Friday, July 1, 2016

Discussing the Slow Professor: Week 1: Introductions and Preface

Welcome!  I am delighted to host a discussion of Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber's The Slow Professor:  Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.  Please join us for a thoughtful discussion about its principles and how we can apply them to our own academic and other work lives.  In keeping with the book title and focus (and to keep me from swallowing the book whole), we're deliberately reading slowly in order to savor each morsel and really digest its lessons, so we'll read one chapter per week and discuss it (which should allow even those who are on challenging reading schedules to weigh in). 

Here's the breakdown by week:

Week 1 7/1-7/7:  Introduce ourselves and read/comment on the Preface.

Week 2 7/8-7/14:  Discuss Introduction (pp.1-15)

Week 3 7/15-7/21:  Discuss Ch. 1:  Time Management and Timelessness (pp.16-32)

Week 4 7/22-7/28:  Discuss Ch. 2:  Pedagogy and Pleasure (pp. 33-51)

Week 5 7/29-8/4:  Discuss Ch. 3:  Research and Understanding (pp.52-70)

Week 6 8/5-8/11:  Discuss Ch. 4:  Collegiality and Community (pp. 71-84)

Week 7 8/12-8/18:  Discuss Conclusion:  Collaboration and Thinking Together (pp. 85-89)

At the beginning of each of our weeks, I will put together a (hopefully) thoughtful prompt about what we read and then we'll use the comments to discuss the text (whether your comment follows my prompt or not). 

I would ask that everyone play nicely and engage in collegial, productive discussion.  Most of us probably have strong feelings about academic life as well as the culture of crisis and efficiency that is encroaching on, or come to dominate, our work lives (for good or ill); we just need to remember to keep from turning our strong emotions on each other.  If you hate the book or someone one's comments, please just critique thoughtfully.

For this first week, please introduce yourself, your institutional background (if you wish), and what you're hoping to get from this discussion.  Once you've read the Preface, please feel free to comment on that as well.  (Also, if you're like many people with busy summer plans that have you busier some weeks than others, please feel free to join the discussion even if you can't be here each week.  I realize that in starting today many US citizens are just about to start long weekends, which may or may not be perfect for getting some reading done.  No worries:  join us when you can!)


Friday, June 24, 2016

Coming Soon: Discussion of The Slow Professor

(Ohmigod, ohmigod ohmigod.  I am done!  Let the summer begin!  It's about time!!!)

Coming soon to this blogspot is a discussion of The Slow Professor.  We'll be taking it slowly, reading a chapter a week and mulling it over, discussing it.  I'm excited because I must figure out a different way to approach my job for everyone's health and sanity, and I long to discuss it with others!  Here's a piece from NPR about the book that explains why you should join the discussion!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Telegrams from Land of Overworked Overwhelm

Have gotten to impossible part of quarter.  STOP.  All research goals on hiatus for duration. STOP.  So much grading.  Please make it STOP.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Anyone Want to Discuss The Slow Professor?

So TLQ is back, so I'm doing that work over there.  But probably many of you have seen this report on NPR about the new book, The Slow Professor.  It not only critiques the corporate university's emphasis on speed and efficiency, but uses Slow Food principles to advocate another way.  With my love of slow food principles, I just had to get the book.  I savored the first chapter and am reading the second.  But I can already see how wonderful it would be to discuss the book with others.  Anyone want to discuss this in a sort of book group way?  I could host here or we could develop a new blogspace so everyone interested could have blogging privileges.  I've also asked if people on TLQ are interested as well.  Leave a comment here or email me at if you're interested.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Weekly and Secondary Field Check-In

So Top Left Quadrant is starting up again next week.  Thank goodness.  (I hate the quarter system.)  It'll go from next week until August.  I'll have to create session goals, as usual, which will be weird because the first five or so weeks will be during teaching and craziness, then starting in July, I'll have some time off.  Woohooo!  I can't wait!  I really want to get some serious work done on Secondary Field Project!  So let me think of that for a few minutes.

