Week two of the Maymester class begins today. I am having a good time with the class, and so far the students have stayed with me. Reading Spenser at this pace isn't easy, but on the other hand, they are probably better off reading the work this way because it forces them to stick with it and helps them not forget the multifarious elements of his invention.
Meanwhile, we have spent a lot of time this past week at the ballpark and in the yard, trying to create some sense of organization and order while the plants all luxuriate in the warmth and the rain. This has been an ideal spring for making things grow like--well--weeds. Also garden plants and flowers. The above peony surprised us this year. I am fortunate that The Runner enjoys spending time in the yard, because it takes two of us to keep things under control.
I am months ahead of my usual fitness level at this time of the year. Apparently the circuit training I did through the winter months, paired with some indoor riding on the stationary trainer, has made a significant difference in my strength and stamina level. I'm currently on track to average 5 rides of 20 mi. + per week this month. That's significant for me. I hope that by July 4 I'll be ready to tackle all 100 miles of the Bike Around Mayfield.
We saw Number One Son in his children's choir production at church last night. He had a minor speaking part, and did pretty dang good with it. Parental thrill.
A partial list of things I teach that could get me in trouble according to the Feds if this continues to be implemented as official policy:
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Canterbury Tales
The Faerie Queene
John Donne's "Elegy 19"
Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"
Christopher Marlowe's "Hero and Leander"
George Chapman's "Ovid's Banquet of Sense"
5:45 awakened by The Mutt because she needs to go out.
6:00 try to rouse Number One Son, and carry Little Red out to the recliner.
6:05 begin preparing breakfast for boys.
6:15 retrieve Lefty
6:30 check morning news and weather as I wait for Number One Son to get ready for school.
6:55 The Runner and Number One out the door to take him to school and her to the swimming pool.
7:10 "Daddee we need to doo something."
7:15 "Daddee I want cereal."
7:20 "Daddee I want a waffle."
7:30 "Daddee let's play legos. What do you want to build."
7:31 "What do you want to build."
7:32 "What do you want to build, daddee?"
7:45 "Let's do a science experiment!"
8:00 try to explain that the components of the experiment will take time to set up and get ready.
8:15 "is it ready yet?" "no."
8:20 "let's play on the TV."
8:30 The Runner returns from the pool. The Mutt is very excited. The children are very excited.
8:45 text message from buddy: "how about a bike ride at 10:00."
...and so on.
It's that time of year! Here are representative comments from this semester's evaluations:
- "He gives you your money's worth"
- "Made the course a lot better than expected." (backhanded?)
- "He is very energetic" (this comment has appeared in scores of evaluations every semester in some form or another)
- "Needs improvement on storytelling. You go off topic easily." (this is also an oft-repeated critique)
- "he makes a not so interesting course a little more interesting." (eh??)
- "I would [recommend this teacher to another student] if they were willing to risk a B or were willing to work."
- "I would go easier on essays, grading-wise."
- "Speaks loudly & clearly so everyone can understand."
- "He is kind and open to answering questions, rather than tell you it's a stupid question and move on without answering, as one of my professors did all semester."
And sometimes I get loud.
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita
(Dante, Inferno, Canto I)
I had a terrifying conversation with my best buddy today. We were taking stock now that the semester has come to an end, and we both expressed the same concern: that we are losing the ability to operate at a high level--that even if something were to open up somewhere else (and make no mistake, we're both looking), we wouldn't be able to keep up.
It's all of a piece with the rest of the concerns I've had this past few months: about the direction of my career, and whether or not I can find fulfillment doing this job in this place. I'm content that I'm not likely to ever be an ARB or a JLW, under whom I studied and learned so very much--but I would like to work at a place where the liberal arts are understood and valued, and where the leadership at least seems to understand and value the identity of the institution.
The other option, pushing back and trying to forge something here in NWTN, just seems so exhausting.
My buddy said something else terrifying as well. When I noted that I had been kinda thinking about leaving, he said, "I could tell from your behavior." I'm dismayed that I am not more sneaky than I am. Sorta. Then I remember that the first "strength" on that strength inventory I took the other day was "honesty, authenticity, and genuineness," followed by "industry, diligence, and perseverance." If I'm serious, then, about changing my mindset about all the things about me, perhaps I need to use this crisis of confidence--this moment of being unsettled--as an opportunity to develop the very things that are thereby being put under pressure.
Turning in final grades is always a bittersweet experience, mainly because I don't feel comfortable with the high ones (too generous?) or the low ones (too tough?) . . . unless of course the student is in the very top 10% or the bottom 10%. I have had only one complaint, fortunately: the young woman worked too hard to be getting a B, she says (with what may have been a touch too much sarcasm). I say, "well, I have no doubt that you worked hard, so I will double check to make sure that I got your grade right." One can hardly just say, "I've been doing this long enough to where I can pretty easily make the call, and you fall squarely in the 'B' range," even though that would be an utterly true statement.
I begin teaching again next Monday -- a "Maymester" course that will go for fifteen days, three hours per day. It will be a new experience.
Another semester in the books. I will remember this one as the Semester When It All Changed, either way. I don't think I will return after this summer with the same mindset, the same priorities, or the same level of favor from my department chair. Because I aim to start standing up for some ideas.