The end of winter break, not of winter.

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

If you’ve been watching the national news, you have probably seen weather info from ND and MN. We have already had a significant amount of snowfall, which is dangerous for our area as we are prone to flooding, and more expected for January, the month that is typically the snowiest. Already I am thinking about plans for my students if school is canceled for a week or more due to flooding. Spring semester is notorious for having many breaks (spring break, holiday breaks, class canceled for assessment purposes) so it is imperative to have every class day count. (If only more students felt the same.)

I have already purchased my books for Spring. The classes I am taking are English 659 Grant and Proposal Writing and English 759 History of Writing Instruction (with a record number of students signed up–2!) The latter books were all new, and so emptied my pocketbook rather quickly. I was grateful that 659 had only used books available. As for 759, I am not sure how they could allow a class with so few to not be canceled, but they chose not to cancel it. I’m hoping at least one more person joins. And though I’m excited for both classes, I’m particularly excited for Grant and Proposal Writing. Grant writing combines all my interests: research, writing, problem-solving. The only thing I’m somewhat curious/nervous about is developing a budget. I’m usually good with money, but bad with numbers. And for 759, I enjoy history (I’m reading a book on the history of the Tudor period of England right now), and combining that with writing instruction sounds dorkily cool.

The only thing I dislike about this semester is a long Wednesday. I will be at school from at least 11am to 9pm if I miss the 8:02 bus (my class is over at 8pm and the bus is usually late, but I am expecting I will miss the bus more often than not.) This beats out the Mondays of last semester where I was on campus from noon to 8pm, though not by much. Either way, the day will feel long and I will feel relieved to be home by the end of it. I have scheduled in some “quiet recharging time” on Wednesdays between 3 and 5:30, when class starts. I’m hoping this will help me to recharge at least a little before class. I didn’t really schedule this in last semester and should have. When I get too much people-time in, I tend to get very withdrawn and irritable, more withdrawn that usual.

I also teach in two different buildings this semester. Last semester things were amazingly convenient as both classes were in the same building and only across the hall from each other. Most certainly I was being spoiled by this convenience.

Finally, I suspect this semester will be more consuming than the last. The first semester in any grad program is always like an introduction/gestation period. You just take that semester and start your work and adjust to new times, new commitments, new responsibilities. The second semester is always less forgiving and more combative (not with others, necessarily, but with yourself and your own use of time). You always have a lot more work that second semester and then each semester just increases by degree, usually.

Yesterday, a colleague told me that the master’s degree is 25 percent of the work and the PhD is 75 percent. I tend to mostly agree on this, though it is all what you put into it. Once you get used to the department, you can usually decipher what to do and who to avoid and what to carry. You can make it what you want of it. I have seen lots of master’s students get by on remarkably little actual work and still graduate and even go on to get doctorates. I don’t know if doctorates are the same as this (I haven’t been around long enough to see this yet), but I hope not. I don’t think so, but I have nothing to prove yes or no as of yet, except for my own expectations and plan of study and adventures, thus far. That is most likely proof enough, though.

I’m reminded of the counting crows song “Long December.” Hope this year will be better than the last, even though the last was good. Still, it is a good thing to think about.

And I still am teaching World Literature online at another nearby university. I hope that job continues because I love that job. I’m thinking of changing the course up for Fall if I get to teach it again. I am feeling a desire to teach some very different readings.

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