Secondary Field Project

So what's become clear since I made my ambitious goals is that some of them are easier to meet than others. Writing 3x a week is going okay.  Some very busy weeks it does not get done, but mostly I can squish it between this and that, either in the morning or on the weekends.  What I haven't been able to do is to make sure that the freewriting is actually leading to the monthly goal of 2Y.  This actually has always been a problem.  Freewriting is great.  I can do that all day long.  (I wish I could do that all day long.)  But then when it comes to pulling that writing out of my notebook and seeing which pieces really have potential to be further thought about and developed -- I'm not getting that done.  I actually think I have to wait until Summer for that, which helps me think about those Summer goals.  In Summer, I want to continue the writing, but also go back and review what freewriting has potential.  So each work day, I will need to start off by writing and then go back into my older writing and see what has potential and can be revised.  I'd like to have a big chunk of Y by the end of the Summer.  One TLQ-er mentioned figuring out what's worth doing this Summer by imagining sitting down with tea on the first day of Fall and feeling satisfied with one's Summer work.  Now, what would cause that satisfied feeling?  I think what I want is that by the end of Summer, I have the writing -- the Y writing and the writing with promise that can be worked on -- printed out and all together in a folder.  I've been working on this project for so long and in so many places -- my journal, on my computer in various separate folders, in special notebooks of notes -- that printing it out and seeing it would really help my morale.  So by the end of Summer, print out what I have. (Anne Lamott says you have to do this -- print everything out so you can see your progress.  I remember it really helped while I was working on my diss as well.)

It's funny but a friend of mine in Secondary Field tells me that she does her new writing during Summer and then uses the year to revise that.  I can understand the wisdom of this, since Summer time allows one to be much more exploratory while during the schoolyear one is more critical, a perfect attitude for revision.  But somehow I'm backwards from that.  I can write in a somewhat exploratory way, but going back into my work and engaging in revision is beyond me.  Maybe I need the writing as an outlet during the year.  Maybe I just need more time for revision.

In the "need more time" column, I worked on my sabbatical application again last night.  I must get that done before the end of the quarter.  Really.

Last Week's Goals

1.  Research:  Try to get back to 3x.  Try to engage with or address one big source I've ILLd that must be returned very soon.  Touch Sabbatical application at least once?

I think I did manage 3x this week, though that's complicated by the fact that I ran out of pages in my journal and must get a new one.  I addressed the big source that I ILL'd and returned it.  I worked on my sabbatical application last night and discovered that I'd overthought it, that I was trying to argue things I didn't have to argue.  Still it feels like such a long shot.

2. Health:  Supplements, good food, be kind to self.  Sleep is good, and so is morale.

Well, I managed the supplements, good food, and being kind to self, mostly, but sleep is where I really failed because of the sleep versus morale problem where I stay up too late because I've had to work so much and if I don't get some me time I really will just freak out with grumpiness.  

3. Family:  Therapy exercises!  Keep evenings for family time.

Yes, I'm keeping on top of the therapy exercises as best I can.  I'm doing my best at keeping evenings for family time.  Spirited needs a new spring jacket and some other things and so I think I need to take him clothes shopping as well.

4. Gardening:  Try to get the tomato seeds planted.  Water.

It's been raining so I haven't had to do this.  I haven't gotten the tomato seeds planted yet.  Must get it done this week!

5.  Work:  So I need to commit to a good grading clip, keep up with seminar students, post something on our LMS, get that report revised and send it out for comments, and generally work with a good clip and commitment.  I think I have to allow myself extra coffee as a reward/enticement.

I got the big report revised, sent it out for comments, revised it, and then distributed it to all stakeholders last week!  I'm done with that nightmare!  (Of course, the very minute that I got that done and was having the two-seconds of celebration, my department chair reminded me of other work on that front. Sigh.  That's in progress too.)  I got a stack of detailed grading done by Friday.  Now I have a much bigger stack of much-easier grading I must get through.  On Monday, I have another stack of detailed grading coming in, so it would be great if I could get the big stack done asap.  Oy!

Interestingly, while I'm focused on Secondary Field, I got two pieces of good news this week (actually in the same day) about Primary Field work.  A collection I submitted a piece for now has a contract with a publisher (huzzah!) and I was invited to do something related to that work.  I love being invited to things, of course, and find it hard to say no because I suck at establishing and following my own priorities.  No, that's not quite it.  I have so many different interests that it's hard for me to say no to one because I have a commitment to another.  Really, doing this thing doesn't mean stealing time from Secondary Field Project though after I said yes, I thought to myself:  what are you doing?   The truth is I need to keep one foot in each field, and this helps me to do that.  

