Saturday, December 31, 2011

Intentions for the new year

I don't say new year's resolutions--perhaps it's my basic curmudgeonliness, or perhaps I just don't think that they work.  New year's resolutions just mean that it's hard to find an exercise bike at the gym in January (I say, sounding as if I go to a gym regularly.  I used to--but January always put me off it).  Instead, I usually make resolutions at my birthday the end of May--it's a much better time for me to assess and set goals.

However, there are some changes I'd like to make, and have decided to take advantage of the calendar page turn to do so.  To that end, here are the two intentions I have:

Three times a week, I intend to get an hour's worth of exercise.  This includes drumming.

Six days a week, I intend to actively do something not school-related.  By active, I mean not passive (ie, tv watching or web-surfing).  Knitting, playing music, sewing, sun salutations in the morning, something. 

I think these are doable goals toward balance.  Do you all have similar intentions?

Friday, December 30, 2011

More specifically

My last post was rather chatty and all over the place.  Having spent several hours last night filing away teaching and class notes from summer and fall, I'm a feeling like I'd like a bit more focus now. 

One area I'd like to focus on is the idea of motivated students.  In my last post, I expressed regret for returning to teaching composition after having had such a wonderful experience with two sections of women's and gender studies.  Though that class counted as a gen ed credit, for the most part it was a rather self-selected group of students who were generally interested in the subject matter--if they weren't interested in WGS, they could have taken sociology or psychology or something.  I had one student so inspired by Peggy Macintosh's "Unpacking White Privilege" that she changed her major.  Class discussions were usually interesting.  My students wrote really insightful final papers on a variety of pop culture elements.  And when my director came to evaluate me, she noted how surprised she was at the attendance of my class--I normally ran at around 85% in a class of 35.

This semester, I'm back to second year composition.  I keep saying that I'll put together a themed course (like I did at UT), but I keep not having time to.  Well, and I keep hoping that I'll get to teach a class in fiction, too.  Teaching composition is so often felt as a form of punishment at worst, or something that has to be got through at best.  Perhaps I'm exaggerating here--well, I am exaggerating to some extent, but it's important to note that most of the people who teach composition are literature or creative writing people, and not those whose studies focus on rhetoric and composition.  Of course we're going to be disappointed when, once again, we're teaching how to write an argument paper instead of Shakespeare.

Admittedly, I do get to teach Shakespeare this summer.  And between thinking about that and reading Peter Elbow's new book, I have enough ideas I want to pursue with my writing students that I should have the kind of enthusiasm which students pick up on.  My random ideas include:
  • Using Wordle during the revision process, so students can see what their language use looks like
  • Incorporating even more reading aloud in class (maybe of work other than their own?  To see what other people's writing feels like to read?)
  • Moving around.  I'm not sure yet what this means, but I want more movement in class.  I may even try class outside (eek!).
  • Though I typically do freewriting every day in class, I want to see if I can find a way to shake up freewriting even more.  This summer, I had student freewrite and then exchange papers, respond to the writing, and then write again.  I think I may try even more of these interactive assignments.  And find a way to pair students up with different people--this summer, one person confided that she had trouble with the person she sat next to and always ended up paired up with, as he never had any useful feedback for her.
  • Maybe, then, I should work on what providing useful feedback is like?
Lots of things to keep in mind.  My syllabus is for the most part done, with due dates and stuff, but I will continue to tweak the actual schedule.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Smack dab in the middle of winter break

I gave myself the Christmas present of absolute laziness today.  Yesterday we went to New Orleans to exchnage presents with friends--one of the presents was cookie cutters, cookie dough, and accountrements for the kids, with whom I then spent the afternoon making cookies (so, a gift for all of us).  We had planned on going to see the bonfires on the levee after that, but were pretty worn out from Christmas cheer (and rather tired), so we skipped it, planning on going by the store and getting some cold cuts for dinner--who knew that everything closed on Christmas Eve at 6?  I have no interest in stores open at 4am the day after Thanksgiving--I'd much rather have a grocery store open the night before Christmas.  Mark ended up getting McDonald's.

