Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Year's Resolutions (an unlikely story)

Classes start tomorrow, and I have some goals for this year.

It's going to be a busy semester. I'm teaching 5 classes/4 preps (1 class only meets for 50 minutes a week, though, and it should be a fun one), advising for the first time (that's pretty much over for now, however), running the honors program, and serving on a major committee. The committee doesn't meet very often, but our department is undergoing a sort of review in connection with this committee, and I will therefore need to put together One Big-Ass Binder over the course of the year.

But. I have goals. And these are adamantly not research goals (although I'm submitting abstracts to a couple of conferences and still have that article in revision mode). No, my goals primarily involve not succumbing to a whirlpool of stress and anxiety.

Good luck, right?

Well, here's the plan. I'm trying to break this down into some components:
  1. Think nice thoughts about my students. It's not that I disliked my students before, or anything. In fact, I usually like them pretty well. But I worry far too much about how they see me, or how disengaged I'm sure they are, and how they think that this class/lecture/reading/activity is a complete waste of time, and as a consequence I become very wound up and anxious about my teaching. And then a) I'm a lot less fun in class, because I'm inhibited and nervous; b) I become a complete and utter pushover; and c) the feeling of being under constant scrutiny makes me very unhappy. Now, I'm not going to try some kind of magical thinking about how all my students love me! and my class! and the discipline! and homework! or anything like that. Rather, I'm going to try to see them just as people and myself as a fellow person and we're all just doing our jobs and hopefully enjoying parts of them and getting along okay. (And then I'll indulge in joyful reveries about my most enthusiastic students, of course.)
  2. In comp especially, be aware of where the course is going from the beginning. I have a thing I've made, the Mystic Binder of Organization, which carefully delineates everything (more or less) that will happen in comp all semester. I cannot tell you how much better the Mystic Binder makes me feel. I wish that I could show you the reverent gesture with which all references to the Mystic Binder must be accompanied.
  3. Remember that I know a lot. I don't think I'll have too much trouble with this one; by the spring semester last year, I was feeling a lot more secure in my knowledge (even though I was teaching things I'd never studied).
  4. Don't over-prep. This is the one I'm in the most danger of ignoring, but I need to have some kind of a life outside of teaching this semester, and so I'm not going to prep for four hours for a 75-minute class. (I mean in addition to doing the reading, of course, which could easily take four hours.)
  5. Allow myself to not work sometimes. I didn't work all the time last year, by any means, but I felt like I did--because every minute not working was a minute spent thinking about how I should be working, or just engaging in some really mindless time-wasting activity (like watching Friends on the internet). I want to, maybe, read one small non-work book this semester. I want to have meals with friends. I want to have a few glasses of wine! (Like every day! Ha ha!) One thing that will help, I think, is hanging out with the Minister (whom I'm dating); some ready distraction and frequent interaction with another human being will surely make the year more friendly. And he's a professor at Field, too, so he understands the rhythms of the worklife here--as well as being an excellent person with whom to gossip about students and co-workers.
  6. Exercise. This summer was amazing for the exercise. I swam 2000 meters three times a week (most weeks) and went to the occasional yoga class at Ordinary City, which is only about half an hour away. I know that I can't sustain that during the year, but swimming at least twice a week and getting to some yoga classes--or practicing at home!--will be enough. Doing physical work is the best way I know of to get out of my obsessive anxieties about being judged or inadequate. It's just me and my body, and that's good.
So, um, yeah. Tomorrow. Three classes. Away we go....


Sisyphus said...

Hey, I saw that! Way to go, it sounds like all sorts of things are coming together there --- may this year be fun as well as work!

Hilaire said...

What she said! You sound like you're doing great. I like these goals and may borrow some myself...

What Now? said...

Fabulous goals, ones that we all would do well to emulate. And hey, that's great news about the Minister! Here's to a great year for you.

ortho said...

Super plans! I hope you have a great semester!

Sisyphus said...

PS I want a full update on how you got the idea for the Mystic Binder and what you're doing with it!