Upcoming Week Goals

1.  Research:  3x.  Work on sabbatical app.  Get new journal, stat!

2.  Health:  supplements, food, sleep, baths.  Do not drive myself nuts.

3. Family:  therapy exercises and evening family time.  Take Spirited shopping.

4. Gardening:  tomato seeds in flat.  Do it.  Get it done.  Water regularly.

5. Work:  Okay.  While I'd love to get the Easy Stacks done today and tomorrow, I'm also not going to have a crummy day with my family today and avoid doing all the other things I want to do (plant seeds, get new journal, maybe go get Spirited clothes?) in order to be a working machine because I also have work that is more urgent even than Easy Stacks!  So I need to get to some reading and responding first, then see if I can get something done on Easy Stacks.  Easy Stacks can be turned back later in the week, if necessary.  Later in the week, I'll get a bunch more from those classes, so I do need to get on the stick, but I'm not driving myself nuts.  (See Health.)

Happy May Day everyone!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekly Check In: Grumpy Spring Edition

With Top Left Quadrant on hiatus (only for another week or two, though), it's time for check-in.

Last Week's Goals

1.  Research:  3x on Secondary Field Project.  1 task other research.

I did not manage 3x.  I think it was more like 1x.  Not good.  Didn't do other task either.  Hard week.

2. Health:  Eating well, taking my supplements, and moderating emotions.

I did eat well mostly, though I also had a donut when they were there.  Mostly great about taking my supplements.  I've managed to get back into a nightly Ben and Jerry's habit that is less than ideal.  I was pretty grumpy this week as well.  Considering how grumpy I was, I did pretty well moderating emotions.

3. Family:  Therapy, family time, and Passover.

I mostly kept up with pushing Spirited's therapy exercises, though last week was cancelled and the therapist didn't tell us, so since we were doing a second week of the same exercises, I wasn't as on top of it.  Since our last appointment, we haven't done the exercises but that's because of Passover, which I think is completely reasonable.  (People around here are very Christian and lack knowledge about Passover, so I feel like any time I educate people on Passover, I'm doing a good thing.  Explaining that Passover is so important that we didn't do the exercises comes under that heading to me.  This is a place where you go to workers in national grocery chains and they've never heard of matzah.  Really.)  I have to get back on top of it today because we have more exercises than we've had in the past.  Oy.  We had a lovely Passover, and Spirited tried nibbles of most of the traditional foods.  We also watched The Peanuts Movie for a family movie night, so I'm feeling pretty good about family time, which is good because I need to start grading today, which usually means disengaging from the family, closing the door, and working instead of hanging out.  So I'm glad we had some special moments.  If I'm organized and not stupid today, I may be able to make matzah brei.  I also managed to get something wonderful and ongoing organized for Spirited, which we're both enjoying a lot.
4. Gardening:  Water the outside plants.  I hope to start some tomato seeds indoors as well.  I really just need to get out there every day because it's so calming.  And we're finally having some decent weather!

Errgh.  Mostly I'm asking Husband to water.  I remember now how hard it is to get that done when I'm trying to leave for work.  I did not get the tomato seeds started, but I realized that it was a multi-stage job (because I had to clean the flats first because, yes, I am the most unclean person in the universe and did not clean them last year).  So I cleaned the flats and now it's just a matter of actually planting the seeds downstairs, which doesn't take long but can be hard to get to.

5. Work: get ahead in my reading, catch up on some email and spreadsheet work, and revise a big report before the onslaught of grading comes in on Friday.

I did get ahead in my reading, though that is an ongoing challenge.  I did catch up on the email and spreadsheet work.  I did NOT revise the big report.  In fact, I've made little progress on it because I was so busy and grumpy.  Now I've got to face the grading as well as the other stuff I have to do AND the report.  Why don't I learn from these situations?

So overall it was a hard week in that I had student conferences filling up every spare on-campus moment.  In addition to that, there was lots of student email conversation, which is normal for the seminars I'm teaching, but was more intense than usual.  And I was pretty grumpy.  I also found out that one thing I worked on a lot last term is now pretty much falling apart (not my fault at all, but disappointing nonetheless) and then I heard about a possible retirement that makes me want to run screaming for the hills.  A group I'm leading is currently entertaining options for our task that make no sense to me, and a non-member of the group is constantly asking me about it and giving me things to read.  A piece of service I used to really value with other leadership is now, under questionable leadership, the most annoying part of my week, and I'm sure I'm looking daggers at everyone because I'm so annoyed at the spectacularly bad leadership.

