"sleepy, tired, slow" | friday | october 5, 2007 | 11:02 am
AM SO TIRED. Granted, it doesn't help that yesterday
was a long, long day. I went into campus early (in part because my roommate Jane wants me to
ride in with her) for early morning work and office hours. Then I taught. Then lunch and some
more work. Then collegial
my students in the late afternoon. Then
grad pub. Then out dancing at
Neighbours. Granted, much of the
latter, extracurricular stuff is of my own choosing, but it still makes me one tired Ed.
I have been way super busy. Sometimes I am surprised by how much I actually have to do and
actually accomplish in a single day, in a single week. It's amazing, and I'm proud of myself.
But it makes me one tired Ed.
The last few weeks have been consumed with getting ready for the new quarter, with designing
and implementing my class, then actually starting the quarter, teaching, trying to sort out a
new routine, meeting new students and new grad in the department, reading, and all of the
other everyday life stuff that demands your attention.
I'm adjusting. Getting my class ready was a new challenge, even though I have been teaching for
over a decade. I'm finally getting my dog day and am teaching a full-on literature class.
English 200: Reading Literature. It's basically 'literature appreciation'; it's a broad,
survey-ish class for all undergraduates and satisfies one of the university's liberal arts
requirements. The course catalog description is pretty vague: "Techniques and practice in
reading and enjoying literature. Examines some of the best works in English and American
literature and considers such features of literary meaning as imagery, characterization,
narration, and patterning in sound and sense. Emphasis on literature as a source of pleasure
and knowledge about human experience.". So, I had to come up with a course with those
guidelines in mind and settled on
"Literatures of the Fantastic,"
a survey and genealogy of fantastic or fantasy literature from Homer to Harry Potter.
It was really hard trying to figure out what would actually go into the class.
I decided to base the whole concept of the class around Ursula Le Guin's esssay
"Why are Americans Afraid of Dragons?" I wanted to tackle the longstanding prejudice
that the US doesn't like, understand, or see value in fantasy, in the fantastic.
Even with the recent proliferation of fantastic movies and books, the underlying
judgment is that fantasy is for children or that fantasy is an escape or that
fantasy is for antisocial geeks and dorks. So, the class is all about unpacking
this question and to show that the study of literature has always included works
of fantasy and the fantastic.
My students are reading a lot. The class has two dozen or so short excerpts, short stories,
and poems along with three full texts. They are going to write a lot, too, but in the form
of short, focused, critical response papers. One of the most difficult things to do
was to cut the readings down to a manageable load. I had a lot of different ideas, a
lot of different possible texts, all of them great and useful and interesting.
But alas a quarter is not enough time, and it would be unfair to the students to
overwhelm them just for the sake of overwhelming them (though I certainly have had
classes where this was the pedagogical tact). In the end, I think I have a great
survey across time, author, genre, subject matter, critical interventions, and provocations.
Another big difference in teaching literature is that I don't have to teach them how to
write. Well, it's not the focus of the class anyway. It is a shift from teaching them
how to write to teaching them how to read. Granted, I have students from first years to
fourth years and many of them still don't really know how to write. But it is really
different to not have to plan each class session down to what skill or concept needs to
be addressed. It is kind of nice to be able to just read and evaluate their writing
without having to go into detail about how they could improve their writing. Rather my
comments can focus on their ideas and their arguments. Of course, I really want them to
continue to develop their writing skills. Moreover, teaching literature itself is a
different exercise for me. What do I teach? Where do I start? What kind of critical
lenses do I use? I forced myself to not include a whole lot of cultural studies
stuff and critical theory simply because I wanted to explore how I would teach the
reading and analysis of literature. The literature, in other words, speaks for itself
and becomes a way to theorize the kinds of inquiries and interrogations I'm interested in
(the usual suspects of cultural studies, race, gender, sexuality, class, nation).
The other new challenge is the fact that I have a class of forty students. 40. Nearly
double the usual composition class size. And though I've taught multiple sections before with
up to sixty students in all, something about having forty in one section, in one place
is daunting. Our room is wide but not very deep, so they sit in four rows of ten across
and I'm right up in their faces. I can't really even keep them all clearly in my
field of vision. So I'm having a really difficult time learning names and recognizing
my own students. My fear is that we will leave the quarter and I will run into one
of them and not know who they are at all. So, I am determined to make sure that I get
their names and establish some sort of rapport with each and every one of them.
Finally, I am teaching four days a week. Oh my god. It's exhausting. I'm so used to
twice a week for an hour and fifty minutes. Now it's four days a week for fifty minutes.
I hate fifty minute classes. There's just not enough time. By the time you get going,
it's time to leave. Teaching for me is like working out. I expend a lot of energy
to keep the class inquisitive, expressive, imaginative, illuminating,
and engaging. So, having to be on four days a week is a lot. The good thing
about four days a week is that I get to see my students more. Hopefully that will translate
into better discussions and interactions.
But I'm excited to be teaching literature. I like the new challenges. And it is
definitely making me a better teacher.
The rest of my time is spent trying to keep reading for my exams. My reading progress has
definitely slowed down with the start of classes. I really need to get back on track and into
gear. My goal this weekend is to streamline my lists one last time and try to get them
officially approved by my committee next week. Then I want to set my date for my exams. I'm
hoping to take them the weekend of the 11th in January. Crazy. But I am stoked about
forward movement. Progress, progress, progress.
So, life is school. As per usual. I'm still running every week (though it's harder
now that it's pretty dark and sometimes rainy when I get up in the morning). I am still
trying to get out and go out. But the 'scene' hasn't been particularly fulfilling as of
late. But I'll keep trying. Plus, with the start of the new school year, there are a
lot of new first year graduate students.
has been fun. I like meeting the new kids. Of course, I've met a few of the new guys,
a couple of which are pretty damn hot, but they're straight (even the creative writers).
The story of my life. But, the story has got to change at some point, right?
read footnotes |
• • •
last month |