Monday, January 09, 2006

Back in the Saddle

Today is the first day of Spring Semester here, and I've got to say that I really could have used another week off. Why we only get three weeks at Christmas, I will never understand. Sigh.

At any rate, this week I began reading Germano's From Dissertation to Book in earnest, in an effort to energize myself for turning the Diss into a Book. I was one of those whose adviser told me that I should think of the diss AS a book, and I think that to some extent I did achieve something closer to a book than some dissertations I've read. That said, it's NOT a book right now. It probably still needs another chapter (a) and it needs some substantial revision in order to eliminate some of the garbage grad student prose that found its way in (b) and I need to update the bibliography (c). I find it hard to believe that it's been almost three years since I finished the thing. Sometimes I think that I should just drop the whole thing - the newer things that I've worked on have gotten a much more enthusiastic response from the outside world - but I really do want it to be a book. I really do think that it's worth being a book. The whole process of making it into that is so mystifying and daunting, though, that I hardly know where to begin, and thus reading the Germano book has been helpful.

In teaching news, as I mentioned, I'm teaching a writing class (well, two sections of the same writing class) with the theme of celebrity. I'm very excited by this, but after introducing the course to the two sections this morning, I'm not sure that they are. I know that they aren't ready to be back either, but I really had thought that they would show at least a little bit of enthusiasm. Well, we'll see how things go on Wednesday when we have a "real" class that isn't related to course policies and syllabus minutiae.

In other news, I got a positive response back (and so quickly!) about Awesome Conference in BUDAPEST!!!!! that I'll be attending in June. Over the week of June 16th in fact. The question is this: will it be possible for me to turn this conference into a month in Europe? The next question is whether my parents will agree to house the Man-Kitty for such a long duration. The final question is whether I will have anything left in me for teaching the summer course that I agreed to teach that begins in July if I do manage to do this. (I know, I shouldn't have volunteered to teach in the summer, but the money for teaching just one course is like 9% of my annual salary, so the money tempted me.)

In service news, I've got a search committee meeting this afternoon that I must prepare for. As well as a bunch of other stuff to accomplish between now and then. As always, I'm aiming to cross off 60% of the things on my list. I'm a huge fan of the 60% is enough to accomplish rule.


USJogger said...

Straight from the department of unsolicited advice:

Have you thought about not starting your class with syllabi and minutiae? That always bored me so badly, that I just gave up on it. I prefer to go into class and get my students thinking. I'm in the mathematical sciences, so I like to give my students a problem and just put them to work on it. I send the syllabus home with them, and ask them at the beginning of the next class if they have any questions. I think that you could do the same thing by, say, asking your students to define "celebrity" or to write (and share) a short essay on an important theme.

This approach is not universally popular. The students tend to show up prepared for a short, boring talk about syllabi and minutiae. Some of them resent having to turn on their brains on the first day of class. (Face it, some of them resent having to turn on their brains at all.) But I like challenging my students, and I like setting the tone on the first day of class. Expect to work.

Free advice, and worth every penny.


Dr. Crazy said...

I actually do something similar in other classes of mine. The problem with doing it in the writing classes is that I do a lot of things in there that they have never seen before and that freak them out unless I give them reassurance and explanation on the first day. What is an "ungraded writing assignment"? What do you mean that we have "papers" due every single week? What do you mean we have mandatory conferences? In classes with more traditional assignments and more traditional structure, I tend to limit the amount of syllabus discussion/explanation, but in the writing classes I can't find a way around doing it. (I should say as well that I cannot count on them to read the syllabus on there own at this university. I tried doing that once in a lit class - before discussing it with colleagues and finding out that nobody does it and that it always leads to trouble - to my own detriment.)

However, in principle I entirely agree with you that starting class in that way is universally boring.