The semester came to an end--I gave exams on Wednesday and Thursday of exam week, got on a plane Friday and flew to Columbus, Ohio, where I then drove an hour through snow to Marion, Ohio, which was half an hour from where my dad's wedding was held the following day.  I made it through the wedding and stuff, grading exams in between, and had a blast playing with my nephews in Dayton for the rest of the weekend.  The rest of the week, I was in Cincinnati, where I blew off a ton of steam--at one point, finding myself playing backgammon with a friend, I was struck by how lovely it was to be playing backgammon and not working on anything school-related. 

I also danced a remarkable amount--in addition to dancing at the wedding reception, there was dancing Thursday and Saturday nights until 3.  Saturday was particularly amazing--as "Warehouse Reunion Night," it was basically the feeling that I wanted from a high school reunion and didn't quite get.  Seeing my friends on the dance floor while Ministry and New Order played was such fun.

My body, however, wants to know exactly what I think was doing.  My right knee is still complaining--so much so that I got a brace today to wear on it.  And last night, my left had started complaining loudly about all of the knitting I've been doing (close lace work on a shawl from the "Jane Austen Knits" magazine I've been waiting about a month to start playing with). 

While I was out of town, I applied for the position of "communications officer" for the Women's Caucus of the MLA, and interviewed for a summer job teaching gifted junior high students.  The WCMLA application was rather straightforward, though I did put a significant amount of thought into the cover letter.  The TIP job wanted to set up a skype interview, which turned out to be impossible on my travels.  We scheduled a phone interview for Wednesday afternoon, which they managed to forget, and had to reschedule for Friday morning.  It's a good thing skype wasn't available, as I was out until 3am dancing the night before.

The interview went very well--the woman I spoke with started out by saying that the writing instructor positions I had applied for filled up rather easily, but she was interested in hearing more about my Drama in Stratford and London course, as she thought it made me a good candidate for teaching their "Shakespeareance" course at Davidson.  We talked for 45 minutes--it was a lot of coming up with things on the fly, as I hadn't prepared for an interview about teaching literature, but it went very well, and she said I should expect an offer in my email that day.  And indeed, I had one. 

The WCMLA position came through, too.  So, I've now got a stack of books from the library on web site maintenance, and on teaching Shakespeare and drama games, all of which I need boning up on.  I also sent in my registration for the Wharton in Florence conference, which is the beginning of June; Shakespeare is three weeks in July.  I'm quite excited about all of it.

This was a tough semester, but tough because there was so much work (much of it hitting the end of November), not because I didn't like the work.  Unlike this time last year, I'm not seriously considering trying to transfer programs.  Now, I'm officially done with coursework (hooray!) and bearing down on studying for exams.  I picked up Philip Roth's American Pastoral this week, after putting it down out of boredom once before.  I admit, I put it back down after Peter Elbow's new book arrived--I love this work, and this one is about the connection between spoken and written language.  I'm intrigued by the importance of the body on speech and writing.  I'm happy to feel excitement about teaching writing, because it's going to be tough to go back to teaching comp after the wonderful experience I had teaching women & gender studies this past semester.  It was so wonderful to have the kind of committed, enthusiastic students that I had last semester.  I hope I'm able to have similarly enthusiasm this semester.  Of course, going back to teaching 23 students (rather that 68!) will be nice. 

And being done with coursework, it will be very nice to not have response papers and things due. 

I'm also working on cutting an article that I had submitted to the Southern Literary Journal--they responded that they've changed requirements, and would be happy to read my article if I'd cut 1,000 words.  So, I cut.  It's better than a flat out rejection, like I got from the Mississippi Quarterly.  I've got a to-do list for winter break, but I hope to make it leisurely.  My body is insisting on it.