Monday, January 21, 2013

Now the Real Semester Starts!

I can't believe how long it has been since I wrote that blog posting at the beginning of this month about the Blessing Jar (which is still going strong!).  Classes for the Spring 2013 Semester started last Monday and things are already a little busy!  I just got some feedback from Dr. M, the most amazing dissertation director/ coach ever, so things are about to get a little crazy!

I have found that writing always helps me sort through my thinking, so here goes.  Here is why I am already starting to panic:

1.  I am teaching 7 classes this semester -- two are literature courses (and, thus, a little smaller) but the five writing classes (ENG 95, ENG 96 -- two sections, ENG 101, and ENG 102) are packed to the ceiling.  That's a lot of writing to evaluate and get back to students.  Three of those courses are portfolio-based and I pride myself on how well students do with this end-of-the-semester assessment.  I know a few of these students will just fade away but that is still a lot of students!

2.  Now that I am starting with dissertation edits, it is feeling more like "re-writes."  But I had a realization yesterday.  What was feeling "bad" to me when I turned it all in to Dr M at the end of December is exactly what she noted.  So here is an attempt at trying to describe where I am at with this whole project -- I don't do a good job of just coming out and "owning" my thinking, the very thinking that gets at what I am trying to say by establishing my own footprint in knowledge-making.  There is a huge part of me that is like, "What?  How in the world would there be anything that you would have to say that would be worthy and could swim equally with all these other rhet/ comp scholars?"  So I think what I did in much of my writing is hide behind the "skirts" of these other scholars and then sort of peeked around the corner:
Instead of using these writers as tree branches and forging ahead, I just sort of played it safe and hid behind everyone else's ideas.  And I know why I did this (I think).  It's not just the "ordeal" of a dissertation is hard -- it's also that I am scared to death that I will pipe up and say what I want to say and then discover that I missed an important text/ source somewhere that talked about this very idea.  You know what I mean?

But the good news is that I know what I need to do.  I need to wade myself back through those chapters and be more assertive about what I think.  And here is what I think:  We live in a comp world where folks use themed FYC courses all the time, so much so that it's a given and these types of courses need no justification at all.  I mean, even many FYC textbooks are divided up by theme and there are even some FYC texts that are written especially for a themed FYC course.  I used race as the organizing theme in my experiment.  I think it worked and it didn't work (it's complicated).  But my research has led me to think about the bigger picture here.  If we comp folks are not reflective about our practices (i.e. how we organize a course), then we might not be doing what we think we are doing.  And it is this that my future research (post-dissertation) is leading me.  I want to be the writing person who encourages more research about themed courses in general.

3.  I applied for graduation on May 11 and I have -- finally -- taken all my dissertation credit hours by the end of this semester.  I have to finish by then.  Period.  I imagine there will be a lot of late nights the next few months but it will get done.  I have drawn a line in the sand and as long as my dissertation committee will help me reach this goal, then the only person stopping this from happening is me.

That's it.  The key this semester, I imagine, will be organizing and keeping ahead on things.  I have a few things already in the works (like the fabulous Jane Austen Tea Party I am hosting next weekend) but please don't be annoyed at me if I can't do something with you.  I don't think I have ever wanted something so badly in my entire life.  And it is all up to me!  :D   (PS:  I hope Jim survives this, too!)

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