Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snow day!

I'm 31. And still a snow day is just as fabulous as it was when I was 8. Long weekend!

--And this is an extra good thing because my inability to think beyond the current work week has, once again, led me into some real trouble in terms of getting ready for the next. At least now the stuff I had prepped for tomorrow (what little I've already done, anyway) will last through Monday. And I can think about getting ready for my Field College campus interview. You want to know what's weird? Having to schedule a formal, all-day interview at the college where you already work, with the people you see and talk to every day. Yep, they're even taking me to breakfast.

ETA: Annnd if you guessed that I'd spend my extra evening off getting drunk and watching movies, hooray! You win a cookie! Much like one of the cookies that's slated for my immediate consumption!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bon Blogiversaire a Moi

I started this blog a year ago today. While I was swimming yesterday--or maybe it was the day before--I thought of some things that I could say about that: mainly concerning how this blog isn't quite what I envisioned it to be, but has become a much more sort of frivolous and largely silly blog with the occasional desperate cry for job-related reassurance. I'm perfectly okay with that. I think it suits me.

But I don't remember exactly what I was going to write, and I'm starving and also need to head back to campus in just over an hour to show a movie to my students, so I won't try to reconstruct my thoughts. Instead, and true to the above-stated theme, I will only say that today is the EARLIEST POSSIBLE day that I could POSSIBLY even DREAM to IMAGINE hearing about either of the jobs for which I have had campus interviews, and I am, accordingly, a wreck. (Never mind that this state could last weeks and weeks--I know the process--I will proceed to fret in an undetermined fashion, fraught with self-loathing and despair, until everything is settled and/or I've resigned myself to my fate.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Dream of My Life

Why yes, it is a personal goal of mine to be seen in my bathing suit and swim cap by as many of my students as possible.

Preferably my freshmen. Even more preferably, my freshman boys. Oh yes.

Was there some kind of Dr-Mihi's-Comp-Students-Special-Lifeguard-Training session over winter break? I mean really.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Aw! Sometimes they're nice to me.

Field College has begun holding campus visits for "my" job--or, rather, the tenure-track version of my job. (My interview/job talk aren't for two weeks, thank God--I need a break!) So in my survey class today I mentioned to my students that they should consider going to the teaching demo this afternoon; they need students to attend these things, and it might be interesting, and they'll have a say in who gets hired, etc. Now, they all know that I'm interviewing for the job too; the chair has sent emails to the campus about the search process. When I'd concluded my announcement, one student asked if I was going to go to the talk, and I said, "No, that might be weird," which provoked some laughter. (The survey is the fourth class I teach MWF, so by then I'm a little...looser? than I normally am when I teach. So far I think that this has served me well: they laugh at my jokes! And we all know that that's the ultimate goal of any teaching situation.)

Anyway, after class, as they were sort of wandering out of the room, one student remarked, "I think it would be cool if no one went to any of the other candidates' presentations but yours was standing room only. It'd send them a message about where we stand."

"Well, thanks," I said, "but you should go anyway."

And another woman came up to me after everyone had left and asked point blank, "Are you leaving?"

"It's all up in the air right now," I said (or something to that effect).

And then she told me that she'd switched majors (which I think she'd been considering doing anyway) so that she can take an upper-division course with me next year.

How touching! I was touched. And a little conflicted. But mostly that felt good--because I got my course evaluations yesterday, and true to my way of doing things I find myself absorbing the negative comments first (I'll get around to the positives in a couple of days and wind up feeling perfectly good about myself; no worries--this is how I process things, for better or worse), so it did make me feel that my teaching is actually meaningful and productive and that I'm not just on some endless comp-grading treadmill.

On the subject of course evaluations, though. I was struck by how well some of my students seemed to have me pegged, particularly in comp. The evaluations were generally positive, I think, the lit classes much more so than the comps (which didn't surprise me at all, and was totally in keeping with my sense of how the semester went). But a few of the comments from the comp evals were interesting. For example: that I seemed unsure of myself and afraid to stand up for my views. Or that I seemed nervous. And yes, I was nervous in comp, precisely because I was unsure of what I was doing and uncertain about whether I should agitate for my interpretations or just let the students talk (because the content of the course wasn't particularly interesting to me and wasn't actually relevant to the goals of the course, I thought). Fortunately, this semester is all about what I like, so I feel a much greater degree of ownership over the material and I don't think that uncertainty will be a problem. Plus I'm not scared of students any more.

