Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jailbreak

I am in grading jail. I collected my first batch of papers about 24 hours ago from my composition class. In total, there are only about 16 papers in all after missed deadlines and students dropping the course.

So I'm going to try to do something totally unprecedented for me, and turn them around in 48 hours. In the first 24 hours, I've already graded eight of them.

So can I do it? Can I bust out of grading jail so quickly? Wish me luck.

Even if I do, though, the long arm of the grading law will be waiting. Assuming I return these papers tomorrow at 1, I collect a batch of papers from another class tomorrow at 2:30.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A big, deep. sigh of relief

The edited collection goes to the press today. All edited, proofread, formatted and ready to go.

Next, we'll get readers to look it over, and make final changes, but the big push (for now) is done. It's too early to break open some champagne, but maybe I'll have an extra cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On the Joys of New Preps

For various reasons this semester, I'm teaching two new preps, and a revamp of a prep I've not taught in a while.

So the two new preps are not only new courses in the way that they're configured, but also chock full of new books I've never taught before. While in many ways, this is a pain, because of all the lesson planning I'm doing from the ground up, it's also been extraordinarily invigorating.

Take my 300-level American Drama class, which I have focusing on political theatre. For whatever reason, I've never had occasion to teach either Clifford Odets' Waiting for Lefty, and perhaps more surprisingly, have never taught Sophie Treadwell's Machinal. Both are really interesting little plays, ones I hadn't heard about as an undergrad, but whose fortunes in the critical discussion have gone in opposite directions in the recent critical climate.

But I am loving how much my students are digging these plays. One of my male students said something like, "when I read the back of the book, I thought that this was going to take hours to get through, but I ended up really loving it."

Now, I can get these kinds of comments all the time from texts I've been teaching for ages. But what I don't get in those situations is the kind of unexpected glee. I can expect that students are going to dig Blake or Woolf in the Brit Lit II course, or that Cloud 9 will generate loads of hot potato discussion. There is joy in these moments, but the joy is expected, part of my daily budget of things to look forward to.

But when a new text comes along and just rocks the house, it's like finding money in your freshly laundered pockets.

So in the new prep, for evey text that goes over like a lead balloon (oddly, Calvino's If on a winter's night...), we also find these unexpected hours in our day in which thoughts are flying around the room like like bees, swarming and buzzing and dangerous and sweet. Moments like this, the job is hardly work.

(Plus, I really like Machinal, so I'm happy to know that it will work well on syllabi into the future).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I should not be posting

But instead of prepping for class, here I am.

There have been a truckload of things going on: my grandmother passed away in late July; my mother's health has been a whirlwind of uneasy, troubling questions; Willow's starting back into the classroom as a TA here; and some other unreportable events have meant that everything is up in the air, or the big stuff, at least, like where we'll live and what Willow will do for a career when her MFA is done.

Plus I'm teaching three preps, two of which are brand new, and one of which is seriously revised from the last time I taught it. So we've hardly had time to think.

But not all is lost: the classes I have are going well, especially the 15-student 300-level course on American Political Drama. And the writing proceeds apace, with two articles forthcomin in journals, and the edited collection very nearly finished (although to hear Dr. Crazy speak of it, this process with this press can liiiiinnnnggggggerrrrrr).

I'm trying to knock off one thing after another (annual report, new preps, article revisions, committee work, editing tasks) as they come up, without completely abnegating my responsibilities around the home (trash, dishes--sometimes-- laundry--sometimes--, cooking, playing with the kids , you know the routine.

Accordingly, things fall through the cracks: commenting on other people's blogs, even when I lurk relentlessly, reading closely for class, getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night, etc.

But you know this: you live it too. Maybe I'll post more these days, maybe not, maybe it doesn't really matter.