The Return to Teaching

I've been quiet for the past few days. (On here, that is. It's almost impossible for me to be quiet in real life.) (Shut up, A.P.)

A.P. and I postponed Poetry Friday until Monday because I was having a little Pre-Semester Freakout, and then we moved our meeting until next week because we realized how futile it would be to speak about poetry when the large, ugly shadow of course outlines and class prep loomed over our heads. And thus, once again, writing took a back seat to teaching responsibilities. But, as Vonnegut would say, so it goes . . . some times you just have to put away the poems and focus instead on the paragraph about not texting or surfing the web in class, because that paragraph is what pays the bills. (Sort of. Not just that paragraph, but you get my drift, right?)

My problem this week ended up being that I didn't put away the poem. For me, this is a good problem to have -- I'm truly not going to beat myself up too much for writing. But it made the first two mornings of the week rather chaotic. I woke up early, as planned, and wrote before the kids woke up. And then after they woke up and I had them started on breakfast, and after making sure the dog had been fed and that he'd been let outside -- I continued to write, furiously, desperately -- some might say stupidly -- in an effort to finish the stanzas I'd begun, instead of jumping into the shower right away and beginning my own preparations for school.

On Monday, a non-teaching day but a busy day nonetheless loaded with meetings, this meant that I threw a coat over my pajamas and ran my daughter to the bus stop, and then ran back inside the house and started all of my before-I-leave-for-work ministrations about an hour late. The boy was very good for me on this day. He requested another banana and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the T.V., and he was very calm and content while I ran around like a crazy person.

On Tuesday, the day I began teaching for the first time in eight months, the earliest part of the morning went similarly except that I actually FINISHED THE FIRST PART OF CHAPTER X OF THE FAIRY TALE (yes, all caps are necessary), and I managed to get my ass in the shower, and fully dressed, before I took my daughter to the bus stop. In fact, I was so on top of things, I hustled the kids through getting dressed, and then after some militant teeth brushing ("keep brushing, little soldiers! You're not done yet!") we ended up being 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Yeah, I was that good. Or crazy. Take your pick.

It may be early days, but I'm happy that my mind didn't shift into teaching mode so completely that I forgot about my writing, which has been the case in prior semesters -- especially at the beginning of the semester, which is always such a busy time for me . . . I never seem to be as well prepared as my colleagues to teach. I didn't write much over the weekend -- a line or two on Friday night, not much more -- but in hindsight I think I needed a break. I was forcing the lines of my poem into (probably) bad places because I was desperate to finish the section -- instead of being desperate to get out the words that were in my head.

There's a definite difference in the two approaches, and I need to remember when I'm in the former mode that the poem isn't going to be good if I'm writing simply because I want to finish according to some arbitrary deadline. (Which A.P. warned me about, but what am I gonna do -- listen to that guy every time he speaks?) I think a few days off from writing gave me a little necessary space, and I think the last few stanzas I wrote (the result of Monday and Tuesday morning) were better for it.

My return to teaching was surprisingly fun and less panicky than expected. It's too early to tell the personality of my classes, but the students seem nice enough (one or two sullen faces, but that's normal for the community college crowd) and I feel pretty comfortable with what I'm teaching. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have an Introduction to Literature class and a Creative Writing class. Today and Friday I have a Freshman Composition and Short Story class. It's a good schedule, and hopefully I won't be too backlogged with grading this semester. (I purposely tried to space out my assignments. Not that this guarantees mid-semester sanity, but it helps.)

So. By now the kids have risen, and it's time to stop this post and get my butt into gear. (Also, the doggie keeps butting me with his head. Someone wants breakfast. He does not care for poetry or blogging.) Hopefully the end of the week will go smoothly and I'll get some earnest work done on Part II of the last chapter of the fairy tale.


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