Friday, April 30, 2010

Call Out the Men in White Coats

Well, a lot has happened since that foolish post. I realized how ridiculous I am -- how up in arms I get. It's as if chronic and sometimes even acute sleeplessness not to mention overwork is not enough, I need to make more drama. So of course my comments were responded to in a polite way -- and implemented really very little so far. I also totally freaked out in front of a colleague and realized post-freak out how crazy I was -- and felt calm. I then had a lovely day punctuated by a baby-addled night, leaving me exhausted and unable to get anything done today beyond talking with colleagues (which is important, but then so are the twenty things on my to-do list that turned into twenty five after I spoke with so many colleagues), so instead of being able to finally relax this evening and reap the benefits of having had this epiphany about going up for tenure, my brain is absolutely swimming in all of this undone work.

I really am truly insane and having the hardest time getting uninsane. I get better just to go wonky again. I don't know what it is.

It was actually a nice week. I had a good discussion with a smart student. The discussion reminded me that no matter what the learning objectives say, my one real job with students is to encourage them to think for themselves. Yes. That's it.

And surprisingly and ironically, a person told me she thought I was very down-to-earth for someone so educated. When I repeat it back, it doesn't sound like the offering it was, as if she were handing myself back to me and saying "you are okay." And maybe, "you're different and in a great way."

I'm glad I can enjoy it now, after Absurdist Tot had such a terrible night last night and I had such an unproductive day today that leaves me feeling pretty hopeless about the huge list of tasks. You know what though? I make mountains out of mole hills.

Lately, I've been trying to choose being happy and positive. Those who know me in RL are cackling hysterically at this point -- yes, I can hear you from here. And while being catty and self-deprecating has always been entertaining, it hasn't made me happy. So I'm trying to choose being a happy, more positive person. Trying being the operative word. I read this wonderful description of a person -- actually it's from a review describing Ashley in Junebug, and while I don't want to be Ashley, I do find this description inspiring: "a nonjudgmental optimist savvy enough to recognize the shortcomings of others, but sweet enough to offer encouragement, not condemnation." Now, doesn't that sound like a worthy goal?

I think I'm going to retire now to some Anne Lamott and chocolate.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Going Out on a Limb

Gah! I just did one of those things that makes me fear for my future. I'm just not one of those people who can shut up until tenure when I see something that I believe is a big mistake. So I told the people in power that I believe it's a big mistake (of course not in those terms at all), suggested what I thought would be better, and tried to emphasize that I mean only the best for them and their goals. There was no way that I could sit still and do nothing, because it was driving me batty -- and I know at least one other person who was also being driven batty. And really, I hope to be remembered by these people as someone who puts my best brain and the wisdom of my experience in service of their goals. But I fear I just look like a big jerk. I'm always the squeaky wheel.

In theory, everyone wants a passionate and smart colleague who wants to help, right? I'm a professional. I can't just sit by and watch something I'm participating in die an ugly death. But in practice, I fear, people want to carry on with business as usual -- or business as they think best (which is usually easiest). Dear lord, I'm obviously going to be sweating this until I hear some kind of response. Crap. I wonder if I should've talked to my department head first. Or a mentor. Double crap.

Well, being me, I could do nothing else. At least if I don't make tenure, it won't be because I pretended I was someone else for six years.

Is the right thing really to keep one's head down until tenure? If so, I am oh so not going to make it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rainy Sunday. . .Now with Chocolate!

So things have continued along the crazy path, hence my lack of blogging. On the days I'm on campus, I run frantically from one thing to another. On the good days, I'm pretty clear-headed about what I need to do next. On the bad days, my brain is like six people trying to get through a door at once. On the days I'm at home, things are considerably more mellow, but of course I still have to get work things done around taking care of the Tot, so it can be stressful to try to steal moments to respond to papers and email and read for class.

I really shouldn't blog about this, I suppose, but (oh! how I want to) it's amazing to me how much people can just not know about effective teaching and teacher development. Active learning just hasn't occurred to these people. Apparently they think the way to get people to make things their own is to just yammer at them. Dear lord! I mean, I realize that most people with PhDs haven't gotten them by studying pedagogy, but I don't think it should require specialized study to figure out that you don't inspire people to make changes in their work and take up the baton by just talking at them for a number of hours. Makes me wonder about their own teaching. Okay, enough said.