Annnd on the subject of the Field search: It's a little awkward trying to avoid running into the job candidates, especially in SUCH a small department. All kinds of weird complications. Further complicated by some general weirdness surrounding the job search about which I'm not going to blog. It'll be nice when everything is settled--for a lot of reasons.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Thing about Winter

Here's the thing about winter. When it's winter, I scuff around in my slippers on the beige wall-to-wall carpeting in the study/living room, and then when I sit down at my desk I first need to touch the metal goose-necked lamp in order to diffuse all of my static electricity before coming into contact with my computer. It kind of hurts, and I dread it a little every time I get over here.

On the other hand, I dread it a lot less than I dreaded zapping the laptop back before I figured out that touching the lamp first made things better. (I came to this realization, oh, yesterday.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What's in Store

I present you with the first batch. (I had my students attach an in-class pre-writing to their papers; hence the ragged edges.)

For those of you who were curious about the numbers:
  • 3 sections x (avg.) 20 students = 60 comp students
  • 1 section x 25 students = 25 survey students
  • 4 short papers + 3 drafts + 4 final papers = 11 comp papers
    • 10 comp papers x 60 comp students = 660 comp papers (I miscounted last time)
  • 4 short papers + 1 midterm + 1 final = 6 survey papers
    • 6 survey papers x 25 survey students = 150 survey papers
  • 660 comp papers + 150 survey papers = 810 papers
I've been so excited about this semester's syllabi and the students (who seem like a good bunch thus far) that I'd forgotten all about this part of teaching. Yeep. This is the semester in which I experiment with typed comments, methinks; my hand won't make it otherwise.

In other news, there haven't been any bird pictures on this blog for a while. Here are some geese that I photographed in the fall. I'm really fond of this picture, which I only just downloaded from my camera tonight. I like the way that the birds are captured in flight between the two trees.

The Lull

I'm giving myself the morning off before I begin preparing Teaching Demo 2. Due to a variety of unrelated and incomprehensible airline delays, I didn't get home until about midnight; I hadn't eaten dinner, so despite my exhaustion I cooked up some pasta + parmesan and had a bit of wine whilst watching "Arrested Development" DVDs. Then I slept until 10. It was nice

Now I'm afraid of getting my hopes up and all, but before I firmly put School 1 (Miracle U) out of my mind, I can't keep myself from writing a few words on how heavenly it seemed. Great students, gorgeous campus and area, fabulous research support, all kinds of amazing opportunities. But enough! Wish me luck--I was the first of three candidates, so there's going to be a long wait. And I have this other school to go visit.

I can't think about this anymore. I need to read about what y'all have been up to, instead.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Um this is weird, a bit

I'm taking a break from my interview madness to remark on a sudden surge in blog hits.... Apparently my recent clothing query was linked in the footer of a Wall Street Journal "On Style" article. It's kind of a bizarre feeling, since I'm used to thinking of my readers as a relatively small group. I feel oddly exposed.

In other news, the interview is--well, okay, I'll say it--I love it, I love it! I shouldn't say this--the odds of disappointment are still so great--but the school seems terrific and lovely and argh. !!! But I need to stop and try to get a short nap in before dinner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Light(er) Blogging Ahead

I'm off tomorrow for Campus Interview. I'll be back on Friday night; then I have all of two days to get ready for Other Campus Interview, for which I leave on Monday. About 8 days from now I expect to collapse.

I'm really trying not to count on getting one of these jobs. The search process is so fraught with disappointment that one can't rush headlong into every glimmer of possibility, you know? I am, however, allowing myself to mix metaphors, or at least metaphor-like things, as freely as I wish. One must cut oneself some slack. One must indulge.

Yeah, okay. In other news, I'll be guiding an independent study in Shakespeare this semester. That might be some fun. Since (honestly!) my preps aren't too bad this semester, and once the job search settles down I'll have a little more time. The papers should start rolling in right about then, though; I'm pretty much in denial about them. Let's see--rough numbers--I'll be grading and/or commenting on...1200 composition papers this semester. ?? Wait--can that possibly be right? No, actually, it isn't. Hang on. Let's do this again. 600 papers. There we go. Six hundred freshman composition papers will pass through my hands this semester.


