'm not sure I feel that this is a strong enough course of action. It was the one that the dean recommended, however, and she made some good arguments in its favor. (She read the paper, so she knows what we're dealing with.)

It would also be the easiest for me to carry out, frankly.

Anyway. At this point I'm calm, my rage has burnt itself out (thank God), and I'm ready to just settle this. I feel okay now, though. I was having some serious "I can't do this" feelings on Saturday night, and now those have dissipated; classes today were perfectly acceptable, and I'm not getting down on myself about any of this. I mean, one kind of nice thing is that there's no conceivable way I can blame myself for any aspect of this situation; I know that's sort of an odd thing to be comforted by, but it is a relief. My teaching is not at issue here. It's some other big scary thing instead.

Yikes. It's comforting in a rather selfish way, I suppose.