I sensed that my blog avoidance was deeply rooted in my research avoidance. I didn’t realize kicking one off would help restart the other.
After I blogged yesterday, I spent most of the rest of the day and evening thinking about what was keeping me away from the book. I’ve owed my editor an email for an embarrassing amount of time, and part of what stops my hand when I start to write back is this sheer panic I feel about the book and its structure and its shape and all the rest of it.
When I finished the dissertation, my committee was very positive about it being publication-ready.
But I’m an idiot.
I decided I needed to write a sweeping approach to my entire field. The dissertation was too small. Too minor. It needed to be more! Bigger! Important! IMPORTANT!!
So I conceived of basically an entirely new project and that’s the book project I’ve been “working on” since I started teaching full-time. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I think I might need to scale things back or I don’t even really know what I need to do, honestly. But I need to do something-ish.
Today I wrote like 900 words about structure and framing, and then I emailed my editor. Those things felt very something-ish. I feel like a time of reflection and really uncomfortable realizations has been hard but productive, and I’m ready (ish) to soldier on.
Hello, internet friends. I haven’t updated in ages — mostly because I kind of associate this blog with the research I am failing to do lately. Ahem. But I got a really nice email from one of my favourite dadcademic-bloggers, Didactic Pirate, whose recent life journey has been amazing (for real, go read), and he encouraged me to get back to my blog. So a catch-up post of what I’ve been doing, of sorts, and then hopefully a return to my blogworld. (Which I really enjoy, incidentally!)
I’m still employed at my two-year institution, and I still teach mostly CanLit and academic writing with some other bits and pieces thrown in. I’m now post-probationary, which means slightly harder to fire. I really love my job and my students. I’m still really really fired up about teaching. I’ve had a few tastes in the last year of the frustrations of trying to institute institutional change, and that has taught me a lot about keeping my cool and trying to disconnect my passions a little. (Which is not easy for me!) I’m, like, growing as a person and junk.
Honesty time: I’m so not working on my book. At all. I so should be. I don’t know what has happened to me. I’m sure this will be its own blog post in time. Me and research, like, broke up. I have a lot of angst about this. I want to believe I’m just burnt out from the PhD still, but I worry it’s more and deeper than that.
I’m writing a lot, though. Graphixia is getting bigger and better every month, with a world tour under our belts and two new contibutors and the added fun of videoblogging. My gig at BookRiot is really great fun (I even got a post reblogged by HuffPo, which was very exciting), and I’m starting to take the whole social media / book blogging thing kinda seriously ish. (Want to come be my friend on Goodreads?) I am realizing I might really want to be a person who talks about books in public space for, like, a living. Is that a thing?
So I’m writing a lot, just not at all what I’m supposed to be writing. Erp.
I went to a big comics conference this year and had a really great time, and I gave a guest lecture in Wales. And I taught a compressed semester abroad in Wales with our field school program, which was really really fun. I loved having the chance to get to know students better and to have a lot of my thoughts about teaching challenged (and some confirmed!) in a new and more intense setting.
So I’m doing a lot of stuff that isn’t my book. But. Anxiety.
I kind of think I need my reflective space back and so have returned to looking blog-ward. How have you all been while I’ve been not here?
A couple days after my last post, I caught a cheater for the very first time.
I’ve caught plagiarism before, for sure. But this was the first time I caught someone cheating in an exam — like with actual notes the student had smuggled in and the whole nine yards.
I shouldn’t actually say I caught it, because I didn’t. I walk the room during exams, but I’ve always thought of myself as walking around the room to see if students needed help. I don’t think I’m passive, but honestly — it just never occurred to me. And now it won’t stop occurring to me!
When the student handed in the exam, a set of notes fell out of the booklet. I mean, I didn’t catch this at all — the student did it, really. And as the notes slipped onto the desk, my stomach lurched. Oh, I thought. Let me be wrong. Let this be… anything but a set of cheat notes.
Of course, there was nothing else it could or would be.
The situation has been dealt with. Dean and memo and consequence. All sorted a few days ago.
But I have had a hard time not thinking about it in the meantime. I can’t help wondering lots of things. Not least, though: why? Because here’s the crazy thing. I perused the notes and they wouldn’t have helped. At all. The notes were written as though the exam was a “gotcha” move — as though the questions would have related to utterly obscure content from the course. And I remember preparing for exams that way: memorizing minute bullshit instead of focusing on larger course concepts. I honestly assumed until well into 3rd year that the exams were designed to trip me up. Like, me, personally. Like the universe and my instructor were conspiring to bring down my course grade.
(It never happened that way, incidentally. I don’t really remember a time when my mark dropped after the exam. And yet experience was never a very good teacher in this regard.)
I’m not blaming myself for the student cheating. (Ok, I did for a couple of days. I’m still mostly a super insecure disaster.) But I am wondering how I can do a better job of getting across to students that their exam is not an attempt to trick or fool them, but a genuine desire to see what they were able to learn in their time in my class. I mean, I say that. Out loud and everything. But it doesn’t stick.
Have you ever caught a cheater like this? Did it push you to rethink how you design your exams? I’m doing a lot of mulling and would love to hear about other experiences.
