On starting again

Posted: August 21, 2008 in Brainstorm, meta, School

I’ve finally started getting back to work. Apparently, I needed more of a break than I thought I did. Between moving house, getting to know a new town, starting to build a network of friends, and learning my way around the campus, there hasn’t been all that much time for real work.

Thankfully, that’s starting to change.

Of course, I haven’t been ignoring work.I just haven’t been working all that hard.

But I did manage to get a paper accepted to the CCCC this upcoming year. Waiting now to find out about funding for that. I accepted the invitation already, which in retrospect might not be the best thing to do. But when they accepted me here, they told me they were setting aside money for me to travel to conferences. This is the only conference I have to travel to, so I’m guessing I’ll have funding.

I’ve also been accepted to present at one local conference and asked to moderate another. I’m still considering going back to Macomb to Western’s conference (edit: doesn’t seem likely 9/9/08). My adviser suggested that graduate conferences weren’t as valuable, and a bit of a waste of time. But I may go anyway, if only to see friends and see how a thing I helped build is going.

In the meantime, I’ve had some interesting scheduling issues. That all began back in May, when I chose my classes. There were two that caught my interest. One of them was on copyright and new media, right up my alley, and the other was about online pedagogy, also right up my alley. So I signed up for both of them. I thought they were offered from 5:30-8, one Monday (online pedagogy) and one Wednesday (copyright). That becomes important in a bit…

I got my teaching assignment a few weeks later, one that was chosen based on my preferences and the schedule that I sent them. They assigned me to teach Business and Technical Writing on Monday and Wednesday from 4-5:15. A little bit tight, but doable. And I got to teach a junior level class, which, while scary, was also exciting.

Then I discovered that my original impression about when the copyright class was offered was in error. It wasn’t 5:30-8. It was 4-6:30. Meaning right during one of my class meetings.

So I designed the course to be taught hybrid style: Mondays I’d meet with them in person, and the rest of the time would be online. No problem.

Then I found out that I needed to take a Research Methods course. It’s only offered once every two years, and so if I don’t take it now, I won’t take it until I’m working on exams and done with course work. That seemed…unwise. So I signed up for that class, dropping the online pedagogy class because the times conflicted.

Of course, the RM class is Monday from 4-6:30. Meaning it also conflicted with the OTHER day I was teaching.

Well, that’s gotten worked out now; I’m teaching a different section.

In the meantime, I started reading a bit. You see, I was starting to panic, as I am prone to do, and think that I wasn’t prepared. I don’t know how to do research, I thought. And if that wasn’t enough, my adviser talked me into taking a third class (Rhetoric in the Ancient period). I haven’t taken more than two classes in years. Hell, I haven’t really had two classes in a few years. I’ve continually done internships, seminars that weren’t really graded, and independant studies.

Well, it looks like the Ancient Rhetoric class might be cancelled. Which is a shame. I started reading Laurent Pernot’s Rhetoric in Antiquity, and it started reminding me of just how much ancient philosophy I’ve studied. Names like Gorgias, Parmenides, Isokrates, Aristotle, and Plato popped up. Read all those guys. Words like Sophist are familiar, and the fact that Aristotle’s writing is in the form of lecture notes, whereas Plato wrote in dialogue form (usually starring Socrates, who never wrote anything of his own) was not a surprise to me. I knew that. I’ve read large chunks of Aristotle’s work (about 1000 pages, last count). So I started to feel like maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to handle that extra class.

As for research… Do I know how to research? Well, at least a little. I know how to determine whether or not a source is good. I know that peer review is important. I also know that it’s important to know who the major writers are in a field. The book I started today, Mary Sue MacNealy’s Empirical Research in Writing talked about a number of very important people in the field of composition. And I’ve read them. I recognized Linda Flower, Peter Elbow, and Kenneth Bruffee.

In fact, I more than recognized them. Looking back at my Master’s thesis, I discovered that I had used two of the three in that paper. (And I’ve used Flower in other papers). I’ve also used Hairston, Tobin, Belanoff, and just over a page of other names for that one relatively short paper (it’s onlyabout 40 pages).

So I’m starting to feel a bit more confident. A bit like I can do this. I know that the time is going to come when I panic and feel like I don’t deserve to be here. When I start wondering if today is the day they figure out I’m not as smart as they think I am, the day they yank my funding and laugh me out of academia. It happens to everyone. Usually during this first semester (and, I suspect, again when Exams come, again when the Dissertation Perspectus comes, once more when the Defense occurs, when the job hunt begins, and right up until at least when tenure is awarded. Maybe it never stops).

My hope is that if I keep my head down, so to speak, and just keep pushing myself to do the work and not think about the future beyond this semester, I might trick myself into missing it. Not bloody likely, but worth a try.

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