Friday, January 25, 2013


I'm feeling utterly overwhelmed and blue. 

I'm so tired of people scheduling stuff and my having to do it because it's part of the job.  (And yes, I know, my stuff isn't as important as the scheduling stuff, and it's really, really hard to figure out a schedule that will accomodate all these people.  Did I mention I'm blue?)

I'm especially overwhelmed by my Chaucer class.  I think it's a couple of things.  First, it's the second class, back to back, in the morning.  So I don't feel fresh going in, and I really need to prep a long time the day before so that the stuff will all feel fresh again.  The first class is comp, and I'm just not excited to be teaching this course.  It takes more than its share of my mental energy without providing anything like enough sense of reward.

And it's been well over a year since I've taught Chaucer.  And I think I either have to teach it pretty much every year or not.  But I love teaching Chaucer and don't want to give it up.  Except it's got to get better or I won't love it any more.  (This was only the second day of the class, so surely, surely it will get better, right?)

I'm just going to go whine in the corner.


  1. Oh dear -- I hope that it is just the second-day blues; I usually have a second-week dip when the initial freshness has worn off and we haven't yet gotten our groove. I hope things look better after the weekend!

  2. I expect it will get better. But Chaucer can be heavy lifting, and if it's been awhile since you taught it, the students haven't heard on the grapevine what it's like. Show some movies to give them an idea how to visualize what's going on---does you library have the videos "Cathedral" and "Castle" about building those in medieval England? Or anything on the making of a medieval manuscript? Really anything to show what streets, buildings, clothes, etc looked like. Or if you have pictures from your trip to England, show them. Mine love that; I think it makes it more real, to see that someone they know has been in those places.

    I think a lot of students in places like yours and mine find it hard to get their heads around medieval literature because the whole thing is so foreign---not just the language, but the physical, social, and cultural worlds as well. I know people go on about how Universal and Lasting Chaucer is, but I would say that that is only in the broadest possible ways; in the details, he is of his time, and students need to learn to time travel a bit.

    Anyway, back to the visuals and your second-class-of-the-day problem, if you can show a little bit of something and get students discussing it, that might be easier than trying to get yourself jazzed up! Another thing I do is pass out postcards of varied medieval miniatures, sculpture, architecture, etc (I have a vast quantity of these), and ask students to write for ten minutes about whatever picture they have, and then share their ideas (easier with a document camera so everyone can see the image), and invite the class to try to make connections to the reading.

  3. Oh, those are GREAT ideas! I'm going to find some pictures!


  4. Hello, friend. Hope your blues are lifting. Don't forget the power of a total break--go outside and play, spend time with friends, eat something festive. I often throw this right out the window when I'm feeling pressured, but it almost always reenergizes me. Also--plans for the future? Are you coming out this way anytime soon?

  5. Good luck with getting into the groove and not letting the schedule gremlins get you down. I know how that feels - my Wednesday is now officially booked to the gills!

    I would think that maybe a couple minutes to have students free-write or do small group discussions at the start of your Chaucer class might help the second-straight-period syndrome. That can be really wearing, I know!

  6. What everyone else has said--and pictures! They will analyze pictures when they won't analyze text, and pictures warm them up for textual analysis. Hope you are feeling better.

  7. What everyone else said, plus I hope you got out to ski or something over the weekend. Being outdoors (even if it's crummy) can be energizing.

    I have found so much success with images that I'm determined to incorporate more of them into student assignments. Undine is right--we're dealing with a generation that is actually pretty savvy about analyzing images, and those skills are easier to harness in the service of textual analysis after they're warmed up and have some confidence about their analysis.