Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Things I'm Thinking About

I'm really excited about my teaching this week. In spite of the fact that I've been kind of a slacker when it comes to prep/grading, I really see my students learning, and I'm getting to know them and like them. I love week 3 of the semester for just this reason. The real work of the semester has begun, and now I can really focus what I want to do in the classroom. I do feel a little insecure lately about my freshmen classes - I teach them on automatic pilot, in spite of the fact that I feel guilty for doing so, and sometimes I wonder whether they will learn anything from such a disengaged teacher. That said, everything I'm teaching is new to them. I think that next fall I will need to change my syllabus a bit so that I won't feel so stale. As it is, I think that as we move toward the first major paper things will improve, and if they don't I'll have to find some way to shake things up.

Also related to teaching is this article from The Chronicle about teaching undergraduates and the way that we privilege teaching graduate students in academia. (By the way, you access this through the "jobs" page, which is free and doesn't require a subscription.) As much as I am thinking seriously about wanting to move onward and upward from RCU, one of the things I really love about this job and this school is the emphasis on teaching undergraduates. While it's true that I hate my course-load, I don't hate teaching freshmen and sophomores. In fact, I really enjoy teaching freshmen and sophomores much, much more than I enjoy teaching juniors and seniors. I like how optimistic and enthusiastic they are. I like persuading them to think in new ways or about things that they haven't thought about before. Teaching upper-division courses, or teaching graduate courses, does allow me to teach material that is more complicated and bears a closer relationship to my work as a scholar, but often I find the students boring. They've learned the ropes of the major and of the college classroom by the time they reach the UD courses, and they seem a lot less willing to take risks in the classroom and in their assignments. Perhaps this will change when I begin to get students in my UD classes that took LD classes with me. Or, perhaps, maybe I will change and at some point will get sick of simplifying and breaking things down for novices. But I have been thinking about this a lot, especially with considering going on the job market. I know that what I think of as a "better" job, i.e. the kind of job that I would leave this job to take, involves teaching fewer undergraduates and a greater emphasis on research. But would that really make me happy, or is it just what the culture of academe would call a "better" job and in fact it wouldn't really be a better job for me? Something to ponder.

Well, it looks like I'm going to be the proud new mama of a baby kitty come week's end. I spoke with the professor who's finding the kitties homes, and I'm going to go meet them on Friday. There are three kitties to choose from. One of the kitties is a girl. The other two kitties are boys. Now, I've always thought I would never have a boy kitty, but one of the boy kitties actually looks like me. This makes me think that maybe I am meant to own the boy-kitty, as he would feel at home with me, as if I were his real-life mama. I realize this is a ridiculous thing to spend my time considering, but I can't help myself. Thus, I would really appreciate any insights the cat-owning audience might offer regarding the relative merits of boy vs. girl kitties and which seems right for me.

Also, any thoughts about good cat names are welcome. I probably won't name the kitty until I get him home, but I should mention that I'm not generally a fan of naming animals names that are run-of-the-mill people names. (For example, I suspect I wouldn't name a cat "Steve" or "Mary.") I also don't think I like obvious celebrity names for pets (although I did know somebody once with a cat named Jonbenet, which I think was awesome) or obvious literary figure names (although I do like the names of the dogs in Erica Jong's Fear of Flying series - I can't remember whether it was in How to Save Your Own Life or Any Woman's Blues - Virginia Woof and Poochkin). I hate Freud's cat's name because he doesn't look the way an Apollo should look. He just doesn't look... godly to me. Now, if he were very tiny, then it would be ironic and would be ok, but Apollo for a regular sort of cat that's neither very big nor very small just doesn't make sense.

Ooh! It occurs to me that I'm ok with using fictional characters' names for cats. For example, "Shelmerdine," Orlando's sea-faring husband in Woolf's Orlando. Also acceptable would be "Leopold" (although, yes, it is a person's name, it's not common) for Joyce's Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, which would also be awesome because the kitty could be Leo for short, and how funny to have a kitty named Leo. Especially if it's a little lion-like kitty. Ok, rambling, but I needed to give you all an idea of my taste in cat-names so that you won't waste your time with suggestions that I would immediately veto.

Dreaded Reappointment Notebook
Sadly, I have not begun to work on this hefty tome in a real way, and it is due one week from today. Life is pain. I am despair. That said, I've got a faculty mtg. in three hours, and so I've decided to force myself to work on it in the intervening time. If I can just get the stupid statements written, the rest won't be so troublesome. Ultimately, after the statements it's just a matter of throwing the evidence in the notebook. And I've been pretty organized about the evidence, so that shouldn't take very long (or so I say now to justify my procrastinating ways). Why am I procrastinating about this stupid thing? Why do I resent having to do it so much? Ah, the answers to these questions don't really matter. I need to stop questioning and get off of my behind and start doing. I think that a kitty will significantly improve my work habits, by the way. I would much rather work at home with a kitty than go out and do things without the kitty.

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