Archive for August, 2011

Goals for 2011-2012

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Am I ready for a new semester? I suppose I am as ready as I will ever be. Summer was good overall. I took time to redesign my apartment a little, for example, and I am still working on that. (The last phase will arrive on Wednesday and be implemented on Friday, I hope.) I will certainly miss the mornings of reading what I want while I drink coffee in front of an open window. I will miss picking out books to read at the public library downtown. I will miss going shopping at the mall during the weekday because I can and I have the time. I will miss going for walks and the park and swingsets. Yes, I still enjoy swingsets. Don’t judge.

But my feelings don’t stop the approaching semester. The only thing that could stop the approaching semester is perhaps a crazy flash flood and the Red rising to something like 44 feet. This isn’t going to happen from the looks of things. In fact, classes start at four pm today. My first class is tomorrow at 2pm. My first day of teaching online is today and my first day of teaching in the real time classroom is Wednesday. With this in mind, I have set some goals for this new academic year. I like to split these goals into goals for my professional development as a teacher and my goals as a student. Though they overlap in some cases (which is undoubtedly helpful) they are still very distinct.

Teaching

  • For 358, I want to improve the following assignments: Genre Memo and Final project. Though I am always improving assignments, I want to work on fixing the flaws I see in these for the present school year. I’ve implemented changes to the final project this fall whereas Genre Memo improvements are coming out for Spring 2011. I’ve also deleted the book review assignment and replaced it with a Forum Analysis, which I am confident will rock. Of course, as soon as you say “I’m confident it will rock” it means that it will not rock so much. But remember, I’m an optimist at heart.
  • 358—Focus more on professionalism and design. To do this, I have instituted a new assignment (Forum Analysis) that will hopefully lead them toward research ideas and further their scholarship and understanding of their field. I also have a unit on cover letters/resumes along with information for applying to graduate school. As for design, I have come up with a couple new lesson plans to better teach this. Being someone who never took a design class and kind of functions through the idea of design, I have a lot of work to do. (Actually, my goals in student/scholarship will also help with this design thing.)
  • 358—Improve the way I teach genre. I already have some good ideas thanks to Doc Mara for helping to inspire this with the reading he had us do for the UDW workshop day and the discussion we had as well.
  • Online Crookston course—this semester I’m teaching Composition II instead of World literature (I’m scheduled to go back to world lit in the spring. I have no idea if I will be teaching Comp II each fall. We’ll see.) With this change, I’ve set up a way of doing peer review on the discussion boards in Moodle instead of having students do this relatively privately in their groups. This allows for more accountability and makes grading this easier for me.
  • And of course, just be a better teacher than I was before. This goal is pretty continuous. I learn from my students just as much as they learn from me, I think.
  • And I wish we could get rid of Blackboard at my home university. If only this could be a goal we all could achieve in this academic year. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Ugh. I. Detest. Blackboard. Moodle is superior. Even D2L is better than Blackboard. Kids these days. Really.

Student/scholarship:

  • Finish up that essay on using literature in the writing classroom and submit for publication.
  • Kick ass in my coursework. I’ve done well in this so far. I hope this continues.
  • Solidify my potential dissertation topic a little more. I’ve talked to some people about this last spring. I’ve bought some books. I’m terribly interested in taking history of architecture I and II at my home university.
  • I’ve gotten super interested in the history of rhetoric, so I plan to do a lot of reading into this. I hope this will also be complimented by my English 754 course. (It probably will, to an extent.)
  • Hopefully submit a proposal to a conference and actually get to present. I presented at conferences last year and I hope to do just as many for this year.

And above all, survive all of this relatively unscathed. 😉

Relationships (or the lack thereof) and the single graduate student

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

If I were to give you the easy answer, it would be “I am too busy.” This is probably true anyway. I take at least two classes a semester and teach two classes at my home institution. I also have been teaching as an adjunct (or lecturer as they call it there which sounds way better than “adjunct”) at another public institution. My class there is entirely online, but because of that they feel it is necessary to overload the class with students. When I was told the number of students for this semester I wanted to say, “but that is almost two classes worth” but then I thought well, I get paid per student and it is more money for Ireland. So I begin to tackle the “problem” and actually have devised a good, systematic way to teach the class to such a large group. Along with teaching and classes, I somehow find time to work on other research I want to do. (Currently this is a co-written paper on using literature in the writing classroom.) And yes, I still do find time to hang out with my friends. Remarkable, I know. You really should be impressed.