All right.

This is why we're interviewing, see.

So here I go. Wish me luck.

Monday, January 14, 2008

There Are Strange Things on My Netflix Queue

Seriously. "Johnny English"? How did that get there, and why?

Oh well--it comes tomorrow, and I'll watch it...someday.... Maybe after I've watched "Persuasion," which arrived more than a month ago.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Desperate Clothing Query

Okay, all you people with much better fashion senses than I, I have a question for you.

For this upcoming campus interview, I'll need two days' worth of suits. I have two suits; unfortunately, they are not of equal merit. The first is fine. Comfortable, flattering (I think), what have you. The second--well, the second was supposedly tailor-made to fit me, but the pants have never ever been comfortable, and they just look funny--they bunch up in the front, strain across the back, and are generally ill-fitting and cheap-looking. Can't wear those for the job talk. (The jacket is OK, if not as nice as the first jacket.)

The plan is to wear the nicer suit for the first day (when I'll be doing most of my interviewing and my teaching demo), and then Something Else for the second day (when all I have scheduled is a breakfast, a library visit, a lunch, human resources, and my job talk).

So here's my question. Or questions, I suppose; it's more of a two-parter.

1) Would it be okay to wear the solid-black jacket with a pair of black pin-stripe pants? The blacks in the two garments are close enough that there wouldn't be an obvious clash, but it would be obvious that these items didn't originally belong together (because, of course, one is pin-striped and one is solid).

2) If not, can I wear the better-fitting suit pants with the other jacket? They're both black, but not quite the same black, and someone might notice that I'm wearing the same pants two days in a row. Not sure if that matters. Or if anyone will be paying such close attention to an innocuous pair of black pants that they would detect the repetition.

Or life could be easy, and I could wear the same suit both days (with different shirts), but that doesn't seem right. (Or is it? Can I do that?)

Any other options out there for me? I am in possession of very little formal attire: I have some long skirts and button-down shirts and a variety of rather eccentric sweaters. Long skirt + button-down could make me look reasonably professional, but it isn't a suit. And none of my skirts go with my suit jackets. At all.

Should I switch things around, and wear the questionable outfit on the first day--when I'll be making first impressions and will generally be more visible (in the teaching demo)--and save the nicest suit for the job talk, when I'll be meeting the entire department? Actually, no, I'd rather not do that. I'll be writing on the board and gesturing a lot during the teaching demo, and the better jacket is definitely preferable for that kind of activity.

Bear in mind that it is, literally, impossible for me to procure any new clothing between now and the interview. Unless I make a run on the local thrift store on Tuesday morning, and I think it would be best for everyone if I didn't do that.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

At Least I'm Consistent

I'm in the middle of revising a chapter into a job talk, and I recently decided to look over the conference paper that I pulled out of the chapter last March to see if I'd made any really nice revisions there that I might want to incorporate.

And yes, I made some nice revisions. The thing is, I've already made most of them in the job talk, too. I mean, word for word, I'm revising in exactly the same way that I did last time.

It's a little freaky. But it's strangely comforting at the same time--like I have some kind of coherent aesthetic vision or something. (Or I just make the same awkward phrasing mistakes again and again?)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

All Hail Moe, for Moe is a Benevolent God!

Okay. Could my rampant superstition get any more encouragement?

I knock on wood; I admit it. In fact, if I say something that warrants wood-knocking, and there's no wood present, I feel a very real anxiety and wish that I could take back my words.

There was a time back in November when I lamented, on this very blog, that I was anxiously awaiting calls about interviews even though it was far too soon to expect to hear anything--and within 15 minutes I got a call. Last May, I was on the verge of lamenting, on this very blog, that I would never ever get a job when I got a call scheduling a campus visit for Field College. And now, withing a couple of hours of my latest lamentation...I was called about a campus visit. At one of the schools that seemed great in the interview.

Too-ra-loo! I say. Too-ra-lay!

So here's the scoop, y'all: If you complain in earnest, then the Job Market will hear you. It's kind of like the Secret: Failure is all your fault; you weren't whining hard enough. (I'm kidding. I hate, loathe, and despise the Secret. It represents all things deplorable. And I think that I should stop whining.)

