Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In college reading is optional

In college reading is optional

Or so a plurality of my students seem to think. I never took a class in community college where faculty gave quizzes. I never took a class at Beachy U where faculty gave quizzes. Ok -- maybe in language classes. But not anything else. I'm damned if I'm going to start. But if the alternative is waiting for several minutes for students to look in their books for answers to really basic questions directly from the reading assignment ... ? One of my colleagues says that this what was expected in high school. Hmph. Blogging will recommence when I am less grumpy.

PS -- it's only half my classes. The others are prepared enough to at least ask questions. Most of them. A couple actually come with prodigious amounts of notes. This makes me very happy.

Update: Well, shoot. Now I'm thinking quizzes might not be awful. the first three comments make it clear that I should probably have a serious re-think.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My week thus far

My week thus far

Saturday, I had a most wonderful day -- close to perfick. Sunday, I rowed with another friend because of an incredibly stupid misunderstanding. Today, I come to my office to find that it's frakkin' freezing. As in, "need my gloves" freezing. As in, "I'd turn on my space heater, but it hasn't worked since the pipes burst in my office and drowned the circuitry. SLAC won't replace it, needless to say. At the moment, I'm looking forward to 5 hours worth of classes. Yep, it's a Monday all right.

Carnivalesque 32

Carnivalesque 32

I was semi-incommunicado this weekend, and so missed yesterday's appearance of the latest Carnivalesque Logo, which is up at Serendipities. Lots of cool Early Modern stuff, especially stuff on duelling and a cartoon!

The next edition will appear right here, on or about 20 November. It will be Ancient and Medieval, natch, and will not be likely to include turkeys ... unless I can think of some way to deal with that particular anachronism!

Suggestions for inclusion are always welcome -- email them to me at another_damned_medievalist AT hotmail DOT com, or use the handy submission form.

Also, we are always looking for hosts -- January and March are open for Ancient/Medieval volunteers, and I know there are some of you out there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday Already?

Wednesday Already?

OK, so I think I need to figure out a way of adding more structure to my classes. Or learning how to be a crankier medievalist. Or maybe find more motivated students? I've taught 7 classes this week -- down from the usual 9 by the end of Wednesday, because I had scheduled student progress meetings for one class. It has occurred to me that very few of my students are doing as well as they should. Even my good classes are not as on top of the information as they should be. I'm having to work very hard at getting the students to participate, rather than at getting the information across.

Yes, midterms were last week -- why do you ask? I think I had one A in all of my classes. Most of my students seem happy with B's and C's. Lots aren't doing that well. But some are. I don't take credit for that. The students who are doing well are driven and engaged, and seem to think that they should be doing the best they can. I do think they are getting something valuable out of my courses, but that's because they are genuinely putting something into them. I think most of my B students are also getting a lot out of the courses, but they could all be A students if they just did all their work and did it on time. But they all seem OK with what I would consider unacceptable grades.

I worry about them, and I worry that the apathy might be contagious. I need to find a way to make my classes more demanding on the students without disproportionately increasing my work load ...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Art Imitates Life

Art Imitates Life

What makes a blog successful? Over at Making Light, Patrick Nielsen Hayden points us to a post at John Scalzi's blog wherein Scalzi eviscerates a "how to make your blog successful" article. As far as I can tell, these people count blog success by number of hits. The advice they give is how to network to get more hits. I don't really get this.

When I started blogging, lo, those 5+ years ago, it was because one of my best friends, Cranky Professor had pointed me to the now sadly-defunct Invisible Adjunct. At the time, I was in the process of returning to academia, and was myself experiencing the woes of adjuncting. After a short while, I was commenting at lots of blogs, and it seemed only polite to set up my own place where I could hog all the space I wanted, rather than hijacking other people's comment threads. So Blogenspiel was born. I still wish I'd given it a second 'g' for phonetic reasons.

The first readers, and some of the people who are now RL friends, were also readers of IA's blog. As we read each other's blogs, we also added new blogs we'd found through each other to our blogrolls, and made new blog friends and acquaintances. Or at least I did -- I can't really speak for anyone else's process, except that it seems to me that mostly this has been pretty organic. I suppose this could be called networking, but really, it's much more the way we meet at conferences when colleagues who are also friends introduce us to other colleagues who are also friends. Unquestionably the professional connections are important, but I still differentiate between meeting as colleagues and meeting as friends who are also colleagues. But then, I'm kind of a sad person in that I don't have all that many friends who aren't connected through academia. When I was married, I did, and I still have friends through X. I've started to meet a larger range of people in the last year or so, especially in the sf/f community, but even there, most of the people I know are connected to the academy in some way. Hell, I met Teresa Nielsen Hayden at Kazoo last year, and I probably wouldn't have met her otherwise, at least not till LDW makes good on this promise to take me to a con -- maybe Worldcon in Denver? (I'm thinking the SFRA paper might not happen. I have good ideas, but my dean will shoot me if I present a third paper this year before getting a medieval article in press!).