But the more straightforward answer as to why I seek out relationships (which I need to stop doing in the first place. This feeling of “needing someone and freaking out ” takes place usually in the last 3-4 weeks of any given semester, understandably) and then run like hell from them when they get too close is far more complex. [1]The answer is something I am constantly learning about and I have had many breakthroughs[2]. One of them was “I just don’t want kids. Simple[3].” And though there have been many others, many of them quite personal, the most recent breakthrough involved just how I have chosen to live my life. I value my privacy. I love living alone, even though when something goes wrong I am the one who has to be responsible enough to deal with it, which isn’t always fun. But I have also arranged my life and viewed my future in a way where I am the one who takes care of me.  I’ve set up my future goals and present goals for myself and for no one else. If I did ever imagine anyone around in a romantic sense, it probably echoed more of pure fantasy than any sort of reality. [4]

That is the problem with relationships and myself. The fantasy is far better than the reality. The reality is responsibility (and trust me, I have enough responsibility put on me currently. Thanks, but I don’t need anymore), work (again, I have enough of that), listening (in a group I can do this well. One on one I am not the greatest, I admit. I have to work on this.), compromise (let’s not even talk about this one. I’m as stubborn as the day is long), and many other things that I am not ready to know about.

I understand that relationships are rewarding and help you form the best friendship of your life. I see that in my own parents who are still married. I see that between one of my best friends and his wife. I have many great examples of relationships that are great in my personal life and at work and school. And I don’t deny that a similar situation could happen to me one day.[5] I am just not too interested right now.

Some have argued that it is a lack of maturity that causes people to avoid relationships. In my case, I don’t believe this is true. I am certainly not afraid of commitment because, as an ex and someone who is still a friend pointed out, I am very committed to the friendships I have, which are friendships of great depth. I’ve also accomplished a lot for my age and doing all that I have already done takes maturity. I’ve actually come a long way and my mom would definitely point this fact out to anyone who asked. And of course, I can function as a competent human being while I juggle all the responsibilities I have. [6]

I do think that people who have families and are in long-term relationships in graduate school do have an edge against us single folk, though. (I think there was even a study done about this that I read somewhere once upon a time.)[7] They have built in support systems whereas us single kids lean on friends, parents, and siblings. I am lucky to have a great family where such a thing is possible for me. But I think it causes us single kids in graduate school to form more meaningful friendships with others in our new environments. I know I formed many great friendships while at my first graduate program which was 8 hours away from my family. There is something to be said for those friends who feel like family. I also think we learn a lot more about ourselves than we ever did before. There is something to be said for self-awareness. And I’ve always preferred to be alone anyway. I shouldn’t have to defend that to anyone, but it still seems to come up in conversation now and again. And with the way society still views single people (particularly single women) well, you know. I am from the Midwest and I still live in the Midwest. [8]

Above all, I simply try to remain competent at everything I do and that competency has never included the Facebook status “in a relationship”. [9]

 


[1] I can’t describe each one in this post. It is much too much to discuss.

[2] If I had a psychologist, he or she would be proud.

[3] I once had a crush on someone and tried hard to think about having kids. I kind of imagined it. In reality, I knew the truth. I still feel the need to apologize to this individual.

[4] This is an INTJ thing.

[5] I would be just as happy to be single for the rest of my life. I am not lonely at all. I never have felt lonely. Thank you, friends and family.

[6] I am still proud of the fact that I never cried during the writing and revising of my thesis. I almost did, but mind you, I didn’t cry.

[7] I don’t know why they had to do a formal study. It seems pretty obvious to me.

[8] It never fails that if I am around extended family someone will ask if I have a boyfriend or when I plan to get married or some other similar stupid question.

[9] I couldn’t resist the Facebook reference. So Gen Me. So Millennial.

Introversion and Autism (abridged)

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

I have read a few recent articles about Introversion being placed on the autism spectrum. I realize this can be a scary thought. Saying such a thing places a personality trait outside the realm of what we understand as personality and places it closer to a mental disorder or a disease.

It is similar to some psychologists wishing to put Introversion into the upcoming version of the DSM as a type of mental illness. (And yes, this whole thing still makes me irate. Like really? This idea has only been around since the 1920s and has been a well understood part of human personality for some time.)