Hello, my oft-neglected blog. I’m at the end of another term, and I’ve been thinking through the lessons learned this semester. This marks the end of my probationary period at the College, which means that I feel like I should have gained some incredible wisdom and clarity. Mostly, I’m just sleepy.
Three things that went really well this semester:
Things to change:
Now I’m looking ahead to the summer term — I start teaching my field school in two weeks and we (16 students, three instructors) head for the UK in five. I plan to blog about the field school experience a fair bit, so stay tuned for that.
It’s a new year and a new semester. I’m entering the last semester of my probationary period, and I find myself thinking almost constantly about ways to improve my workload, approach, and reflective practice. But you can’t change everything all at once (and I’m definitely trying to undo a terrible baby-with-the-bathwater habit of redoing my courses every semester), so here are five things I intend to work on in my teaching practice in 2012.
Do you dare to resolve? If so, let me know in the comments!
… and I think I’m worse at it than ever!
Hello, my neglected blog! How are you? I’ve been, well, seemingly underwater all semester. I took on a few new projects — an upcoming European field school, a new blogging gig, a really interesting curriculum review process — and it all amounted to be something quite beleaguering. On the plus side, of course, Christmas is almost upon us — I’m committing to a lot of sitting, and maybe some staring at a blank wall.
My big project for the winter term is to move my hybrid course (1/2 in-class instruction, 1/2 on-line) off my most loathed Blackboard platform (Blackboard 9: Now Even More Confounding!) and onto my own WordPress install. I need thoughts from those who have done it before. Getting permission to move outside the walled garden was tricky in and of itself, so I really want to make it work. The parameters are that everything has to be hosted in Canada (we can’t make our students’ work subject to your lovely Patriot Act, my American chums) and I have to back up to the College servers regularly — all totally reasonable and doable.
Here’s what I’ve come up with for necessary plugins:
What a month!
I’ve never had a more exhausting September — neither the first year of teaching nor the first semester of grad school come close. More frustrating is that I’m still not really sure why this past month was more overwhelming than previous semester starts. I do have three preps this time around (and will next semester, too) which makes things a little more dramatic, and taking on the challenge of the field school (a 7 week study abroad program next spring) means my days are pretty full. But still.
What I need for next semester is a strategy to keep my own workload in check. I’ve already started — when I ordered textbooks, I kept the texts the same for two of my three classes. I’ve never done that! I always change up all the books; honestly, I’m scared of getting stale so I force myself to write fresh lectures on fresh texts. But I don’t think that’s a sustainable plan. So my Academic Writing and my Children’s Literature courses are sticking with the same books — I’m really enjoying both classes, so I think it makes sense to try again with the same texts and refine the course. I’ve been throwing out the baby with the bathwater for too long.
I would love to figure out how to not bring work home, but it just doesn’t seem possible, even when I’m doing a reliable 8 hours / day on campus. Part of the problem is that I don’t feel ready to start saying no to opportunities that cross my path — I’m still so new, and selfishly, I’m genuinely excited about everything that people approach me about. So it’s hard to turn things down. (Unfortunately, I’m finding instead that what I have no time for is my own academic work, which of course is not sustainable in the long term. So.)
Things have calmed down a little and I suspect they will continue to do so. And I was well-warned these first two years would be about finding my feet. The most important thing, I think, is that I do love my job even when I’m shattered — I know I’m lucky to be able to say that.
… under a pile of work, mostly.
I hope everyone’s fall semester is going swimmingly. I have a lot of preps this semester — two all new, one reinvention — so that is absorbing a lot of time. As per usual, I’m not progressing enough on my book. I’m excited to say I’ve taken on an opportunity to teach a college field school in the UK this summer; I’m beyond thrilled for this, but recruitment is like having another course in terms of time requirement and expectation.
So I’m busy! With all good things — and one more thing to tell you about tomorrow. But first, of course, a promise to post more often (I’m planning this semester to aim for a weekly reflection piece on Fridays and ideally one other post each week about teaching/learning issues).
What have you been up to? If you’re still around, post and let me know.
A bit behind schedule on the Monday post this week — apologies.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this ProfHacker post about teaching evening classes when you are not yourself a night person. My classes don’t go as late at the author of that post (almost to the start of The Daily Show?! are you kidding me?!) and I’m blessed with a very short walking commute home from work, but I still find evening classes difficult. I am, after all, keen to get into my pyjamas shortly after dinner (or occasionally before). This semester coming up, I’m additionally concerned about how to structure my time because I’ll be teaching classes from 8 am Monday and Wednesday, and then switching gears to a night class on Thursday and back to a noon-3 slot on Friday. It’s going to make for a strange schedule in terms of getting my own work done, so I’ve been reading up on strategies for managing the time.
One thing I intend to do a better job of this year is thinking about the placement of course material within the class time. My night class is a children’s literature course, so saving some of the more animated topics for the end of class could be a useful strategy. I’m thinking something along the lines of lecture/content delivery for the first hour, small group activities for the second, and full class discuss for the last.
Those of you who teach night classes on the regular, what advice do you have? (Especially if you’re a morning person at heart!)