Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Roaring Start (or something)

We're not really off to a roaring start over here, in Field College Spring Semester 2010. I've had nine solid hours of sleep on each of the last two nights, and I still feel like I need about three more hours when I wake up in the morning. Lingering effects of anesthesia + 4.5 hours of heart work? Ongoing effects of terribly cold weather and dark winter mornings? Renewed effects of having to get up and go to school? Who knows??? It is A Mystery.

Anyway, I do have a sweet sweet sweetness of a schedule this semester, thanks to my TWO course releases. One release is for directing the Honors program, which takes up a good chunk of time but is still more enjoyable and usually less hectic than teaching. I actually love organizing things, so reviewing the students' files to make sure that they're still in good standing is an absolute pleasure to me. Serving on the thesis committees is more of a mixed bag, but it is interesting to learn about such a wide variety of topics. Of course, we only have three students writing theses this year; in two years, there are sixteen coming through the pipe. I'm sure a good handful of those will drop, but even if I have to serve on eight thesis committees, that'll be about five too many. The other release is to finish the book edits and index and to get started on a new project. This is where all my powers of self-discipline will have to be focused, for I've really fallen out of the regular research/writing habit over the course of the last year. And I want this to be a productive semester.

So my schedule, though, is just one class a day. I teach at 1 on MWF and at 11 TTh. Awesome, right? Right! But it will be imperative that I don't dither away my mornings and then my afternoons, as well. The MWF class is the survey, so the prep there is pretty minimal; the TTh is eight new novels (I do this to myself every semester!!), not a one of which is actually in my field. In fact, they're about five hundred years to the left and a country or two southeast of my field, for the most part. How I love a teeny tiny faculty! However: They are fabulous novels, and I love them, and I am excited to read them again--I haven't looked at most of them in the last decade, so it'll either be a fun reunion or a terrible awakening to the fact of having made a terrible mistake. My love for a tiny faculty, up there, wasn't entirely facetious. It's kind of cool to be able to teach stuff that I didn't specialize in but that I nonetheless love.

But really, I always hear people complaining that they've assigned one or two texts that they've never taught before over the course of a semester, and how much more time-consuming that's going to be. I guess it is--I wouldn't know, since I always have at least like a DOZEN totally new things, and have not had one semester without an entirely new prep. In fact, in my six semesters here (we'll count the current one), I've had...13 totally new preps. (It doesn't help that I have completely revamped my comp class every single semester. We're all hoping that we in English have come up with a reusable formula this year.) And, since I had almost no teaching experience before getting here, each new prep has involved a basketful of new texts. The fact that adding one or two new novels doesn't seem like an appalling amount of work to me makes me worry that I'm a dreadfully sloppy instructor, since it's not as though I go out and read up a storm on those texts. I just assume that my Infinitely Superior Close Reading Skills and Very Rough Sense of What Was Happening At the Time will carry me through. Foolish, perhaps?

Anyway. There's no point to this post; I'm just trying to be a Better Blogger. Time to get my shit together and go figure out whose Fall GPAs lost them their Honors status.


Good Enough Woman said...

But at least you've READ those eight novels before, right? That's a good start!

And about frittering away time? I am the queen of that. See? I'm doing it now. I think you'll be more focused than I have been during my sabbatical. You seem very disciplined.

Hope you keep getting your rest!

What Now? said...

For most lit classes, I think that Infinitely Superior Close Reading Skills and Very Rough Sense of What Was Happening At the Time are sufficient. A couple of years ago, I was freaking out about having to teach The Odyssey, which I had never read before and which is WAY outside of my field of expertise. A colleague finally calmed me down by reminding me that I know much more than the students and that I was on top of the skills that I needed to teach them. Turns out to have been a spot-on assessment, and I had a great time teaching it. (I think that high school teaching is probably similar to small-faculty college teaching, in that we all teach outside of our field.)

P said...

I love that you love teaching texts outside of your area! Enjoy the light load -- so happy for you :-)