Sunday, August 27, 2006

Goals for a new year

So funny that New Kid, following others, had a post on resolutions for the academic year! I've been writing down scraps of goals for the new year for the last month or so, planning just such a post this week. They include:

I am still new at this game, last year having been my first year of full-time teaching. I had a great year, overall - learned a lot and boosted my confidence about 1000% - but I was aware, all along, of so many things to work on. Like these:

- Stop being a pushover. I tend to be too nice to students and tolerant of their disorganization and disrespect around issues of lateness, etc. I need to be firmer from the outset. I find this challenging; I fall for it all.

- Stop over-preparing. I did this for some of my classes, I think because I felt I needed a crutch. I need to trust myself more, trust my own ability to think on my feet. In May I taught a course in my own subfield, and was able to start being more spontaneous because of my comfort with the topic. (I get to teach it again this fall at the new university.) I hope to carry this over into the rest of my teaching. This isn't about cutting down on workload; it's about learning to be a better, more flexible teacher.

- Stop getting frazzled with technology in the classroom. Last year I taught one of my courses in a room that was really ill-equipped; it took me weeks to figure shit out, and I kept on having to chase down tech support in the middle of class. (Other classrooms worked fine, so it wasn't just me; I'm really not that tech-challenged, honest!) It was truly awful - because I was new and nerved out in general, I would lose my mind, become semi-hysterical in front of the students. Then feel humiliated and lose sleep. Since I'm at a new uni, the system will be slightly different, and I'm sure my adjustment will be a bit bumpy. I must stay calm!

- Enact strategies for managing all the students in my discipline, described here, who run off at the mouth and intimidate their peers, dominating conversation with their unique form of academic monotheism.

- Employ creative strategies for discussion in my third-year core, required course - don't just read about these strategies and think about them; spend the time to work out how to apply them.

- Said third-year, required course is the theory course for the discipline. Most students think they don't like theory; they're scared of it. Always keep that fact front of mind, and plan class in ways that emphasize the usefulness and attractiveness of theory.

- Lastly, revise approaches. I am teaching the theory course twice: once at the main campus and then the next night at a satellite campus, with a smaller group. I want to use this as an opportunity to reflect on my teaching; think hard about what didn't work and try out something different the next night.


- Most important: stop being precious about my research time! Stop thinking I can't read and write unless I have a whole day, or at least a half-day; that ain't gonna happen very often. So, learn how to approach my research for an hour here or there. I like New Kid's resolution to do research/writing five times a week, even if just for fifteen minutes at a time.

- Establish some sort of reading group - or reading dyad, as I'm talking about doing it with just one other person from my former PhD program - to keep thinking and talking regularly with other scholars about some issues that are relevant to my research but not so much, currently, to my teaching; I am loath to become rusty in this stuff I love.

- Write this conference paper that I'm to present on October 13, by September 22. Using comments from conference-goers, revise and expand it to submit for consideration at journal by December 15.

- By December 31, reread dissertation with red pen at hand, figuring out how to rip it apart, add to it, and sew it back together in radically different form as a book. Emerge with PLAN. I suck at restructuring my own work; I need to think about this not just as editing a dissertation, but as using it as the basis for a new project. (It's tempting to just file it away forever, but after thinking about it this summer, I think there's such a hole in the scholarship and it could be partially filled by this material.)

Job search
I'm on a contractually limited appointment at this university I've always longed to be at. This means I'm still on the market for something tenure-track. The folks in my new department keep telling me about the tenure-track position they hope will be opening up this year; it's hard not to suffocate from wanting that so badly.

- So, don't get too hung up on this, even though it's really my dream job.

- Cultivate nonchalance in my own thinking about my job applications; don't get too invested in any of the options I apply for, because that's only courting heartbreak. (Since we're looking at a much smaller market here, and in my discipline especially, you don't apply for that many things, and it is possible - as I discovered last year - to become really hung up on every possibility...)

- Stop looking at online real estate listings in the places I apply to!

Balance and Life

- Work out more regularly. I've never really stopped working out, but this summer has seen me exercising less than I like, what with relying entirely on running and no gym because I didn't want to spend the money. With income again, I can join a gym again - yay!

- When I do want to run, do it in the morning. This is hard for me; I am not a natural morning runner...but I made some headway with just-out-of-bed running this summer and I need to keep that up even as mornings get darker and colder...

- Take lessons in a dance form, now that I'm not going to be doing The Activity.

- Get better organized. I am quietly disorganized (although seem to have pulled the wool over people's eyes on this one; with the exception of uber-organized GF, who lives with me and sees it in action, people always think I'm so on top of things. They are wrong). The other night I was filing some stuff in preparation for my upcoming move of office stuff to New University City. What two disturbing reminders of my idiocy did I discover? One, a never-opened envelope, dating from last October, with a cheque in it addressed to me. Two, a fax I'd sent to the provincial birth registry requesting a new copy of my birth certificate. Did I remember doing this? No. Did I ever see the birth certificate? No. Do I know what the hell happened? No. Oy - I really, really need to get on top of things.

That's it for now. Lots to think about, but I'm energized for this new year and new university, so I'm ready for challenges galore.

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