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Late Spring To-Do List

  • Read scholarly book #1
  • Read scholarly book #2
  • Catch up on professional journals
  • Administer evaluations
  • Grade seminar research papers
  • Write two final exams
  • Grade final exams
  • Compute final grades
  • Order books for fall
  • Find apartment in New City
  • Attend INRU Commencement!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Midterm evaluation

It's now the dead center of the semester here at Big Urban (which has an even worse fall schedule than INRU: no breaks, not even Columbus Day, until Thanksgiving--which break at BU is only a four-day weekend, and one that falls about a week before the end of term; thanks, Pilgrims! You couldn't have had that feast maybe a month earlier?). I've returned my first batch(es) of papers, it's now dark when I get home, and the kids are already registering for spring classes. It's a good time, methinks, to take stock of this job.

The School
I really like it here. It's a good enough school, in an attractive enough location, that there are a number of bright and very well-prepared students--students whose performance is indistinguishable from that of INRU students. But there are also a lot of students who clearly went to shitty high schools, are the first members of their families to go to college, and who often struggle--but who are uniformly hardworking and very serious about their education.

As one administrator said at my orientation, "teaching here, I never wake up in the middle of the night wondering if all I'm doing is transferring class privilege." They're really good kids, and the relatively few faculty members I've met have been extremely welcoming. They seem both smart and down to earth--great colleagues, if they actually were my colleagues and I saw them at any point other than when we're jockeying for the photocopier at 10 a.m.

My classes
I love my survey sections. This is absolutely the kind of course I went to graduate school in order to be able to teach: I love being able to charge through the decades and paint literary history in broad strokes with relative assurance. Maybe I'll get sick of it eventually, but right now it's great fun.

My composition class is okay. If I were here next year and teaching it again, I'd rearrange the readings considerably and I'd do a number of other things differently, but it's okay--it's a job, I do it competently, and my students are learning by fits and starts.

My teaching
I hesitate to say this, but I think I've become a pretty good teacher. Yeah, I'm (usually) engaging and effective in the classroom, but what I mean by saying that I'm getting good is that I'm getting much more relaxed about the whole enterprise. I usually write out my lesson plan on the train, or in the 45 minutes before class. I'm able to adapt or switch gears in the middle of class if things aren't going well, and I'm able to mix up the format as it fits the material--group work, collective boardwork, discussion, lecture.

I'm not saying that I'm any better at this than anyone else who teaches, but those classroom mechanics are things that I've really sweated over--and really overthought--in the past. (It's probably time to mix things up a bit, but what can we do? would it be good to have them break into groups? but what would they do in groups? Think, Lecturess, think!) Partly it's just that it's the middle of the semester, and I've got the rhythm down for these particular classes; for the first three or four weeks I was still feeling sick to my stomach for fifteen minutes before my first class of the day, every day, and I'm sure I'll feel ill at the beginning of next semester, too--but I think I'm fundamentally more confident in my own teaching skills.

The commute
I guess the best thing I can say here is that I've only missed my usual train to campus once, due to a massive subway delay (and I still made it to class on time, since I take a much earlier train than the one I actually need). However, every single fucking day I'm running late.

I leave my apartment exactly 30 minutes before my train departs. It takes about four minutes to walk to the subway; the subway, once it comes--and if it's running at normal speed and there are no delays--takes just under fifteen minutes to get to the train station; getting from the subway and onto my train takes about five minutes. See the problem here?

I tend to arrive at the train station with five minutes to spare, and CHARGE down a flight of stairs, through the turnstiles, across one extremely crowded floor (waving to the nice National Guardsmen with their M-15s), up an escalator, down a long hallway--briefly skidding to a near-halt to squint at the departures board to check my gate--run another 50 yards to the gate, flash my pass, clunk-clunk-clunk down another escalator, and jump onto my train. All while in heels and lugging a heavy bag or two. (Do I hear the theme music to Rocky as I run? Why yes--yes I do.)

You might ask why I can't just get up ten minutes earlier. And all I can say is, it wouldn't help. When I get up earlier, I just waste that time checking my email or puttering around, and I leave at the exact same very-last-moment. I did the same thing last year, commuting at a much more reasonable hour to INRU. My theory is that maybe I secretly need that adrenaline rush after five hours of sleep.

But on the bright side: who needs a gym membership?

Gah, am I doing any scholarship? I guess so--I did finish my dissertation last month, I sent in one conference paper submission a couple of weeks ago, and I'm nearly done with this other conference keynote (although both papers are just reworkings of material from my diss; they're nothing new). I've also got a couple of short, non-refereed articles to punch out before December. It's something.

If I relabeled this category "professional identity," though, I think I'm doing well. All that time spent standing in front of a classroom, fielding questions, must be making me a better public speaker, right? And thus better at fielding questions at conferences, and job interviews. . .?

Well. Stay tuned.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:22 PM |


Blogger What Now? commented at 8:16 AM~  

Sounds like an incredibly positive mid-term report. I know what you mean about becoming more comfortable in the classroom; in my first term as a lecturer, I no longer had the luxury of carefully crafting all my classes, because I just didn't have time. And that was great for my teaching, because I got much more relaxed about the whole enterprise.

And really, I think that finishing a dissertation counts as significant scholarship in a term! Even if you did nothing else all term, I'd give myself a break on that front and call it a successful term. And remember that you're also applying for jobs in all of this mix, which is a time-consuming and nerve-wracking enterprise.

Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway commented at 12:50 AM~  

I agree with What Now, that finishing your dissertation definitely counts! One definitely needs time to recover from that. It does indeed sound like a positive report.

I had a similar response to teaching full-time, too - I found that I had to say, This is the amount of time I can give to a class and that's it, and I realized that in general, classes went no worse if I spent an hour prepping rather than four hours prepping, and the four hours didn't really make the classes enough better to justify spending the time. And getting comfortable with that is a big thing.

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 1:26 PM~  

I admire you for taking a lecture-ship position as an ABD. After I finished my Ph.D. I refused to take any 1-yr positions or lecture-type positions until I got a full time, t-t job. It took me 5 years and I'm at a comm coll but I'm happy. Good luck on the job market.

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