So I woke up this morning just completely not wanting to do anything. Taking care of Tot is fine, but I didn't want to work. I was just grumpy and grumbly, especially about tomorrow being a work day. (Tot keeps up waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to nurse, which does nothing good to my ability to sleep.) Absurdist Lover had to go out on a shopping expedition, so when he came back he showed me a lovely chocolate bar that I can eat while working, then a DVD of Tombstone he bought to inspire me to get done quickly. I know. I have the most wonderful man in the world. But here I am in the other room and what happened to that chocolate bar? (Ooh, he just stopped in to tell me he was taking the Tot to go change the laundry -- and he's getting me the chocolate bar!) It's official. I am the luckiest woman in the world. But now that I've shared with him that I've been blogging, I really better get to those response papers. Absurdist Lover, Tot, and Val Kilmer are waiting. It's a hard life, but it's also very very good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moving Forward while Sick

Things have been crazy. On the heels of getting well from one ear infection (taking the last dose of medicine), Absurdist Tot got another one. He went back to daycare today after being sick most of last week. Sigh. Of course, this means I'm sick again too. And last night AT woke up in the middle of the night and came to bed with us so I barely got any sleep next to little Mr. Fitful Sleeper!

Maybe it's that I'm sick and sleep-deprived right now, but I feel as if I've forgotten everything I know about teaching. Case in point: I'm teaching this great elective and the students have all sorts of interesting questions and topics they want to address. But we never get it all done. Each day I feel like we're leaving more and more cool stuff we could be reflecting on behind. I'm having trouble figuring out how to roll up all the stuff we're doing forward. Maybe this is because the readings we're doing right now address sort of similar stuff but from very different disciplinary perspectives. That might be part of it. But I'm just at a loss. I don't want to lose these other threads that students are bringing up. And I keep asking them to do these in-class writings and then we don't have time to discuss them much. But I think the point with the in-class writings is to do them, to experience them, not necessarily to talk about them, which I guess I should say in class. I don't know. I'm tired, I guess. If anyone has any tips for carrying the threads of class discussion forward in good ways, I'm all ears.

Also, despite telling myself to not engage in a zillion service obligations, I've found that I'm engaged in a couple email conversations that really get to the core of some of the work I want to do and I can feel myself wanting to be a mover and shaker on these issues. Down, girl, down. I'm laying groundwork. I'm also trying to develop a more cooperative and supportive style, rather than trying to storm the castle all by myself.

I've almost been here a year and I can really feel it, with my annual report due in a couple months and different end-of-year tasks on my to-do list. This is an interesting time. I'm not getting any research done yet, but I'm hopeful that once I'm well I'll have more energy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Survived the First Week, the Second Will Be Better

So I made it through the first week. It was an absurdist nightmare: I was sick, had pretty much lost my voice, and got my period (I know TMI) all on the first day of my classes. As I was sitting there in my office pumping, the words of a colleague kept ringing in my head: this colleague gets the same amount of research done whether s/he teaches or not. Meanwhile, I was sitting there dealing with all these things that my colleagues don't deal with: pumping, periods, getting sick because my son is a bacterial and viral sponge at his daycare. No, I don't get the same amount of research done whether I'm teaching or not. As a good friend of mine said when she had kids, this is just the time in my life when I don't get a lot done.

That said, I've been trying to get a lot done. My major victory? I finished prepping for my Monday courses last night. (Okay, a lame way to spend a Saturday night, but whatever.) I had a terrifically long list (the list is already a victory) on Friday that I managed to get through most of. This weekend when I'm freed up from Tot duty, I take out the list and see what I have energy for. So far, working on research has not gotten done, though it is on the list. I've got to work on that, first because I said I'd have a piece for an edited collection for June 1, second because research is not going to do itself.

So I have all sorts of craziness going on this quarter: a class I've taught before, an elective I haven't taught before, an eight-week professional development course I'm taking, and a bunch of tasks associated with my upcoming annual review, this article due June 1, my sister's wedding, working at the CSA. Of course, all this stuff is already conflicting with each other: the first CSA meeting is during the professional development course. Sigh. So I'm trying to be more organized and forward-thinking that usual.

