Update: writing syllabi, frozen Canadians, poetry, and some backlog

If anxiety has boots, they are definitely boots made for walking. Over me.

anxiety

Hear me out.

I hate breaks. I have always hated breaks. Some people call them vacations. But the rhythm of a routine is what keeps my anxiety in check. Thus, having almost an entire month off between the fall and spring semester is agony to me. I finish submitting grades in December, about 2-3 days later it’s Christmas, then a week of sitting around, then New Year’s Eve, then another 2 weeks of sitting around. Could I read all day long? Well, I try. But have you ever read so long that your eye muscles get tired, causing you to feel dizzy and want to throw up? I watch Twilight Zone to pass the time (because time isn’t always time in the Twilight Zone!). I’ve watched about 70 episodes and am on season 3. Compare that to most shows, running at about 22 episodes, though I see many around 10.

twilight zone.jpg
I don’t think Rod Serling gets enough credit for how much he wrote during his lifetime.

Next week, school starts again. You may be thinking I’m jolly just knowing school’s coming. But I have to design two new syllabi, as I will be teaching two new classes: creative writing (fiction AND poetry) and composition II (which has new specific requirements). Here I’ve been filling weeks of time poorly during “vacation,” and now I’m asked to imagine how 16 weeks will look every single class period. It makes me anxious.

But I’m getting there.

This week, I managed to finish Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, and the 4th book in the Dark Ones vampire series by Katie MacAlister. It wasn’t a total dumpster fire! I’m so glad. The last two have been, but I keep reading thanks to a promise I made to myself. It occurred to me that I never reviewed Looking for Mr. Goodbar from December, so that’s coming up next week. Why did I take so long to write the review?

Today, I read an article about how we could read 200 books per year if we ditched time spent watching TV and on social media. I uninstalled my Twitter and Facebook apps and moved my different book apps to the home screen. Basically, I grab my phone to jump on Twitter to pass the time, but I see it’s not there and that Google Books is. I have the entire works of Paul Laurence Dunbar thanks to Project Gutenberg, so already I’m reading more poetry. I hate a lot of today’s poetry. It doesn’t know how to make magic with language without dumping nonsense on the page. Here’s an example of Dunar’s work from a poem called “A Negro Love Song” (1895):

Seen my lady home las’ night,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hel’ huh han’ an’ sque’z it tight,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleam f’om huh eye,
An’ a smile go flittin’ by—
Jump back, honey, jump back.

paul_laurence_dunbar_1

Jennifer Vosters made an appearance at Grab the Lapels again, this time reviewing Florence in Ecstasy. I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but Jennifer was my student in the fall of 2013. A freshman. Who is now a grown-up person with a job. And the way I write that, you wouldn’t think I’m a grown-up person with a job. But I continue teaching because I love seeing people come into their own, to realize they change the world with their words, to see people like Jennifer move past my class and into adulthood. That all sounds so Dead Poets Society or Dangerous Minds, but teaching is really hard, folks. REALLY. HARD.

Last thought: I saw this and thought of Naomi and Anne

canadian yoga

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47 comments

  1. Teaching is really hard, but just often enough really rewarding I think. My father and my son were/are both primary school teachers and I think that is what they both would say, though

    • I didn’t know your father was a teacher, too. How did you get into trucking? Usually, in the States people think of careers in education and trucking as things that only people in certain kinds of families would do depending on their economic situation.

      • Mum’s youngest brother, a farmer, was mad about trucks. For me it was a form of dropping out, I liked work too much to be a hippy. For a few years all my brothers followed me into trucks which greatly embarrassed Dad in front of his friends.

        • Oh, no! You didn’t introduce you as “My son, the dropout” did he? If it’s reliable work and his sons are smart, I’m not sure why it would make a difference to your dad. Then again, I don’t know if all of your brothers are readers/learners like you are.

  2. … I wish my son was paid more than a pittance. Good luck with your programme to read more. I got through 150 audio books and maybe 20 paper ones, tons of news and zero television.

    • Teachers aren’t paid well here, either. Our education system is falling apart, and the secretary of education is just pushing for more private (which costs families money) schools. It’s so damn elitist.

    • I asked a woman at my college how often she changes what she’s teaching. I was curious to know if I would ever get a course “right” and then never have to write another syllabus again. She kind of laughed because she knew what I now know: a syllabus that doesn’t change isn’t improving, and it’s not keeping up with new learning practices and evidence-based suggestions from teaching scholars.