And now I need to figure out how I'm going to pull off canceling three consecutive days of classes this month. Because Newest Interview is next W-F, and then Already Scheduled Interview is the following M-W (M being a holiday, so no worries there). My carefully crafted syllabi are falling apart and my students will feel betrayed. Delighted, but betrayed. Perhaps I can do something about comp, though.... Agh! This is a problem I was hoping to have!

All Praise Moe, Almighty and All-Knowing

Well. The semester has begun, and, as I sort of expected, I feel much better about it now that it's (slightly) underway. I've designed my comp course to be pretty fun--according to me, at least--and it looks like I have a good group in my survey. And I'm already loving the MWF-only schedule.

So, what new mopey anxiety has me blogging this evening? Not a new one at all, of course, but the dreaded Job Search. I think that I should name my search, I talk about it so often. I think that I will call it Moe.

Moe has me worried, again, because he's been so quiet. Seriously, how long does it take a search committee to settle on its finalists? Actually, don't answer that--unless the answer is "at least two weeks," "always longer than anticipated," or something else to that effect. Two of the schools I interviewed with said that they hoped to make decisions by the 6th, and today's the 8th, right? So...could something have gummed up the works? I hope so.

I'm not really allowed to complain, much, because I'm definitely in the running for two jobs right now. But for reasons that I can't discuss, there could be problems with those jobs. At least with the one for which I'm most strongly in the running. Ugh. Moe, Moe, where are you? Moe! I invoke thee! O Great Moe! Moe the All-Powerful, Benevolent Moe....


You know, it's a lot easier to invoke--even worship?--an entity when it's personified. Hm. How much psychological dysfunction do I want this semester?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Are You Kidding Me, Bookstore?

You tell me the day before classes start that the book I ordered 2 full months ago--the one that sixty of my students need by Wednesday--hasn't arrived yet?


Regular Blogging to Resume

Okay, I know that I've been pretty quiet here--not posting much, nor replying to your comments, nor commenting on anyone else's blogs. But the state of exception (holidays, MLA, boyfriend visiting) has come to an end, and as the ordinary routine returns, I expect I'll be appearing here more frequently.

To sum up my recent activities: After the MLA and the VGS rejection, TB came to Field Town for a week-long visit. He's just left, and it was rather a sadder parting than usual, because in a couple of days he'll be leaving for a long sojourn on the other side of the world. I'm hoping to make it out there in March and then again at the end of the semester, but it's an expensive flight and my life is currently too unsettled (i.e. will I have a job?) to plan things at all in advance.

So here I am, staring down the barrel of another semester (classes start tomorrow), and hoping that I'm not too many more job searches away from a livable life.

All right, fine: that was melodramatic. Life is livable. I'm just ready for a life lived in one place, with the person I want to be with, and the possibility of a family. Forgive me; I'm in a low place this morning.

And I have things to do. Doing concrete things is one reasonably reliable way of getting out of low places. Here's a list:
  • look into airfares to Other Side of the World, estimate taxes, try to come up with a budget so that I can fly there twice
  • buy a humidifier so that I don't wake up choking on the dryness of the air or drive myself crazy with itching
  • prepare my classes
  • groceries
  • make granola for the week's breakfasts
I want this semester to be different. Last semester was such a haze of teaching and anxiety--as I knew it would be, of course. That was fine for the first semester, but I can't sustain that level of busyness. This semester will be different, in fact, in two important respects: 1) I only have 2 preps (albeit 4 classes) and 2) I only teach MWF. Now, MWF will be brutal, given the 4 classes, but since I did three classes MWF last semester I don't see how it'll be all that much harder, and the TuTh off will be a miracle. So, in light of this novelty, I have resolved the following (see, this is kind of a new year's post, too):

Teaching will not be the whole of my life. I will keep it in perspective. To that end, I hereby resolve to not be the very best possible teacher every single day. Because if I'm constantly trying to be the very very bestest, as I was last semester, I will be exhausted and every day that I'm not perfect will demoralize me. Moreover, my life will be unsatisfying and lopsided.

During MLA, I realized that I missed research. It was such a pleasure to talk about my dissertation during the interviews that I know I need to get back into it. I'm not going to have the time or resources for serious research this semester, but I have to get the book proposal out, and I need to revise the intro. I also need to prepare a job talk and a teaching demo--one of last month's phone interviews has yielded a campus visit, and I must get on that.

There. I feel better. The weepiness has subsided. Nothing like a list....