Monday, January 30, 2012

Now that the shininess is wearing off

A few years ago (2006, I believe), I went to a weekend retreat on "dancing the goddess free" in Asheville (I mean, come on, it was in Asheville).  It was such a wonderful experience--one of the outcomes of the weekend, in fact, was my determination and decision to finish my BA in earnest (and here I am six years later with not only a BA but an MA and coursework completed toward my doctorate. Quite the weekend, indeed).  However, the Monday after the retreat was AWFUL--I was so sad.  I missed being excited about jumping out of bed to go to sunrise yoga by the pond.  I felt resentful toward my asinine coworkers.  I didn't care one iota about transcribing meeting notes.

I think something like that may be going on in my teaching right now.  After teaching two sections of Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies last semester (70 students total!), returning to teaching composition feels like a let down.  I've taught this class once before, and haven't made any major changes (partly because I think this sequence of assignments makes sense, and partly because we were given about a week's notice to turn in our syllabuses for this semester during finals week last semester).  Sure, had I wanted to make a major change, I could have, but I think that, for a class whose focus is argument and research, this assignment sequence--a rhetorical analysis of a print ad, group skits on argument fallacies, followed by a research project which includes an annotated bibliography, a researched expository paper, and a researched position paper--accomplishes the major goals of the class.

I wish I could resurrect the themed 102 class I did at UT, which had research its focus, and was focused on the South.  It included field research and archival research, along with academic research.  However, the way that schedules keep shaking out, I keep missing the window of opportunity to submit my themed course proposal.  That's one solution for my boredom.

I also fully admit that teaching a WGS course last semester has contributed to this feeling of let-down I have this semester.  WGS was so fun--the students were such a self-selected group, and were so excited about what we were doing, and the course material was so interesting and relevant.  My intention is to have even composition course material be interesting and relevant, but it's starting to feel stale.  And, this class is made up primarily of two groups of friends, so I'm having to wait out the chit-chat more than usual.  This detracts from my motivation.

I was reading Donne Quesada's Buddha in the Classroom last night, which addressed just this feeling of burn out and boredom.  Her suggestions included trying to stay in the moment and connect with students individually, which I tried today.  I also started the day by sitting zazen for ten minutes, though that led to my not having time to sit down and eat my cereal this morning.  I took it in a baggie without milk, instead. 

Now that I think about it, I am intending on trying some new things in the classroom, like incorporating some of Sondra Perl's Felt Sense exercises.  It's just that this is the first time I've been in the classroom and not been totally excited about being there.  I'd so much rather be doing my own work--I've got a couple of articles I'm really excited about right now, and the course I'm auditing (on the Queer South!)  is overlapping nicely with both my reading lists and my interests.  I finally sat down last week and closely read all of Foucault's History of Sexuality, Volume 1, and was so jazzed about it.  I'd like the jazz to bleed over into my classroom, right now. 

(now I'm thinking about writing a poem called "I'd like the jazz to bleed)

I suppose I'm being incredibly demanding right now.  I'm used to having less than stellar classes as a student; this is the first time I've felt that way about a class I'm teaching.  And it's only week two.  Ah, learning experiences. 


  1. Yeah. I feel ya.

    Teaching full-time, this is part of the struggle. Keeping myself interested ultimately means giving myself more work because I keep redesigning, and then I don't my own research because I'm busy teaching, and then I'm frustrated. Most of the time, I compromise by adding just one or maybe two new major texts each semester. That's one way you can jazz up composition. You could go ahead and change some of the readings (you put a note on the schedule it was subject to change, right?), but keep the assignment sequence.

  2. Ironically, I just committed to presenting on a panel about teaching (there's a grad student conference here Mardi Gras weekend, and there keep being cancellations--I'm now presenting on two panels and talking on a roundtable!). The new text is a good idea--that shouldn't be too hard to work in. I can look at my UT syllabus and pull something southern that's appropriate. Thanks for your response! It helps to feel understood.