I can understand why something like introversion would be a misunderstood concept. It is kind of like being an INTJ on the Meyers Briggs test, and INTJs are of course Introverts. INTJs are rational, systematic thinkers who seem rather emotionless in a world that seems to thrive on emotion and irrationality, or at least it does to the INTJ. No wonder INTJ folk (like myself) are accused of such things as being angry when they are not. Most likely, if an INTJ is talking in a stern voice that person just wants to get a point across. If that person were angry, you would be aware of that fact without asking, “are you angry?” *insert eyeroll*

Really, we are not mad. We promise. We just wish you would listen to reason.

[…]

As for the comparisons of introverts to autistic individuals, I do see some similarities, but not enough to classify introverts as high functioning autistics or high functioning asperger’s babies. We do our best to make eye contact. We all can handle normal conversations. We may not always like change, but we can adapt and we can actually adapt pretty well to a given situation. But like those individuals in the autism spectrum, introverts have a hard time focusing on someone talking if there are other sensory stimuli going on, such as having a TV or radio on. Too much sensory stuff is always distracting for an introvert, which is one of the reasons why we hate loud parties. All those people talking, all that noise, all that movement, color, and lights is just a lot for us to process at once. Our brains get full and we see red notifying us of “sensory overload.” The thing is introversion isn’t about shyness or being misanthropic. It is just about sensory overload and it happens quite easily to us just as how it does for autistic individuals.

Just know that though introverts may have traits that may appear somewhat similar to autistic individuals, it does not mean we should be put on medication or be seen as abnormal or in need of treatment, even if you do think we are a little odd. We should be admired for the traits that we have just as how extroverts are admired for their gregarious personalities. Many of us are creative types, whether that creativity is shown in common ways we think of being creative or through more scientific pursuits, and so we need time alone to create. We are great listeners. We also have a great ability to think before we act or speak. Whereas the extrovert will learn through talking (how on earth they do that, I don’t know but in some ways I admire the dexterity of it), we learn through listening, watching and reading. If we have something important to impart, we will speak. We also enjoy being alone and we never require your constant attention. In fact, we would love it if you would be so kind as to be the center of attention. Please, do talk more and do stand in the center of the room. That means it is less work and less strain for us. And trust me, socializing for us requires way more work than it does for someone who is extroverted and cannot wait to attend that party that we have been dreading going to for a week.

Also important to understand is that though less than half of the population is introverted, not all introverts are created equally. For example, I hate talking in small groups, but I enjoy speaking in front of a class or a large group of people that I barely know. There are introverts out there who loathe speaking in front of a crowd. I am surprisingly at my weakest when I need to have conferences with individual students, which is an act some introverts may look forward to. Conference time is when I ask students to bring 2-3 questions and revisions so that I know what to talk about with them. Otherwise, I would end up asking them stupid questions about their day and struggle through the whole conference when I need to be the one helping them through whatever they are struggling with.

It is also important to realize that perhaps not everything needs a label. But part of being human means trying to understand others and the world and one of the ways we do that is through labeling. It is why people take personality tests like the Meyers Briggs and why people get into astrology.  (I am somewhat obsessed with personality tests like the Meyers Briggs and my INTJ status, by the way. I’ve also gathered that this may annoy some people. If you are one of them, it might be wise to stop reading my blog posts after this one. I also want to say at this moment that none of what I say here should be taken personally.) People want to define what occurs within us and around us to better understand the world and humanity. It is part of our nature. And really, if linking autism and introversion will help us understand the brains of autistics, I am fine with that. I am only concerned with how this linking could affect popularly held views on introverts, even though these popularly held views have always been poor and occasionally downright silly. One of the main differences between the introvert and extrovert brain, for example, is that information simply takes longer to be processed in an introvert brain because we like to literally turn the information over a few times in our heads. (As I understand it, the information has more places that it travels in the brain and therefore just travels farther and takes longer. We are basically weighing how to respond. Extroverts will typically just respond. And there is tons of evidence out there to show how introversion and extroversion is literally just in our heads as this article shows: http://www.livescience.com/8500-brains-introverts-reveal-prefer.html ) Autism is something that we are becoming more aware of and therefore trying to better understand. Once we better understand that, we can come up with better understand what Autism is and how to counteract it, if that is possible and if we want to and perhaps by doing this we can also better understand introversion.