I think it's because I tend to think in bullets for teaching purposes. Five things that characterize the Romantic period. Three things going on in this poem. Whatever. (My apologies to google searchers who want to know five things about the Romantic period. You will have to consult your notes and/or your book. I'm mean like that.) But so anyway, I've been doing a lot of thinking in bullets, and so I want to write, but I can't organize these thoughts into bullets. Consider this my apology for rambling.
I had a great meeting with BES, my thesis student, today. She's so smart! And she takes direction so well! She is so trusting that when I tell her to do something that it will bear fruit! And she's so diligent! However, I had one of those awful moments today during our meeting when I realized the undue influence that I can tend to have over certain ones of my students. We were talking about some theory she was looking at to figure out again why she was writing her thesis, and she brought up a passage and offered up her answer to the question that the theorist was asking. Let's just say that her answer is my answer. And so I chuckled, and I said "well of course!" but then I went on to explain that this is evidence of my undue influence, and so she should be careful to resist anything that I am in total agreement with :) We both laughed, and she totally got my anxiety about it, and she promised she would try really hard not to think like me, even though she thinks we're both totally right. Ah, BES. She is fab. So we had a good meeting today, and I offered up some possibilities for ways she can go as she continues drafting (she did not do any writing for this meeting - she needed to figure some shit out before she continued), and we set up our schedule for the semester. I then picked her brain about how she thought Class with Very Difficult Novel was going, and she thinks that it's really going well and that people are into it.
This is surprising, as this is a class where I typically expect a mass exodus upon beginning Very Difficult Novel. Well, they're 6 chapters in, and I've lost just four. It's kind of astonishing to me, but looking at their reactions over the past couple of class periods (I make them turn in index cards with insights and questions each class), they're, with the exception of one or two, getting it and doing well. Sure, some are stronger than others, but as a group they're where I'd want them to be with this material. And, like BES, they all are so trusting about doing what I suggest with the book! They're so... open. I hope that I'm getting this response from students now - in pretty much all of my classes - because I'm doing something right. I'm hoping that it's not just a fluke of this semester, but that I've really worked on my teaching to the point that not only do I inspire trust but that I prove myself trustworthy by having them approach things in ways that work.
But so I'm excited about CwVDN, as I am about my other classes. I'm also convinced that with a 4/4 load, teaching one class online really makes it like a 3-and-a-half/3-and-a-half load. Yes, that class was a ton of up front work, but I'm not feeling terribly taxed by the four courses now that the semester is underway, and this is a new feeling. Yes, it helps that the other three courses I'm teaching are "in the can" so to speak, but even still: I'm not feeling like I'm burdened - as I even did when I taught four classes "in the can" in a traditional setting. So if you've got the opportunity to teach online, and you're not horrified by the thought of doing so and you're fairly tech-friendly and you've got some support for things that you aren't sure of how to do, I strongly recommend trying it out. At least for me, I think it makes a positive dent in an otherwise really heavy teaching load.
Which brings me to a conversation that I had with a colleague today. This colleague is thoroughly disheartened by the teaching load and by how things work at our university in general. You know, I get the complaints. I mean, I understand them. But I also feel like being miserable is no viable option for dealing with those complaints. This colleague basically plans to check out (and has already done in many ways). But as I talk to this colleague, I feel like she only becomes more unhappy with the job as a result of this choice. It's one thing if one can check out and really not be unhappy as a result. It's entirely another if one continues to feel disgruntled. You know, I think that's the reason why I don't check out. I think it's because I'd just be more pissed off if I did. Also, I suppose, it's because I'm seeing positive results from not checking out. Sure, during the school year, my job is "hard" in ways that other jobs are not. (Not to say that other academic jobs aren't hard: just that they're differently hard.) But I kind of think that accepting the job as it is in the ways that it's hard and actively working to change things to make it easier is a better response than passively lamenting the job as it is and the ways that it's hard, only to feel victimized and oppressed by it. Dude, nobody said that life would be easy, and nobody said that one is entitled to a perfect, happy life, even if one works for years to get a Ph.D. Life's too short to be pissed off all the time, though, so I think a lot of what I do - and a lot of my workaholism - actually is because I don't want to be constantly pissed off. This may seem counterintuitive, but that's how it is for me.
In a piece of bizarre and unexpected news, you know how I'd decided not to apply for anything this year? I think I have to do so. There's a job - what would be a great job, though I'm not hopeful they'd be into me - only an hour (driving slow) from Hometown. Note: I don't want to apply for any jobs this year. The thought is awful. I'm sick of going on the market. More than that, I'm sick of not being settled where I am, and applying for jobs unsettles me. But I think I can't not do it. Whatever the case, I'm not going to MLA to interview, and if that's a deal-breaker for them, they can suck it. Obviously, I'll offer to do a version of an MLA interview either in person (at my expense) or by phone, but who even knows if things would get to the point where that will be an issue. So I'll apply. It doesn't hurt to apply, right? There is also a job at a university in Lebanon for an English professor. I considered applying for a minute-and-a-half, until I realized I don't want to emigrate to Lebanon. If any of you would like to, though (the job doesn't specify a field in literary studies), you should totally do it because it's at a job in the North in an off-the-beaten-path place (i.e., not a hotbed of violence) no more than a 30-minute drive from where my family is (on the sea, in a city), and it would be fantastic if one is less of a dumb American than me. So if you're interested in knowing more about the country and that area in particular, dude, let me know. The job's listed in the Chronicle. Seriously: if I weren't in a tenure-track job and I didn't want to settle down where I am or near to here, I totally might consider it.
I'm exhausted by the whole Sarah Palin thing. Just exhausted. I mean, the day that the VP makes it to this website is the day that I think we all should be exhausted by it. Oh, and also the day that CNN interviews Rachel from the Real World San Francisco (which was today - I saw it.) I'm sick of hearing Republicans act as if the Republican party is the party that fights sexism (um, equal pay act anyone?), and I'm sick of the hullabaloo about poor Bristol Palin and her baby daddy (and poor the both of them for having to make an appearance at Sarah Palin's VP acceptance speech to prove they're together and that it's all about family values rather than allowing those two crazy kids just to get out of dodge and figure their own shit out), and I'm sick of the totally inadequate response by the Dems to the fact that we've all, as a nation, been distracted from things like universal health care, the economy, and energy. I don't even care whether Sarah Palin has experience or not at this point: I just care that she's become this shiny, sparkly thing that catches our eye and stops us from talking about things that actually matter to Americans in their daily lives. Incidentally, I felt the exact same way about the whole Clinton fiasco that started with Whitewater and ended with Monica Lewinsky, which ultimately resulted in the piece of legalistic porn that was the Starr Report. I'm an equal opportunity hater when it comes to distractions from, I don't know, things that actually matter, at least when it comes to politics. So fuck off, Sarah Palin. Fuck off, politicians. Fuck off, pundits and parties and whatnot. Until you start talking to me again, I shun you.
I think those are all of my rambling thoughts on this Wednesday. Indeed, I think I'm done. Let's hope that I can make it through tomorrow, because dude, I am tired.
2 years ago