This upcoming week should be better because the student conferences are over and so I'm not so overscheduled.  I do have some annoying challenging (trying to moderate emotions here) meetings coming up but they should be okay.   Breathe deeply.  Move like water.  I swear that place should buy me weekly massages because the stress of not choking the living shit out of some asshole who desperately needs it is sometimes very acute, leaving my body, especially my shoulders, so tense it's ridiculous. 

Upcoming Week's Goals

1.  Research:  Try to get back to 3x.  Try to engage with or address one big source I've ILLd that must be returned very soon.  Touch Sabbatical application at least once?

2. Health:  Supplements, good food, be kind to self.  Sleep is good, and so is morale.

3. Family:  Therapy exercises!  Keep evenings for family time.

4. Gardening:  Try to get the tomato seeds planted.  Water.

5.  Work:  So I need to commit to a good grading clip, keep up with seminar students, post something on our LMS, get that report revised and send it out for comments, and generally work with a good clip and commitment.  I think I have to allow myself extra coffee as a reward/enticement.

About my attitude:  I've been pretty grumpy.  Why?  Part of it is just the time of year.  I see all my academic friends talking about sprinting to the finish line of their semesters with the imminent reward of summer spread out before them, but my quarter is really just beginning.  It's spring finally, and I want to be outside.  I think I always get grumpy at this point in the year actually.  Then there are things going on on campus that are grumpy-making:  that task I worked on last term falling apart and, though it's not ended yet, it seems all the possible endings are bad; a colleague I like is leaving; possible retirement = GAH and perversely makes me want to work on my sabbatical application; a project I'm leading is not going well and people are bugging me about it while part of me just wants to exit; I still haven't finished that damn report.  And then there's the fact that I really want to be working on my research, specifically Secondary Field Project.  While I recognize that I just have a busy teaching schedule and a lot of service, I am irked by the fact that I can't get any work done.  My overall morale is low because I feel like I can't get to work on this project that feels very urgent and important to me.  What's more, I feel called on to work on this project, like that's what I should be doing with my life right now.  I work at a place that systematically devalues what I do and what I think is important so that feeling of being out of place increases my sense of being angry at the institution.  (Though I know it sounds ridiculous to be mad at an institution for the way I allocate my time, there is a known problem at my place with high workload.  It's one of those thorny issues where everyone knows we need to reduce our workload, but we don't have the money to address it properly.  At the same time, we're now adding a whole new layer of administration, so there'll be less money to address the problem with!  So we just stay overworked on a teaching basis, so people want to do less with service, which is understandable, but in many ways totally irresponsible.  So some of us do a lot of service too.  It's not a surprise to be in this situation.)  What really surprises me out of the whole thing is actually how much I want to work on this project, not the high teaching or service load.   But I want desperately to work on this project.  I can't wait until summer, which is a very bad thing to think when you're not even at midterm yet.

So everyone, move like water, float like mist, and grade like tortoise!  Have a great week!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

TLQ-Style Goals for the Upcoming Week

So Top Left Quadrant is at the end of a session.  Many academics are in their last month or even weeks of the semester.  They can see the finish line and are sprinting toward it.  I envy all of you.  I hate being on the quarter system.  I have a couple more months to go.  MONTHS, I tell you.  (And miles to go before I sleep.)

Top Left Quadrant, for those of you not familiar, is a weekly accountability check-in for session and weekly goals.  I love it.  I look forward to checking in on the weekends.  It really helps keep me focused on MY goals (for research, health, all those things that are so easy to forget about in the heat of teaching).  So, with my apologies to readers who find this deadly dull, I'm going to be TLQing here on my blog until I can convince other TLQers to start up a new session!

Last week was just terrible terrible because almost every moment of each day was scheduled with a meeting, either with students or colleagues.  (The meetings with colleagues are definitely more challenging than the meetings with students, but for me being so overscheduled is very stressful.  Some days, I had to be "on" for 7 hours straight.  It's a wonder I didn't run screaming for the hills.  Scratch that -- I still might.)  Most days this week should be better because I have fewer meetings with colleagues, though a still crazy number of meetings with students.  Cross your fingers.  And toes.  And eyes.

