Monday, August 13, 2007

Two Down, One to Go

One week from today, teaching begins. Two of my three syllabi are done. I've also written a bunch of my assignments for the semester, and I've done a good amount of reading so that I won't have to do it during the actual semester while I'm teaching (other than to skim through and refresh myself, of course). All of this falls under the heading of "not-writing-my-book," but I figure that since I've done all of this advance work that I shall be able to catch up with the book stuff once the semester is underway. (Not that I haven't done book-related work, but I've not done the really hard stuff that I should have been doing over the past couple of weeks.)

I suppose that now is as good a time as any to do some goals for the coming semester, as the start of the school year always puts me in a goal-making mood. And it's good to write the goals down, as then one has a better chance of actually accomplishing said goals. So. Here we are with some goals:

  • Lose weight. Between finishing the book manuscript in the spring, various visitors and travel engagements throughout the summer, and totally falling off the exercise wagon, I've gained back all that I lost in 2006 plus five pounds. This sucks. Also, incidentally, it puts me back at what I like to think of as "dissertation weight," which was also the "weight of a dysfunctional relationship." This is not where I want to be. And thus, subsets of the "lose weight" goal are to work out 4-5 times per week (which should also help with stress) and to get back on the healthy eating regimen (with but one cheat day per week) that helped me lose weight before in the first place (which should also help with energy).
  • Get back on the plan with one of my new year's resolutions (I've abandoned the others), which was to learn to make some lebanese dishes. So far, I've only learned how to make one stupid thing. This is sad. Sad, I say. Must learn at least 2 more by year's end.
  • In terms of relationships, there are things. I suppose what I want to achieve (should achievement be possible in this realm) is fun with a minimum of drama, and perhaps a bit more definition in certain areas. I'd really like, should such a thing be possible, to be satisfied with this particular area of my life in ways I've not been, well, ever. And I don't want to sacrifice in this area for the job. I've done far too much of that.
  • Finish revisions on collection essay by the deadline(ish).
  • Finish revisions on review essay (this week).
  • Finish book-related tasks.
  • Write MLA paper.
  • With all of that being said, I feel like this is a year of tying up loose ends research-wise. The overarching goal is No. New. Projects. The aim, ultimately, is to become a member of what my mom called "The Clean Plate Club" as a kid (which may be why I'm back to dissertation weight?), but in terms of research. I really want to make it so that I have a break in 2008 - a break that lasts for at least a few months. This is only possible if I finish with all of what I list above by the end of 2007.
  • My overarching goal with teaching is that I want to be as good a teacher as possible with the minimum investment of time. What this means first and foremost is keeping on track with prep and grading so that I'm efficient without sacrificing quality.
  • I want to invest more time in my lit courses with emphasizing writing. One of the things that I think has been missing (or if not entirely missing, has not been terribly present) is emphasis on this in terms of class-time spent on talking about writing about literature, even though it is actually one of the most important things that I want students to come away from my courses feeling competent to do. I think my thought in the past has been that they should be getting that instruction elsewhere - that by the time you are in a college-level lit course that you should "know" how to write about literature. I'm thinking more and more that this is counterintuitive. One thing I've already done in order to try to facilitate this greater emphasis is to cut some literary texts (something I've always been reluctant to do) in order to leave time for this. I'll let you all know how this experiment goes. (I should note that even with cutting some things, I'm still teaching a great many texts in my lit courses and am still probably trying to cram in too much. But dude. Students should totally expect to read until their eyeballs hurt if they're taking literature courses. That's kind of the whole point.)
  • I want to remain energized about teaching all of the courses that I teach, rather than indulging in a certain level of petty resentment about teaching things that I hate teaching (ahem, composition) and/or devoting more time and attention to the courses that I "like" best and then letting the others flounder. This will be a challenge, especially with the brand new prep that I'm teaching in the fall (that I am totally in love with, at least in theory).
  • Write my syllabus for the new prep that I've got in the spring. I've been toying with this syllabus for a year (since I found out I'd teach this course), and I need to make some decisions and stop tinkering as a way of procrastinating.
  • Ok, I'll be honest: my only goal with service is to do as little of it as possible without coming off like I'm not a team player. Thus, I need to say no early and often. This is not easy for me, as I tend to like to volunteer for things more than I probably should. Can I help it that I'm naturally a good department and university citizen? My answer to that question is yes, yes I can.
I think that this is an entirely reasonable set of goals for the fall, if an ambitious set of goals. And so now, back to the Final Syllabus. (God, I love that I'm getting things accomplished today and that it's not yet noon! Love. It.)

Edited to Add: I have finished my syllabi for the fall semester! Hurrah! I also made a hair appointment, so I will look smashing on my birthday! Hurrah! Now, the question is, which items on my to-do list would I like to tackle next?


Hilaire said...

I, too, think this is a really reasonable list - and a really good one. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your teaching-them-how-to-write-about-literature initiatives.

helenesch said...

Yes, definitely a reasonable list. But starting class in just one week?!? That's not reasonable! We start in 2, and that feels way too soon...