Friday, November 22, 2019

Changes Come

I've been meaning and meaning to update with the pictures from Iceland, and now I finally have, so the plan is to try to resume more regular blogging.  I don't know why, but I just didn't want to skip the Iceland pictures.

A lot has changed in recent months.  I'm back teaching.  Mostly, that's very good.  I'm really enjoying most of the teaching this semester.  I'm teaching a Shakespeare course, a drama course (that I haven't taught in about ten years), and an Intro to the major sort of course that I haven't taught in five years.  For both of the latter courses, the rental texts have pretty much gone out of the system.  I'm using a rental text that others chose for the Intro, and ordered up a different rental for the drama course, in part influenced by my felt need to have Godot in it since the campus theater folks are putting it on later this semester.

Naturally, that means that some of the plays I'd taught for specific reasons (Brecht's Mother Courage, for example, to teach epic theater stuffs) aren't in the text.  But The Good Woman/Person of Szechaun is.  So, I'm teaching a fair number of new or different plays, and even the old familiar plays have different page numbers so I'm doing a fair bit of "translation."  Still, it's good.  And I've discovered that I adore Glaspell's Trifles.

In the Intro course, we're now onto the novel.  When I was at "the Abbey" in fall of 2017, I taught Jenni Fagan's The Sunlight Pilgrims and really liked it and liked teaching it.  So I've chosen that as the novel I'm teaching.  And I've taught it before, so that's something.  BUT, when I left the Abbey, I figured I'd never teach it again (I don't often teach novels), so I gave the book to a colleague and put my notes in the recycling bin.  So now it's very much like teaching a new text.  Still, it's such a good book!  (I think Dr. Crazy originally suggested it to me, and I thank her for that!)

Next semester I'll be teaching a junior level Canterbury Tales course, a MA level Queer Shakespeare course, and the Intro to the major course again.  So overall, it shouldn't be quite as much new stuff, but will still require lots and lots of prep work.

The really big news around here is that I'll be our department chair for the next three years (starting in May.  Our current department chair, super fabulous though she is, is DONE.  She's served (at the end of this year) six years, and she's ready to not be chair.  I tried to bribe her to serve another term, but she was unbribable.  In our department, what happens is that a committee puts out a call for applications for chair (internal to the department) and then we sort of wander around, encouraging some folks to put their names forward.  It became clear to me about ten days before the application deadline that the people I thought would be best were not going to do it, for very good reasons, and that a number of people were encouraging me to put my name forward.  So I write an application letter, and sat on it, then got some feedback from friends, and then, the day it was due, submitted it.

And I was the only one.  Then the committee gave me five questions they wanted me to answer for a department interview.  The questions were harder than you might guess.  One of the hardest asked about the experiences of students of different social identities in our department.  The thing is, it's hard to know.  I couldn't very well go around asking students, so, do you identify as lesbian?  Low income?  Native American?  The only groups our campus research folks really track are people of color and not people of color.  So I found that research, and talked about lack of knowledge, and possible ways to improve things, perhaps starting by exploring curricular change in naming courses, and maybe also asking students to tell us about their experiences in exit interviews.

The hardest question I got from the department members during the question and answer session was about what strategies I suggested to subvert the business-focused minutia we're forced to click through.  Unfortunately, I had no good answer.  I think if anyone had found a really good strategy, they'd have told us and we'd all be using it already.  In the meantime, since some funding is tied to the click this minutia, we pretty much tend to do it.  (My personal least favorite is the yearly repetition of the 90+ minute "don't get scammed" computer security training we're supposed to do.  It's pretty much exactly the same as the year before.  And I wonder, how many problems are caused by faculty who've done the training once already?  Because I think the school is paying some company for these "modules" and that's money.  But the school doesn't really see faculty time as money for these things.  The administrative folks just add them to our "must do" lists, and know that we aren't going to teach or prep less, we're not going to grade less or do less other work.  We're simply going to add another 90 minutes of work in during the evening or weekend or something.)

Then I had a meeting with the Dean, which basically consisted of him asking me to talk to the current chair about when I would start, and to let him know and he'll send a memo.  So I did, and the current chair is hoping to get sabbatical (well-deserved) and wants to be done in May, so it looks like that's when I'll take over.

It seems to me that the best blogging comes when folks are learning something new or going through a new and challenging experience, so while I'll need to be circumspect, I hope I'll blog well.

In other news:  Last year I joined and then dropped out of a middle-school level orchestra.  This fall I rejoined, and even though I'm probably the weakest player, and I'm so far back in the second violins that I'm practically in another room, I'm pretty much able to keep up and play the pieces.   In some ways, I don't feel like I've progressed very far in violin this year, but in orchestra, I do feel like I've made some progress.  And it's really fun to get to try to make music with other people.

I'm also continuing to participate in bird banding at the local nature center.  I don't get to go often during the semester, but I really enjoy learning more about birds and the other people involved are exactly the sorts of people I want to be around, active, interested, caring.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck! (And I'd like to hear more about the course-renaming thing, if it's bloggable.)