Here it is, almost 7 p.m., and I’m just managing to get my posts up. But this is what my day has looked like so far.
6:30 a.m.: wake up to news that a friend has gone missing on a solo hike. Worry; pray; worry; rage; pray. Make breakfast, coffee.
7:15 a.m.: chat with long-distance partner, both about life in general, and about a logo that I’m designing for a departmental program.
8:00 a.m.: shower, dress.
8:30-11:30 a.m: Walk to campus, and prep for the class I’m teaching at 11:30. It’s a writing link, meaning that it’s a full 5-credit composition class that’s paired with a class in a specific discipline (this quarter, Geography). Because I’m teaching while trying to finish a dissertation, I’ve been trying to avoid doing more than minimal teaching work on non-teaching days — so most of my prep is happening this morning (though it’s according to a schedule that included classroom activities that I managed to prep last week, when the quarter began).
My students have gotten their first essay prompt for the other class, and I’d asked them to annotate it in Google Docs with their questions and comments, so that we could break it down and get started on it today. I need to see whether their annotations provide material that I can easily build on, and try and get a measure of how they’re approaching the assignment. Happily, they’ve asked great questions, and made good comments. I mark out a couple of things to build on.
I’ve also asked them all to provide brief answers to a short question (in this case, “Name one situation (any situation) where you would not want to use writing (unless you absolutely had to.) Why do you think that writing wouldn’t be an ideal strategy?”). My purpose in doing this is to just get them more comfortable talking about writing, and how they make decisions as writers (both in academic and non-academic contexts). Again, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to build on what they’re saying, and draw them into discussion in a way that taps into their instincts about writing without triggering their fear-of-academic-writing reflexes. And again, I am fortunate — I see some really great connections between their posts. And some interesting situations: they would not want to use writing to tell someone how to fly a plane if it were about to crash, to break up with someone, to negotiate with bees (or with anyone who was so dead set against them that the writing would have no effect).
I make a plan to talk with them about the characteristics of writing that make it difficult to use in the situations they mentioned, and then to ask them “What if you *have* to use writing in this situation? What would your priorities be, and what would you have to do to mitigate the difficulties?” I want to say to them that I often think that the academic classroom is a place where writing is not ideal — so that it’s a process of trying to make it work, rather than strive for perfection. But I don’t know whether that will fit, and really, I’ll be happy as long as the discussion we have feels useful, rather than falls flat.
11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m.: TEACH. And it goes fabulously — except for a minor techfail that my normal fix doesn’t solve. (One more thing to add to the to-do list). The discussion of the Daily Question goes well; as does the discussion of the essay prompt annotation. We break down the assignment into a list of concrete steps, and make a plan to get started on the first part of it for Wednesday’s class. We also look at the Working Syllabus which they created. They’d listed skills and challenges that they wanted to work on for the quarter; I asked them to identify which ones they think are most important for this assignment, based on the discussion we’ve had about their annotation. They identify Organization/Effective use of space, Making sure that they’ve fulfilled the assignment’s requirements, and Using the vocabulary of geography correctly. I think these are great priorities, and I send them off, with praise and encouragement.
1:00-1:30 p.m. — Buy, and manage to scarf down most of a lunch from the campus cafeteria, and print several documents from the class to share at a TA meeting.
1:30-3:00 p.m.: TA meeting, where I hear what other linked writing class instructors are doing, and where we talk through any issues we’re having. There are a couple, but on the whole, it sounds like everyone is figuring out the rhythm of the quarter, and rapport with lecture course instructors, etc.
3:00-3:50 p.m.: meeting with a faculty member about the logo I was working on this morning, and the project to increase visibility of a particular program. I can’t say anything about this, except that I’m learning interesting things that I think will be useful, assuming I end up in a teaching job.
3:50-4:00 p.m.: STARVING. Buy a small cottage cheese and fruit from cafeteria. Think that I need to coordinate better in order to have cottage cheese and fruit from home on hand.
4:00-4:30 p.m.: review documents that I’m copyediting and fact-checking for another department (a paying job); send time estimate and a couple of clarifying questions to my contact.
4:30-4:40 p.m.: try to catch up on the news and such. I buy tickets for the Opening Night Gala of the Seattle International Film Festival, featuring Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing! I will get to have a drink in the same room as Nathan Fillion!
My friend in Scotland hasn’t been found yet. I am frightened for his wife and daughter.
4:40-5:00 p.m.: attempt to sort out snafu regarding a badly printed course reader that does not contain the correct pages of a particular text, for a prof who’s teaching abroad and knows that I am a fixer. She’s asking for a particular set of pages, but looking at them, they don’t contain the material she thinks they do. I flip though the book to find that material, and copy both sections.
5:00-5:20 p.m.: walk home from campus. Realize that I forgot to customize my farm box order (oops!), so I shall have a mystery box of produce arriving tomorrow. (Well, creativity in the kitchen is fun.)
5:20-5:30p.m.: Scan book pages, email to professor, explaining why I’ve included pages that she hadn’t asked for, and where the particular excerpt she mentioned starts.
5:40-5:50 p.m.: chat with Sarah, my co-organizer for the Demystifying Digital Humanities workshops we’ve been running throughout this year. We have a meeting with the Simpson Center for the Humanities Associate Director tomorrow, to talk about re-applying for funding next year.
5:50-6:40 p.m.: respond to a couple of emails, and find the other post that I wanted to publish for this event; check it over, edit it slightly for clarity, and get it up.
6:40-7:30: write this timeline.
Still on my list?
Knock out at least 1000 words of diss (I’m trying to send off part of a chapter revision to my director). The 1000 words shouldn’t be too bad — they’re mainly shorter signposting discussions that I tend to leave out, if I don’t think about them carefully. Still, they need to get done.
Come back and write a follow-up to that other post.
Check the proposed metadata for the Blake Society’s Voice Project page (I’m a trustee for the Society) — this is something that I’m really behind on, and I’m embarrassed about it, especially after I’ve emphasized how important it is.