Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Excuses, excuses

You'd think that after all these years I would have learned to make papers come due on days that it's convenient for me, not when it's pedagogically appropriate. But I haven't, so I'm drowning in papers from three classes that I have to correct before leaving town tomorrow. So no post this week!

I would, however, love a guest post on treadmill desks. Anyone use one? Please let me know!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Working Two Jobs

I'm at the awkward stage where I have a lot to do at the day job, and I want to do it well, but the groundwork I've laid for my departure in eleven weeks is paying off. The first weekend in March I'll be in Princeton, doing work related to the day job, and the next two weekends I'll be traveling to do book promotion and school visits. In April, I have so many things lined up that I don't even want to count them (but you can see my web site if you're curious). May is left free for commencement (mine and my son's) and a quick vacation, and now June is filling up too, with one tentative and two confirmed engagements.

All these visits require a lot of preparation, as do the Skype visits, TV interview, etc. that I can do from home.

Plus my recent epiphanies have left me itching to spend some serious time on my WIP (work in progress, for my non-writer friends). And my position at SCBWI takes up an unpredictable amount of time, sometimes very little, sometimes a surprising amount.

Not complaining, just getting weary of balancing it all. If there were any one aspect that I felt I could let slide, I would, but there aren't.

Thank goodness for an understanding husband, especially since he has recently discovered that he likes to cook!

Oh, but he has the flu. Cereal for dinner tonight!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Timing . . .

I've been hoping to have really bad classes my last semester so that I would be thrilled to leave come May. By "really bad classes" I mean really bad students, of course. The teaching schedule, the classrooms assigned, even the subject to be taught don't matter nearly as much as the students in the various classes, as far as teacher satisfaction goes (am I right, fellow instructors?). And I don't mean "bad" in the sense of academically or intellectually challenged. A bad student is one who is not engaged, tries to get out of assignments, makes excuses, isn't prepared, doesn't participate.

But it hasn't happened. There are exceptions, of course, but as a rule my classes this semester consist of hard-working, interested students who are eager to participate. There's not a single one I look at hopefully with the word "mononucleosis" in my mind. Even the students that looked like trouble at the beginning haven't (at least so far) caused any.

This hasn't always been the case in my teaching career. There have been times when I've stood outside the classroom door with my hand on the knob, hoping to hear a tornado siren or a fire alarm that will give me an excuse not to go in. There have been semesters when I was so thrilled to see the end of a particular class that I felt like jumping in the air and clicking my heels on the way out on the last day.

But not this time. Unfair, isn't it? Why are they doing this to me, showing up prepared and bursting with ideas and eager to collaborate with one another?

Couldn't they cut me a break and be a bunch of jerks? But no. They'll make it hard to leave.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I had an epiphany the other day.

It wasn't one of those life-changing epiphanies, just a tiny one, and one that will probably make you wonder that I hadn't realized it before, but here it is, for what it's worth:

Just because I've had something for a long time doesn't mean I have to have it forever.

This came to me when I was culling my files at work. I've already done a quick run-through, getting rid of obviously unneeded material (exams from years ago, thank-you notes for writing recommendations from students whose names don't ring a bell, ancient grade rosters), and now I'm doing round two, where I look at and consider the papers before consigning them to the recycling bin.

When I moved to Nashville, I had every intention of putting in my stint as a non-tenure-track lecturer until I had finished my dissertation, and then I would go on the market and seek a tenure-track position. So I brought with me all the material that would help me in that quest: class notes, exams and papers I'd written, lots of books.

Along the way, I discovered that despite the negatives (higher work load, lower salary, a dismissive attitude from certain members of the faculty), I really liked not entering the tenure race, and the importance of all that stuff has disappeared.

Still, it's hard to throw out a paper that a professor thought was worth publishing, or an exam that I was particularly proud of, or the meticulous note-cards from my Italian Linguistics class, such as:


vowel + velar (k, g)/nasal (m, n) + o/a: first vowel must be a
  • pampinu(m) > pampano
  • selinu(m) > sedano
  • Hieronymu(m) > Gerolamo

I must have known what it meant sometime and I took such care over it. Can I just toss it?

That's when the epiphany came.

If I'd known what direction my life was going to take 28 years ago, I would happily have tossed that card. At that point it had no sentimental value. I haven't looked at those cards in the 28 years I've been in this office except to open the note-card box to remind myself what was in it. Just because I've had it all these years doesn't mean it has any worth.

(But I still haven't tossed that card.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012