Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Day 30: Running from the Boulder

How did it get from Day 25 to Day 30 so quickly? I guess the same way it is now suddenly August 17. Very strange.

A quick dissertation update: Spouse/Editor read the introduction -- which, to me, was an ill-formed, poorly written piece of crap that needed something major to happen to it. Either major re-writing or a huge shove out of my second floor window. When he's read chapters in the past the chapters have been much better (in my dissertation-drained brain) and more complete than this intro. He's never met a chapter he initially liked, but he liked the intro! It's a summer miracle. It's not complete yet -- some paragraphs are just sketched out, and the footnotes are a bloody mess, but progress is progress. I can't return to it just yet, but soon. Onward and upward!

So yesterday I went to campus for a meeting and within about ten minutes had my usual case of meeting rage. I am always vulnerable to cases of meeting rage, but after a summer of totally doing my own thing, my attention span is markedly short. Then I waited in line at Costco, then fought traffic all the way home... and felt like I'd been subjected to some horrible psych experiment. I think, for me, going back to school in the fall (even for a few days of faculty development days) is so difficult because of the over-stimulation. All summer I've been sitting by myself all day, with only some very vocal felines for company. And school brings obligations and noise and demands and schedules.... I'm not complaining, I certainly know that not everyone gets three months "off" in the summer, but still. I've got two more days of meetings at the end of the week, so wish me luck in the meeting rage department. I swear, we faculty are far worse than our own students. Force us to sit through two days of meetings and EVERYONE is sitting in the auditorium doing their own work during the meeting. It's sad and funny at the same time, but you can bet I'll be sitting there doing my own work, too!

Yesterday was also the new faculty orientation -- and that, combined with Stewgad's recent posts about beginning her full-time job -- has prompted me to recall (with some amount of horror) my first year of full-time teaching. At the time, I sent a group e-mail to my friends and confided that I felt like I was Indiana Jones, running as fast as I could from the boulder coming out of the cave. I had to keep running at top speed or else I'd literally be flattened. My friends wrote and shared their own individual boulders at the time -- so what are you all running from?

So, I guess thinking back to those hectic and terrifying days, this week isn't so bad. But I've recently decided to shelve my dissertation for a week or so in order to pursue another goal: to start the semester without feeling totally, completely, absolutely, hectic-ly behind. Every other semester I've turned in my syllabi for printing with "Rush! Thanks!" written on it, and there were lots of parts on the on-line course schedule which said, "To Be Determined." So my syllabus planning really lasted throughout the semester because I could never get my act together beforehand. A friend of mine told me that it took him at least 3, if not 4, years to feel relaxed at the beginning of a semester. So I'm vowing to attempt to be organized and relaxed. Of course, it is Wednesday and classes start on Monday and I haven't even started my syllabi, but still.

So today, in the interest of running from the boulder, I'm going to work on my syllabi (so I'll have something to print and revise during two days of meetings, of course!) and also work on those lingering chores from MAY that need to be done around the house, such as organizing our medicine/toiletries cabinet. It's one of those cabinets that we open, dig through piles of crap to hopefully find what we need, and then slam the door so things don't fall on our head.

So, thinking out loud, my to-do list:
3 course syllabi, drafts
3 course schedules, drafts
multiple loads of laundry
grocery store
KMart, to see if Martha Stewart can help me organize
Organizing said cabinet
Asian grocery store
fertilize tomatoes (does anyone know how to keep squirrels from stealing my tomatoes????)
shop for a gift for a friend
post office

So I suppose I should stop blogging and start working, huh?

One final question: what kind of get-to-know-you games do you do on the first day? I have large-ish classes (approx. 40 students) so I split them into the small groups they'll be working with, have them make table-top name tags (that I ask them to bring every day for the first month or so) and then within their groups they have to come up with a list of things they have in common that are not lame, i.e. they can't say they're all students, but they could say that they've all been to Canada, or something like that. The winning group gets candy, but first they have to read their list out loud for a group vote on the relative lame-ness of their findings. The students usually have fun voting for the other groups, so hopefully they actually enjoy it and are not just humoring their nerdly teacher.


At 3:58 PM, Blogger academic coach said...

This is a very cute get to know you game. Does it go over well?

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Stewgad said...

I love the opener -- you could even tie it to the discipline you're teaching -- searching for evidence, etc.

I always open with "who is your favorite figure from this era and why." But that seems boring

Or when I teach Pop. culture, who is your favorite pop culture icon -- and then we talk about icons, and what they are and what our culture does to turn people into icons, even people from the past -- segue into pop culture of the US Civil War.

But, I think this time, I'm going to use yours. Although, I may hold off on the candy -- I always use treats for midterms, finals, and EVALUATION DAY. That way, they're really appreciative! And, hey, thanks! Now, while blogging around, I just came up with my opening exercise! Horay histgrad!

And as for name tags, I always make little name tents that I print out for them in big black letters (on 8X11 page, folded into thirds). That way, there's no trouble with reading handwriting, etc. There are always a few that need new ones because of nicknames, etc. but it is a good way to also start getting to know their names ahead of time.

Also, I LOVE the image of dodging the boulder. Don't we all always feel only 1 step ahead?

At 10:43 AM, Blogger HistGrad said...

Hey, glad I could help. I have to say the candy is key because 1) I don't have to buy very much because I only give it to the winning group or groups (a concern with 160 students) and they seem oddly motivated by it...

And thanks for the great nametag idea... I wish I had time to do that for everyone. It would be really helpful.

Okay, enough blogging...time for syllabi!

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