Research has been going okay.  I manage to do 3x a week on my Secondary Field Project, though it's less clear that it leads to the monthly goal of 2y because I don't have any time to look through the 3x work to make sure it's leading to 2y.  Addressing that means making the time for that, but I'm not sure that's a good idea because I'm not sure I really have any more extra time that I can use without stressing myself out from lack of "me" time.  (I love my project, but it actually is challenging at an emotional level, so I don't think of it as "me" time.  "Me" time is watching Poirot or movies I've seen a million times or reading fun books.  I need that time too.)  Perhaps it's better to just wait for the summer and then go back.  (My big lesson from the last TLQ session was that I need to have goals that are reasonable during teaching time.  For example, I've bought several books on managing stress and anxiety, but I do need to commit to engaging in those exercises just like I'd commit to an exercise plan.  Those kinds of commitments to create new habits take a ton of my energy; I've noticed in the past that when I commit to working out, it takes a lot of my daily energy to make sure that I get that done.  I can't just slip it into my regular schedule.  Those big changes are best worked on during non-teaching time.  Perhaps getting the 3x in each week for my Secondary Field Project is just as much as I can do.  And that's okay.  My hope is that setting more reasonable goals for change will reduce my stress as well.)

This Week's Goals

1.  Research:  3x on Secondary Field Project.  There are a bunch of other research things I want to do (scary stuff associated with Forsythia, a little project; sabbatical application; other supportive activities on Secondary Field Project), but this week is likely to be difficult so how about just one task associated with any of the other research-related areas?

2. Health:  Eating well (which means remembering to eat in the face of all those damn appointments and making sure I consume healthy fare instead of lattes and donuts), taking my supplements, and moderating emotions are ever my goals.  I also need to take care of an injury I'm trying to recover from.  If I don't make some considerable effort here, I'm bitchy to all.  Moderating emotions and moving like water are very important here to keeping some lines between work and family as well.

3. Family:  I've learned to really focus here.  While there are tons of things I'd like to do on the family front, I can't.  It's SO hard on me to have to come home and drive some home project forward immediately.  I know because I do it everyday.  My big goal here is to keep on top of Spirited's therapy exercises.  It used to not be my responsibility to keep on top of this, but family morale on this got very low and so I took over.  It's a giant pain in the ass, honestly.  Part of me resents this a bit but I have to admit that for a long time, I mostly checked out of the therapy stuff because I wasn't the one taking Spirited to his regular appointment.  Now, for the good of all (i.e., so Absurdist Husband gets some time off from Spirited and I get some focused time with Spirited), I take Spirited to his regular appointment.  It does make sense for the person who knows most about them to lead the exercises.  Absurdist Husband does a lot, so I can't fault him.  It's just a bad situation.  I've pretty much held off on adding anything else to our family plate (like continuing music lessons or swimming or Cub Scouts for Spirited) until this therapy is done.  So keep on top of therapy is the main goal here.  Making sure to have some nice family time is another goal.  Passover's coming, so that's another big thing that will be happening later in the week.

4. Gardening:  Water the outside plants.  I hope to start some tomato seeds indoors as well.  I really just need to get out there every day because it's so calming.  And we're finally having some decent weather!

5. Work:  Now TLQ is not really for work but supposed to be about all those other things we lose track of because of work.  But I include work because projecting the week's work and dealing with it well is fundamental to my other goals, including health and family.  There are many ways to get work done.  I can be grumpy about it, wait to the last minute, and then torture my family with my need to get it all done right this very second.  Or I can think about it ahead of time, figure out what I'm going to need to do, and schedule and do it with the least amount of stress possible to myself and the family.  In short, I'm a reforming procrastinator who used to use stress to get stuff done.  This approach works a lot better for people with lots more energy than I have or fewer responsibilities overall.  I have been so much better about planning out reasonable amounts and approaches but it takes constant vigilance.  On Friday, I'll be collecting grading from all classes.  I'll need to turn around the smaller, but more intense, stack by the following Wednesday, which means working on that next Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday.  The other two stacks would be great to turn around by the following Friday, though I don't know if that's realistic.  But none of that is this week.  This week, I need to get ahead in my reading, catch up on some email and spreadsheet work, and revise a big report before the onslaught of grading comes in on Friday.

So I hope everyone has a lovely week.  I may blog the insanity throughout the week since I'm trying not to torture Absurdist Husband with tales of work woe and stupidity.  And there's always plenty of that around.  Complaining about it is necessary as we all know.

Move like water, all!