Saturday, November 17, 2007

Just Say Yes

In the world of English, you have a choice to make about the week before Thanksgiving. Do you:
  1. Make paper drafts due now, and thus hand them back before the break, or
  2. Make them due the day before break?
This year, I chose #1, for a couple of reasons. First, because there's really only a week of classes left after the break, and that's just not enough time for a significant revision. There was also that very selfish consideration wherein the thought of a Thanksgiving break spent reading paper drafts fills me with existential dread. It's so lovely when pedagogical rationale and personal care-taking overlap!

What I did not anticipate, however, was a call-for-papers on the new project that I've been working on, with a deadline that fell in the paper-reading window. And when I say "a new project that I've been working on" what I mean is "something I've been thinking about, ordering books on, and accumulating various primary texts from around the web." Not "I have 15 pages of researched, polished prose that are well on their way to becoming an article." And so last week, I found myself faced with a dilemma: do I devote my precious few hours of acute mental energy to finishing up grading those last few assignments in order to clear the decks for the paper avalanche that came at the end of the week, or do I research and write a kick-ass abstract?

Normally, I would have made this decision by not making a decision. I would have dithered about it, feeling guilty about both, and thus spent those few hours reading all y'all's blogs and looking at sweaters online while trying to decide the best thing to do. This week, however, in the spirit of "stop punishing yourself," I chose, authoratatively and firmly. I chose option B, and I wrote my abstract.

I don't know if this makes me a bad teacher. I know that there are those of us out there who do it all: prep and teach great classes, manage massive service loads, AND do scads of brilliant research. I bow down before your efficiency and energy. I am not one of these people. If I've learned anything in the last four years, it's that I can't prep, teach, attend meetings, run a program, and do research all at the same time. And I've got the CV to prove it. For me, seeing to the students has always come first. And I've got the CV to prove it. So this time, I said yes to the research. And it reminded me that, contrary to my oft-held belief that I'm useless at the end of a long day, I could indeed sit in my office from 5-7 and write semi-comprehensible prose. And then I could run off to drink wine with my Theory-head reading group. Apparently, I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.

Perhaps it's the case that choosing actually shows me that I can do more than I think I can do. Or better: choosing, with the understanding that I can't do it all, actually enables me to do more than I thought I could. All I'm saying is, there are benefits to saying yes to work, instead of saying no to everything until work is done.

On that happy note, I'm off to read drafts to hand back next week.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

you made a great choice! i definitely would have taken option c: not deciding and websurfing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007 9:34:00 PM  
Blogger Sisyphus said...

Bravo! Good job! I really do think that my dithering and avoiding become the biggest time-suck of all. That doesn't necessarily make me actually get off my butt and _do_ anything, but still.

Saturday, November 17, 2007 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Thanks, you two, for your positive reinforcement. Sadly, yesterday was spent doing c...

Sunday, November 18, 2007 9:14:00 AM  

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