Saturday, August 16, 2008

Internal Time/External Time

On Wednesday, I met with a colleague to discuss our capstone course, since both of us are teaching it in the fall. Er, in a week and a half. When we had set the date for our meeting, he mentioned that scheduling it would inspire him to work on his syllabus. Two days later, he arrived at my house with a draft. I, on the other hand, had to search for my book order to remember what I planned to teach.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this that I'm no good with deadlines. What I excel at, really, is the performative self-flagellation and denigration that precedes finishing any task. I've got varsity letters in the "waking up at 4 in the morning" event; and I could compete at the Olympic level in the "number of ways to call yourself a loser/punish yourself rather than actually do the work" race.

As my colleague left, he was quick to console me about my as-yet non-existent syllabus: "you have plenty of time, don't worry." And strangely, I wasn't. I know that I have about 8 days to produce three syllabi. One of those is a repeated class with minimal change-ups, but the other two are new, and so will require some work. I can fuss and overthink syllabi as much as any person I know, and yet I just can't get too worried about this. The syllabi will happen, and I'll be damned if I'm going to waste my last few golden remaining days of summer wearing the procrastinator's hairshirt. Remind me that I said this, of course, next Sunday when I'm up til 3 finishing the class schedules.
While I'm grasping at the final days of summer, of course, I've already received two emails from my department chair about meetings and projects for the upcoming year---one of which apparently needs to be discussed on the first day of the semester. I am fully aware that administrators and chairs run on different times than faculty. HOWEVER. I am steadfastly refusing to respond until the beginning of next week. After 7 years as a faculty member at different institutions, I've only now resigned to the idea that the week before classes is work too---filled with obligatory meetings, social events, etc., in which I need to put on my dust off my happy mask (which has been moldering in a box all summer long, since my actual happy face has been working for me) and interact with people. I can accept that, with minimal grumbling. But that's the limit! No more! I refuse to relinquish the TWO weeks before the start of the semester! You can't make me! [throws self on floor, kicks and screams.]



Blogger Sisyphus said...

I hear you on the kicking and screaming on the floor bit. In fact, if that were an olympic sport, (The Whining Tantrum Triathalon) I would do pretty damn well.

Saturday, August 16, 2008 2:54:00 PM  
Anonymous The Bittersweet Girl said...

Oh, I'd give you both a run for that title!

My theory about syllabus prep is that it's one of those activities that will take as much time as you allow it to take. I know people who spend all summer preparing their classes and I think that, if I had a summer to spare, I could totally do the same thing. Ah, the reading! The leisurely consideration of structure! The preparation of clever assignments!

On the other hand, I can produce a pretty good class in a day or so -- so I have a firm rule: no syllabus prep until the week before classes. So, that week (which happens to be THIS week) is completely frantic and stressful but the syllabuses always get done, I'm always prepared for the first day, and I haven't spent 3 months (when I needed to be writing) working on it.

Procrastinate! I support you!

Monday, August 18, 2008 9:55:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

BSG--Hey! You have the same initials as Battlestar Galactica! Cool!!

Okay, in other news, I think you're exactly right; I don't know that I need to fret about my syllabi for days and days, and I think there are good reasons for extending the summer for as long as possible. Having said that, I find that there's also a certain amount of high-concentration drudgery that goes along with silly-bus writin', and I can't just whip them out. So perhaps there's something in between?

Sisyphus---you and me can perhaps be two legs of the Whining Tantrum Triathlon relay team?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 7:59:00 PM  

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