Friday, September 30, 2005

If at first you don't succeed...

Try, try, again. That's become the theme of my week, in terms of my dissertation and teaching.

I stalled out on Chapter Three. I just couldn't face it on Wednesday (one of my "dissertation days" in the week) so I caught up on some life stuff and a bit of teaching chores. So I'm trying to get back on the horse today so I can push through and just finish the damn thing. I swear, there must be some circuit in my brain that trips every time I'm on the verge of actually getting ahead of schedule... like I need to live on the edge just to keep motivated.

I also exchanged e-mails with my two main advisors, who are both otherwise occupied this semester with Prestigious Professor Things. Consequently, the amount of time they plan to spend on, well, me appears to be shrinking by the day. There are a few components of my dissertation that still lack comments from one or both of them. Apparently that might not happen before the defense. (!!!!) On the one hand, I believe that each component has at least been read by at least one of them, so I would know if Major Problems had been spotted. On the other hand, hello, it's October! I would have thought that giving some feedback between now and December would be possible. On the other hand, they both expressed "complete confidence in my final product" and left it at that. Since I now find myself in the position of being an anxious and somewhat frustrated supplicant, I am consoling myself with believing that all of this inattention is really shorthand for: We can't be bothered now, it's all a formality from here on out, Histgrad, you will pass. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Teaching: had a few interesting moments this week. In my USI class, a student showed up who hadn't been there for a few weeks. He wants to try to get back in the swing of the class. I explained just how much of a hole he had dug for himself (moderately deep) but suggested he could still pass with regular work from here on out. I almost said, "Why don't you save us both some time and drop the class now?" when I learned that not only had he bought the wrong books (volume II of both the textbook and reader, which are the books for my USII class) but he read the assignment in the reader for class. So when the syllabus said "Boston Massacre/American Revolution" and he read all about the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904 and US Imperialism, he didn't see any disconnect, until I put up the reading quiz questions and then he knew he'd read the wrong thing. Oy. Another student asked if colonial America was the time "when we had all those Presidents, you know, like Jefferson."

On Tuesday my Women's History students were supposed to debate the ERA in the 1920s. Lesson learned: they can't figure this out without significant guidance. In the past, it's always been a random student or two who can't figure out their side of the debate, so this year I told them to be very certain they understood their side, and to come and see me if they're confused. So Tuesday we attempt to start the debate and I realize that at least 50% of the students had completely prepared the "wrong" side, and even wrote speeches with the wrong evidence! So, thinking on my feet, I opted to postpone until Thursday, came up with something to do on Tuesday, and gave them a lot more background and context. Final result: Thursday we had an excellent debate and I was impressed by how thoughtful they were about the issue. So I think it is a good exercise but needs much more hand-holding beforehand.

Okay, my horse has arrived. Time to get back on it.

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