  3. I laughed really hard when I got to the end of your post and saw the Canadian Yoga – I wasn’t expecting it after the tone of everything before it! I haven’t seen that one before. I especially like “Fell off the Chairlift” pose. I don’t think it would be very comfortable to do yoga in the snow…

    Good idea removing the social media apps from your phone – I can see how that would make a difference. Luckily for me I always forget about my phone and it goes dead. 🙂 But if it ever starts cutting into my reading time I’m going to do what you did! Keep us posted on how it’s going!
    Teaching IS really hard! (My father was a teacher, and I see how hard my kids’ teachers work (most of them). I was also a teacher for a while, but a different kind of a teacher with different challenges… I taught preschoolers.
    I hope you’re able to quickly get back into a good routine once your “break” is over!

  4. I don’t like “breaks” either, but I don’t get much down time from my job. I was home for almost a full week and then part of the next week in December and January, but I ended up working from there. What I like to do is travel during my breaks, but it’s always a challenge (with work, kids, money, and my general aversion to planes).

    Good luck with the new classes you’re teaching!

  5. I don’t understand how people manage to spend so much time on social media and still do all the other things life requires. I’m a really bad twitterer – hardly ever read other people’s tweets – and I don’t do FB at all. I find just keeping up with blogging enough of a time-suck! Hope your anxiety retreats when you get back into a routine… 🙂

  6. Honestly even if I never watched TV (which I do little of anyway – mostly 1.5 hours an evening) and switched off Twitter I would still never be able to read that number of books. I do have other things in my life 🙂 and as you say it’s impossible to just read and read for hours

  7. hahaha how did you find that picture of me playing in my backyard? Unfortunately that picture is quite accurate of what our life is right now, so there’s that.

    Does this mean I’m not going to be seeing you on twitter as often? Which is something I’m actually quite jealous of, although I feel like I ‘have’ to be on it to better market my blog. sigh.

    Also-I’ve never seen the the twilight zone before. Unless it’s on netflix, I sadly never will.

    • It’s totally on Netflix! That’s where I watch it! As for Twitter, I’m not sure I posted all that much to begin with. Just aimless scrolling and lots of liking. I do get that people need to be on there constantly to make a difference in how followers see them because everything in chronological order, but I’m more likely to bombard people for an hour once per day.

  8. I was off work for just over a week over Christmas, which was exactly the right amount for me-I didn’t take any work home and I felt so much better once I got back into the office. At the moment, I am still not responsible for entire syllabi (my boss is waiting until I’ve finished my PhD before she gives me loads more to do), but curriculum development is one of my favourite parts of teaching. I’m working on a fairly new course – the university I work at only just started offering nursing degrees – which is great for me, because I get to do a lot of prep. Of course, that is time consuming and cuts into my research hours, so it’s swings and roundabouts I guess.

    Well done on deleting Twitter from your phone! I quite often put my phone into aeroplane mode in the evenings to give me time to read without being distracted by the ping of notifications, and when I remember to do so I find it really helpful.

    • I think the hardest part about writing a syllabus is you have to envision each and every day and what it will look like. What will we discuss? What will the students have read? Will there be group work, writing time, lecture? For these reasons, the idea of using a syllabus that someone else wrote has always perplexed me. Granted, content-based courses are different from writing and lit courses. Content teachers usually try to get through a text book, whereas I don’t even have a text book.

      • The thing with nursing is, of course, we all have to teach roughly the same content even if we deliver it in different ways. We also do a lot of seminar-based work, so 6 lecturers will all be delivering the same seminar to groups of around 20 students – so I am used to working to other people’s lesson plans by necessity. I do much prefer delivering my own content, though!

        • Ahhhh, I see. There is a big issue in academia with colleges offering several sections of the same course, but it’s taught in different ways with varying levels of expectations from the instructor. If an instructor develops a reputation for teaching more narrative-driven papers, students get ticked off that their professor makes them learn rhetoric, for example.

  9. I’ve never read until I felt sick, but I have until my elbows felt sore. Twitter can take up so much time. I have an app on my phone that blocks it for whatever portion of the day I so choose. I like the idea of staying off of social media and reclaiming some of that time, but sometimes wasting a bit of time can be kind of therapeutic. Wishing you a wonderful (and not too anxiety ridden) week!