I've been worried that I don't actually work enough, because the days I don't go to campus, I really do spend most of my time taking care of the Tot. So I've been watching the actual hours I spend when he's awake and asleep doing work. Yesterday, it was about four hours. If I do that every day I'm not on campus, then I'm definitely working 40 hours per week. 40 hours per week of actual work (rather than just being on campus) seems totally reasonable; of course, it also means I have practically no time for anything else, but what else is new. It also doesn't account for all those times I'm nursing or chasing Tot down but thinking about the best approach to teach Concept A in my course. Most people get to do that productive daydreaming in their offices; I get to do that while picking little green monkeys off the floor. (Of course, when I start getting piles of papers to grade, this will all change, I'm sure.)

So I'm determined to get research done in my weekly work schedule. (Writing daily, while ideal and the best thing to do, is just not practical for the working mom.) Right now, I still have this Very Important Article to read and take notes on, the same article I've been promising myself I'd read for the last couple months (while I was worrying over my conference paper). This last week -- the first of the quarter -- was a weirdo, a one-off, being sick and everything. Even Tot's daycare was weird. But I am going to get research done this upcoming week. I'm determined.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

I'm working in slow motion, trying to ready myself for next week. Next week! Sigh. Absurdist Tot went from totally okay and running around during the day on Wednesday to snotty and watery-eyed Wednesday night. So no daycare yesterday. And today they're closed, but it doesn't matter because AT has green gunk coming out his nose and yellow out his eyes. Poor thing. He's napping now -- one of God's small miracles. Yesterday, we had to resort to sit up nursing because the pressure in his head when he was lying down made nursing impossible. Poor little guy.

So I did manage to get some work done yesterday -- solid progress toward the new quarter -- all thanks to Absurdist Lover. So with the wee bairn asleep in the middle of the floor and the beautiful day shut out (we'll take a walk later -- Absurdist Tot loves going out for walks), I'm asking myself what small step I could accomplish at this point that would make me feel a bit closer to the goal. Yesterday I managed to roughly outline the quarter -- wow, a quarter is a short period of time! I always worry that there are better readings out there somewhere, but clearly I won't be able to even use all the ones I'm excited about. Well, it's a new prep, an experiment. Some of my favorite classes (gosh, maybe all of them, now that I think about it) have been experiments. I guess I could start to order the stuff -- or I could start some of the other aspects of the syllabus. It's easier to just open a new tab and start looking for even more texts and films. I know! I wrote some stuff down longhand that needs to be typed. That kind of super-easy stuff is definitely what I should do. (They're actually learning objectives -- and our campus, like so many others, is very hip on including learning objectives on the syllabus.) So that's a big step in the right direction!

I made bread today, though this one looks funky. Mostly, we're just mopping up Absurdist Tot, though AL has his usual long list of projects keeping him busy.

By the way, if you need to laugh -- and who doesn't? -- read Paul Reiser's Babyhood. This guy knows what he's talking about -- but he's so frigging funny that I'm reading and trying to hold my laughter in so I don't wake the baby. It's the kind of funny because it's so true. So frigging funny.

***Update 5pm***

When I finally settled down into typing out those handwritten learning objectives I was talking about above, AT woke up from his nap crying. I was in the bedroom with the door open -- a pretty normal occurrence and he usually just toddles in to me, but this time he was looking for me in the kitchen and wailing. He had all this gunk coming out of his eyes. When I tried to open the blinds, he shut his eyes tight for ten minutes, even when we closed the blinds and put him down on his boppy, even when he was nursing. The gunk kept coming out of his eyes. AL suctioned his nose and two seconds later it was running green again. Really, he's about as sick as I've ever seen him, with big red eyes. When I went to call the doctor and handed him to AL, AT started wailing again. This is not my usual active child. He didn't want to be put down until, finally, he saw that he had unimpeded access to a couple of DVDs he likes to play with. Then I figured he would be okay. We started up Follow that Bird, and -- get this -- he looked to me when the Grouch's Anthem started up. (I like to sing it. See what kinds of madness I start?) I even got a glimpse of his usual sparkley-eyed self when I sang it. Now, he's watching Big Bird's adventures and hanging on to one of his socks. We now have a doctor's appointment for noon tomorrow. Poor guy.

Note to self: You can no longer wait until the last possible moment to write a syllabus, because that's when AT's going to get sick. Or you're going to get sick. Or whatever. Moms are more organized because of their extremely limited time. You're a mom now. It's time to realize that the last possible moment is about two weeks before you think it is.

The Count is counting the telephone poles. All is right in the world. ("Once you set your heart to moving on. . .there ain't no road too long." Words of wisdom.)