Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Words of Wisdom; George Michael Edition

I could whine endlessly about all of the things that have prevented me from blogging for the last 11 days, but I'll spare you. Suffice to say: grading! writing! grading! driving to the DuPont State! eating! grading!

More important to say this, perhaps: I'm sitting in my office, contemplating the great wisdom of George Michael. No, I'm not planning on propositioning an officer of the law in a public bathroom, but I am humming (to the extent that it's hummable) that great paean to modern life: Monkey. If you don't have on your fluorescent shorts right now, let me remind you of the first stanza:
Why can't you do it?
Why can't you set your monkey free?
Always giving in to it. Do you love the monkey or do you love me?
Ah, George. Wisdom for the ages. Applicable in so many different situations, but particularly this one. I'm sitting in my office being stood up by a student who has missed 3 weeks of class. I'm on my second day of a headache. In a meeting this morning, the apparently invisible, throbbing railroad spike in my eye was making me nauseous. A quick trip to the student center armed me with Advil, chips and a Dr. Pepper (caffeine and fat being key to holding back the full-on migraine). In an hour, there is a meeting that I've been dreading for three weeks. Dread of the "wake up in the middle of the night sweating, shaking with a combination of fear and indignant anger" variety.

So why, dear readers, am I still here?! Because I just can't get enough pain and nausea? Because I'm two teeth above de Sade level masochism? Because inertia is the most powerful force on earth? All true. But I think I'm going to let George speak to me. For today, I'm going to let my monkey free. Because, dammit, I don't love the monkey more than I love me. If you need me, I'll be at home watching Oprah.

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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.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

As Close to the Classics as I'm Gonna Get

All the kool kids (like Medusa) are doin' it:

William Shakespeare

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the kfluff
They kill us for their sport.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

I could write something of substance, but Project Runway is on, bee-yotches. Catch you on the flip side.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Easily Distracted

Yup, that's me. Easily distracted. Yup. Sure enough. What's that over there? Something shiny! I should go see what it is! Wait, but I could be cleaning the bathroom/putting down storm windows/grocery shopping/grading grading grading/reading for class/grading/writing an abstract... You get the point, I'm sure.

It is the time of the semester (hell, it's PAST time) for me to buckle down and do some work. All the time. To clear the plate well in advance of the next boatload of tasks coming in. As in, finish this set of papers because the next set comes in tomorrow. As in, if you want to write that abstract, you should spend the weekend reading and grading.

I'm on a new kick: I'm trying to spend less time punishing myself. I know, I know, it's crazy. I could probably use some punishment. And if any of you know a dominatrix that works on the cheap, send her name my way. Until then, I've come to the conclusion that refusing to let myself do anything over the weekend until I do work (and I do mean anything: go to the gym, read for pleasure, shower) just results in a weekend of sitting around the house avoiding work, but living under its shadow. I woke up on Friday and spent the the morning having a increasingly heated and histrionic argument with one of my colleagues. In my head, of course. But there was no way that I was going to do work at that point. In keeping with the "no punishment" rule, I went to Target. On Saturday, when it still felt like the entire weekend was in front of me, I went to the gym and then out for a bento box with Senor Fluff. And then it was the run-up to Torchwood, for God's sake! On Sunday, I had that "oh good Christ, I've wasted the entire weekend" feeling, and made a decision: if I ever want to be a real academic, I've got to spend time doing research. So I went to the grocery store (huh), and then spent the rest of the evening reading a book, grading two grossly-overdue student presentations, and looking at the collection of primary texts that I'm working with.

Oh, and I made this for dinner. And it was heavenly.

I don't know what any of this means. Part of my brain despairs; is it the case that I'm simply incapable of doing work? That I'm turning into one of those professors that never returns student works AND never researches (and the million dollar question: what do those people do with all of their time?!!)? Am I doomed to that fate? Another part of me thinks that I'm in some sort of gestative state---something's working its way to the surface and this is all a part of the process.

Either way, I've set myself up yet another week of anxious and exhausting teaching/grading/writing. But at least this time, I left the house.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

When You Know You're in Trouble

  • When it's still dark out when you get up, and you're in Daylight Savings time.
  • When you think to yourself: do I need a cup of coffee before I start grading?
  • When it's 10 a.m. and you're ready for a nap.
  • When you still have two papers to grade, an article to read, and classes to prep in the next 3 hours.
  • When you haven't showered yet.
  • When you woke up formulating arguments against the faculty members who passive-aggressively dismissed your field and blamed it for the downfall of an entire core curriculum requirement during a meeting with the Provost yesterday.
  • When your plan for the weekend is to both catch up on grading AND write an abstract.
  • When your birthday is a week away and you haven't had time to play for it.

Anyone else know she's in trouble?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

That Time Again

Yep, it's that time again. You know the one I'm talking about. There are about a 5 weeks left in the semester. You're tired and grading constantly. Students are tired and reading and working on papers and projects. They aren't quite at the "I'm having a nervous breakdown in your office" point yet, but you can see it on the horizon. Your colleagues are exhausted and grumpy sitting in too many meetings. All of this leads to the inevitable: one way ticket to The Land of Miscommunication, where all of the denizens either A) stare at each other in confusion; B) continue to re-state (badly) the same idea over and over again, regardless of the respondent's reaction; C) stomp off/mumble obscenities under their breath/leave the room and talk smack about each other. If I could get some more sleep and finish this stack of grading, it would be hilarious. If you're in that mystical, well-rested space, I hope the following examples entertain.

  • In a 45 minute conference last week, I worked through a theory article with a student. In that conference, she used two different examples that she thought exemplified particular points in the theory. I explained, very carefully, why neither would work (not least because the first is an annoying chestnut about multiculturalism that drives me nuts). She tried to defend them, but in the end abandoned them. Last night she sent me a copy of her draft. In it, she uses both examples, and now attributes them to the author of the article.
  • During a committee meeting today, one member would make a statement (e.g,, "When we last talked about this, we decided that cows were, in fact, mammals). Another member would then turn to me and away from the other member, and dismiss that statement (e.g., "Cows might be mammals, but it's not as if we've decided that as a group"). This happened over and over and over again, for 30 minutes.
  • I met with an advisee about today, to discuss her minor. She asked if I had a copy of the 2004 catalog, so that she could look up the requirements. She then showed me how those didn't match the requirements in listed in her file. After 20 minutes of discussion with the department chair and the registrar, I discovered that the advisee is actually in the 2002 catalog, which is, in fact, consistent with the information in her file AND written, quite noticeably, at the top of that file. It should also be noted that this advisee is not a strong student. When I first started working with her, her main interest was horses. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it may be the case that there's a certain intellectual communion happening there. Evidence for this claim is documented throughout her transcript. This, and several warnings from me, however, are not enough to deter her from taking 20 credits in the spring.
  • When I got home this evening, I put together the ingredients for Jamaican jerk pork--crock pot style. After I got it all in the crockpot, I asked Senor Fluff if he thought it was cold enough to leave it out on the counter. "No," he replied, "but we could put it on the back porch." "Forget it," said I. "The rabid squirrels will eat it. Do you think I can fit it in the fridge?" "No." At which point, I proceed to make room for it in the fridge. Senor Fluff expresses surprise: "I thought you wanted to leave it out?"

I could have explained, at this point, that I asked about how cold it was in an attempt to avoid the prospect of arranging the whole refrigerator. I wasn't really bucking for trichinosis for the whole family. But what's the point? Once we've entered The Land of Miscommunication, it's better just to let it go. Don't use your words.

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