Friday, January 14, 2011

Making It through the First Week

Wow. I don't know even what to say, but wow. I'm teaching at 8am course. Teaching at 8am means I have to wake up at 5 because it takes me a really long time to wake up and get my tongue untied and because I'm still nursing the Tot and he needs to eat before I run out for a really long day. It's also winter, which means there's all that extra bother in the morning with the car -- and then there the actual driving which could be terrible. And when I'm driving, it's still dark out. I'm visiting the Coffee Corporation before I go into work, not that I haven't been normally, but this is a must! And then there's actually teaching a full course of none-too-happy freshmen who only reluctantly take my course even as they grudgingly admit that it's useful and they need it. Great. That attitude always makes everything fun -- especially at 8am.

But this is the course I decided to theme, and so I'm determined to have fun with it. I've actually completely revamped my courses, and, inspired by this and the example of a Senior Scholar back at Grad City U, have decided to really experiment with non-traditional grading. I find myself hating grading, and it occurs to me that straining my brain to figure out whether a paper is a B- or C+ is not a great use of my time -- and does the students precious little good too in terms of actual learning and improving their skills. I also revamped my upper division course. Whereas last year I felt that I was in the wrong place, now I feel a bit invigorated by the challenge of presenting such alternate ideas in front of them. (They can argue them down and become more critical thinkers that way.) Or, maybe, with my birthday this year making me feel distinctly middle-aged, I just want to be less Miss Nice and Trying to Help, and relax into being more myself. Maybe not so helpful all the time.

I calculated my hours by writing down when I was working at home and assuming that when I was at work, I was working (which was not always true because sometimes, like today, I find it hard to settle down after I teach into getting anything done). For the week, it is about 32 hours. But who knows what I will do over the weekend (and I do need to do quite a bit actually). I think it will be just about 40 in the end, and so I shouldn't worry anymore about the actual hours or whether I'm overdoing or underdoing, but whether I'm getting done what I wanted to get done. I'm going to try to keep on top of things this quarter, though I already feel all my different commitments spreading me out. For that reason, this financial seminar that I thought I'd take to get the money under control -- well, I've decided I'm not going to add any activities that do not contribute directly to my immediate physical and mental health. The finances certainly do that but at the cost of one evening per week. This quarter is already going to be severely taxing. I'm changing the habits of a life time and saying no to spreading myself too thin.

I actually want to use little bits of time I may have for work because good things are happening on the scholarly front: my little article got accepted, and another Senior Scholar (who surprised me in the dark ages of this blog by asking me for a copy of my dissertation when such dissertation was more imaginary than real) invited me to submit an essay for a volume. The volume is in an area I used to do more work in, or was trying to, but when I received the invitation I couldn't help but sketch out some ideas, even though I haven't yet answered Zie's email. In addition to that, I looked online and saw that the Edited Collection should be out any day now. Hopefully winging its way through the mail to me! I still need to work on a piece for my favorite journal, but these other good things help me to build confidence because my article is not a small one, but an encapsulating theory for doing things differently. Some would say that such a young scholar shouldn't sketch out such big ideas, but. . .who cares! That's the other side of my Middle Aged Status: I just want to say to the powers that be: look, I've done it your way and it's never made me happy or made it easier to sleep at night. Now I know what I'm doing. I know the risks. Leave me alone. I'm not sure who I'm saying that to though. Probably my own voice of fear. So, I hope, I'll soon stop wringing my hands and get started on revising the darn thing.

I also did a colleague a favor. While I was happy to do it, especially when Chair came to me looking distinctly uncomfortable and I had the power to make Zie comfortable, I only realized afterward how this favor makes it impossible for me to do some fun things that I might not have done anyway, but at least I would've had the chance. Oh well. I think this is one of those short-term trade-offs for long-term dividends.

Finally, I'm taking a break from Facebook. There are just too many people out there who drive me crazy. I keep thinking that Facebook can be this space, like other aspects of our lives, where we can live our values. And if someone says something stupid or heartless or racist, we can engage them and try to do something about it. Lived activism. But maybe we can and maybe we can't. But I don't have the energy to pour into engaging with these people. Instead of telling you exactly what's going on, I'm going to tell you a story.

~~~Wavy lines. Wavy lines.~~~

In my high school, everyone ate outside in their own little enclaves (except the Band people, who often ate in the band room), rarely mixing groups. But I moved around a lot. I had a group of friends who were the Good Girls, a group of Mormon and other girls who often talked about the details of the soap operas their mothers would record for them. While the Head Mormon Girl and I often clashed on different things, she and I agreed that this was stupid and we rolled our eyes when the girls started up. But I could only take a certain amount of the whole thing, and when I'd had enough I would silently vow that the next day I wasn't coming back to the group. I'd make some excuse for the next day, say I had to do something, but the next day I'd really dash into the lunch area for a bagel, then jet into the library and hide in a cubicle. Sometimes I just needed to be away from people, away from where I could be looked at, from where people would ask what I was thinking, where I could read or stare out into space, or just be. I'd also wander to other groups, often not rejoining the group for weeks or months.

-Dissolve to present.-

That's what I need to do now. I need to admit that I'm no longer interested in hearing from this little group (actually a specific person) and remember that there was a reason why I jetted out of my nice little suburban Republican upper-middle class subdivision just as fast as my little legs could take me. They don't get it. And while I think someone needs to set them straight, I'm not that person. I have students who I have high hopes for. I have a gorgeous son. I'm chronically exhausted because I have to wake up early, and then later I can't fall asleep and just toss and turn. (True quotes from this morning: "I tossed and turned for about an hour last night." "Wow, maybe you have a problem." "Yes, I do. It's called insomnia." You can see what a snarky bitch I am, even to someone who I love and who loves me, in that wretched place called morning.) I've got scholarship to work on. I can't be thinking about how pissed off I am about one idiot's idiocy. (Of course, the real problem is not Facebook or even this person, but that I can't control my mind's propensity to obsess and fret. I think really I'm just mad that I don't have the ready tools and evidence to argue her down, as if since I'm a professor (isn't that nice to say?) I should be able to refute her arguments from memory. But I can't. And I can't control my mind's obsessive nature either. So instead, just get rid of the contraption causing the problem.)

No yoga yet, but I'm close. The first week is always hard.

I'm falling asleep. Well, that's good at least. Good night and happy long weekend full of inspiration to join together and work for social justice!


undine said...

This is inspirational, this post! I am planning keep track of the hours spent teaching and writing, too, and am going to continue trying to avoid Facebook.

Anonymous said...

I hear you on the FB thing, too. I use it strictly for fun, oh, and to vent, too, sorta, well yeah, when Stu is aggravating me and there are things like raccoons trying to get into my kitchen. And I like that it helps me keep in touch with some people, albeit in a superficial way, but it does help me feel connected to some.

That being said, there are some on there--oy, I can't take the vacuousness, never mind the politics. It's the materialism and the bragging that gets me. Perhaps I brag or I think I'm different when I say things like "We just got a new car!" and I'm really not. Maybe I'm just a jealous bitchy snob. But some of the "look how great I am" stuff gets me more than other things and I don't like the green monster. I know this is my own issue, but I think for every "good" thing about FB, there are like three "bad"things about FB.

I agree with Undine--this is inspirational! You actually sound really healthy and positive! Yay you!! Sorry about the 8 am thing though. But I feel your pain. After a semester of not having to be on campus before 1 pm, I, too, have to be there at 8:15 am. Although I don't teach until 9:50, the J has to be there early for class, so I'm just going to go with him. That's going to hurt for a few weeks. Good luck!!