  10. How did the syllabus writing go? I cannot imagine mapping out 16 weeks of classes… I guess that’s why I’m not a teacher lol

    I love that you have decided to spend less time on social media and more reading. It really is crazy how much time we waste away on our phones… scrolling social media, reading trashy celebrity news, pinterest… I’m definitely guilty. I am not a TV watcher, so there’s that. For some reason it just never holds my attention like books do.

    • Mapping out 16 weeks requires cracker jack timing, to be honest. You’re squeezing in as much as you can (beyond reason, in many cases), plus planning ahead for when is the best time for students to submit work, for me to write feedback on it all, for them to give it back, to expect they have revised and visited the writing center, etc. Then, grades shape what I have to do. If I haven’t graded a substantial amount of work by midterms, all my data looks crazy. I’m actually not sure I know how hard it is to write a syllabus until I started describing it to people on here.

  11. Welcome back to your routine! I can completely relate– I love the idea of travel, and I do quite a bit more of it than I typically realize. But whenever I am away for over 2 weeks I start to lose my mind. I want my routine. My bed, my neighborhood, my kitchen, my habits… I want all of that. I can totally understand how losing that might cause an unproductive spiral leading to a wall of anxiety. Gosh. Just thinking about it stresses me out a bit… How did you do? Did you make it?

    I also appreciate the wide variety of topics and emotions in this post! I am SUPER excited to go back one more post and read your review of Dumplin’— I’ve been so anxious since I posted my own review that I might have over-hyped it for some of my blogger friends… Here’s hoping!

    Finally, I read that same article about being able to read 200 books without media distractions. While I don’t disagree, I think it takes a really specialized situation to achieve 200 books. In my own life, I don’t watch television and I rarely interact with social media. I read around 100 books a year, but I populate the rest of my time with cooking, social events, volunteering, and more. If I chose to stop interacting with other people, I could definitely do it. Also, the rate at which people read can vary drastically. I read non-fiction much more slowly than fiction. I read graphic novels sometimes. Reading Les Miserables is very different than reading Harry Potter, or even something like The 5 Habits of Highly Successful People. This isn’t a dig against you, just against the tone and implications of the article. I enjoy sleeping and doing things other than reading in my free time.

    Do you hope to keep down your social media/TV time to read more? Or are there other things you want to do?

    P.S. Winter yoga? I’ll totally do that here in Madison, WI. The snow is ready for me. The real question is whether I can stay flexible in the cold!

    • I think the idea of reading 200 books per year is not normal, but the article did make me think more about how much I get on social media. When I get off of a routine in the winter, I tend to spend more time on social media, which literally depresses me because I’m not stimulating my brain. I met a write when I was doing my MFA program, Brian Evenson, whose horror is above and beyond the rest because he writes LITERARY horror (p.s. you shouldn’t read it; it’s horrifying). He was raised Mormon, and everyone in his family would read together, even if they did something like go to the beach. He said in his family it was very normal for them to read a book per day each. And he still does it quite a bit! This man is a professor and published author (of many books) and still reads about a book per day! I believe he said he only slowed down with his reading when his son was born. BABIES! Ammirite? 🙂

      I don’t really get through the winter successfully. I get eczema, which is just now healing, and sometimes I get a rash on my tummy that itches (probably also eczema, but a different type) that is doing it’s thing now. I’ll be good in February. Basically, my December destroys my January.

      • EXACTLY. This is why we don’t television in our house. I spend enough time doing menial tasks which don’t stimulate my brain. I need more of that, not less!

        Literary horror?! I will certainly not seek it out, but I am completely intrigued. I didn’t even know what was a genre! But, I’m not all that surprised.

        I want to have that family. The family goes to the beach and reads all day. I will admit, I have a bit of fear in my stomach that the kids I have some day will not be interested in reading. That would be the scariest. Like my own literary horror. 😉

        I’m so sorry about the eczema. My best friend struggles from the same thing. And David (and his whole family) suffer from psoriasis. It’s awful watching your body attack itself like that. O_o I hope that you recover soon!!

  12. Wow, 200 books a year is a lot !!! Have you noticed yourself reading more since this blog post? It’s an interesting concept to stop using social media and see how much more can be read.

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