Mad Preparation for Fallpocalypse (Teaching in the New Semester)
This past week has been devoted almost entirely to preparation for the new semester of classes and committee work, with little writing. But SOME writing. Just not enough. And then some (maybe too much) following on Facebook and Twitter this insane shit-storm surrounding AWP and its conference proposal selection processes. And I'm lurking where that's concerned, listening, not participating, but it's still kind of exhausting.
I'm looking forward to finishing the prep for classes, which I've been doing with a kind of head-down, stubborn relentlessness. I've been trying to put all of my prompts for in-class writing, and quizzes, and essays up on the Blackboard course spaces so that I can, more or less, be ultra-prepared in the classroom instead of -- as happens quite frequently -- arriving at the classroom only to realize the quiz or the handout I wanted to distribute is back in my office. Also, there have been semesters where I've begun teaching a class without schedules of assignments already determined and those semesters are usually the worst. I end up confused and angry at myself and frustrated . . . and, well, I'd kind of like to avoid that if possible.
I realize that these kinds of admissions make teaching, even at the college level, sound horribly formulaic with little room for improvisation. Also, all of the summer fun and freedom that I experienced with my family -- going to the beach, staying up too late to read, watching movies -- appears to have disappeared! But I find that I'm quite comfortable ditching the formula and doing spontaneous things in the classroom if I have the safety net of the well-laid plan beneath me, and my hope is that I can spend less time prepping in the office this semester and more time grading in the office, which in turn will give me more time to write when I'm at home (not to mention keeping up with normal life things, like kids and laundry and dishes). (Wow, my life sounds SUPER AWESOME the more I write this post!)
Also, I've been putting in half-days in August, using mornings to work on course prep and this online class about online teaching (yes, that's a thing) and getting a jump on this semester's committee tasks, and then hanging out with the kiddos and returning to Project Fix the Fucking House in the afternoons. It hasn't been filled with the trips to the beach or the marathon reading sessions that we did in July, which makes me really miss July, but I'm hoping that this pragmatic approach to beginning the new semester will pay off. I recognize that it's some of the same-old same-old, the "this year will be different!" mantra most academics whisper under their breath as they plan out their classes -- but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that these changes and preparations are truly holistic and meaningful and not just Band-Aids covering bigger, deeper problems in my methods and practices.
HA! The idea of me even HAVING methods and practices is kinda amusing. I feel like so much of my teaching career has been flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. Probably because I never really thought I'd be a teacher.
I DID always think I'd be a writer, though. And so I guess this month's preparations, and this post, is about getting all of the professor-related tasks and nonsense as streamlined and cookie-cutter as possible so that I can spend real, substantial time being a writer this fall -- instead of leaving it to a couple of months every year that may or may not be fruitful. (And this summer was not as fruitful as I'd hoped it would be. But that will have to wait for another post . . . Stay tuned, dear readers! More whining will be coming your way! *facepalm*)