Somehow, while all that was happening, a bunch of people started reading this blog. The numbers have gone down as I've stopped writing as regularly -- and probably as I stopped writing about my divorce and job hunt? But I figure people aren't reading as much because there are lots of other interesting people out there who are writing regularly. I'm also not reading as many blogs, nor am I commenting as much, mostly because I am still feeling very overwhelmed with the living of the new T-T life -- which I still haven't managed to chronicle. Part of this is not being able to objectify some of the constant drama at SLAC, especially in my department. Part of it is just that I feel like, even though I've got 13 hours of face time in classes a week, a couple of new preps, and committee work (not to mention a whole passel of advisees), I am now in a position where I really have to show myself and the world that I am a productive academic type. I don't have the excuse of a constant job hunt or a long commute anymore (even though my time has been sucked up by other things!).

But anyway, I don't consider this blog any more or less successful than I ever did. It just is. Ironically, however, I'm giving a paper on blogging and networking this year. One of the points I'll be making is that blogging, even anonymous blogging, can do wonders for one's career. It's not why I started blogging. That was about feeling like a medievalist in the wilderness. At SLAC, I still feel that way. But whatever my intentions, blogging connected me to a wonderful group of medievalists, some of whom are now participants in a locked-down work blog; it reconnected me to some old and very valued friends, one of whom gave me my first opportunity to present a scholarly paper; it connected me to another bunch of medievalists who became RL friends, and who also invited me to present with them; it connected me with another RL academic service opportunity, which I really enjoy -- and through that, to a number of book reviews; it's given me a collegial community with which I can exchange ideas about teaching and from which I can beg for help with readings; and it has inadvertantly garnered me an invitation to fill in at a prestigious conference where I'd never have dared to submit. So ... from the points of view of the people Scalzi complains about, I guess the blog has been a route to their kind of success. But it wasn't planned. I just wanted not to feel so damned isolated. Funny how things work.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Just another day

Just Another Day

I did not know this:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hello? World?

Hello? World?

Um ... hi. So, in the past week and a half, I have written, given, and graded 70 midterms, written a postdoc app, and started the late book review. Also, I apparently miscounted the days till going to fabulous European capital to see LDW. It's 30 days as of today. Hmph. On the other hand, that still means I have time to read his MS. After the book reviews.

In other news, my nose is still above water, but I've been missing out on lots of blog stuff. I just noticed that Mike Drout has been posting all kinds of cool stuff on Beowulf, which I need to read if I'm going to teach it next semester. Speaking of which, I need to think about a book order. I'm thinking Collins for the main text (LA and EM is the course), but does anyone have a better choice? LDW mentioned that a book by Olsen (Lynette?) might be decent ... OH!!! and how much does it say that today in class when we were talking about an excerpt from the Rig Veda, Indra killing the dragon, and a student compared it to part of Genesis, all I could think of was, um ... Beowulf?

Let's see ... I don't have a volunteer for the next Ancient/Medieval Carnivalesque in November, and am thinking I haven't done one in a couple of years, so I might do it myself if no one minds ...

In the meanwhile, I've got to read a ton of a Greek historian writing about Rome about wars with the guy with the elephants for Friday, write the review of a ginormous book which can only be glowing, and a review of different book by reasonably famous types, and write an application for the Dream Job. Now I just have to worry whether to use letterhead for my cover letter.

ETA: apologies to all for the plethora of misplaced and dangling modifiers. I blame two things: drive-by blogging and a drink called a pear blossom.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

RBO Consternation

RBO Consternation

  • There is a collegial issue. I am Switzerland. Or sometimes the clueless looking guy in the light blue helmet.
  • There is a facilities issue. I worry that it is an indication of larger issues.
  • There are tech issues. These actually are indications of larger and completely insoluble issues. But they have caused faculty to move beyond biting nastiness right into slightly raising their voices, and reduced undergraduates to tears.
  • 1/3 of the students in my upper division class did not turn in their first paper. They will now have to pull 100% on each of their other assignments to get a middle B in my class. But ... WTF? Who doesn't turn in papers? I mean, I know I say I won't take late work, but I've never actually refused anything if the story is good enough and the student is willing to take a cut in the final grade.
  • Speaking of late ... Nice Book Review Editor, if you are reading this, really, I am kinda working on it and will have it in ASAP.
  • I am so far behind on applying for a postdoc that I don't know if I can pull it together at this point, because I really don't want to annoy my referees.
  • I so have to publish something academic, so that I can get someone in my field as a referee for the next application.
  • My FIVE classes are all ok. I like almost all the students, and dislike none. I am not especially fond of one of my classes as a whole, because there are some serious time-wasters, and I am close to asking people to leave. As it is, they are so confused that they confuse me. Er, by confused, I mean that several of them say in class that they are confused, but part of why they are confused is that they refuse to believe that I am not going to reiterate what's in the textbook, and they won't do the reading or bring notes.
  • I am counting the days (30) till I jet off to fabulous European Capital to visit LDW. I anticipate much enjoyment and much library time. Some day, I hope to have a vacation with him when we are not working or conferencing. Still, it's good to have someone I can work and conference with. Crap. I have 30 days to read and comment on his MS.

How are your lives?

UPDATE: Because Nice Book Review Editor really is nice, and because my referrees are stars, I think I will be getting in the postdoc app and get going on the review and start editing LDW's book. I've just realised that I can work on that on Monday nights, too, because I teach almost all day on Monday and am usually too tired to do anything else!