Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet

My recent lack of activity has been due to the end of semester crunch. I have only managed twelve hours sleep in the last three days, yesterday being the worst, where a full day of three classes and a pivotal meeting were done with only two hours sleep. I suspect I blew the meeting entirely, being completely overcaffeineated. But it’s done, too late to turn back now. My enthusiasm for my current projects probably came off as overbearing instead of charming.

The day before, I found myself the sole non-presenter at a class meeting where attendance was optional. I began to worry—is complaisance like this the norm in Ph.D. programs too? I’ve entered this field because I care about it. I genuinely want to hear what other people have to say. It seems that most of my fellow students don’t, past the part required to pass the seminar. I really worry about this. But it’s probably just fatigue. I did manage a sound snoring-block of about twelve hours last night. My brain is on its way back, though it is certainly fuzzy around the edges.

I should shut up before I embarrass myself, but I felt a little guilty as my blog began to disappear. On a typical day, I can generate 1,000-1,500 words that make sense. The last four days or so I’ve been writing around 3,000 or so a day, but not for the blog.

I felt guilty that my final portfolio was so fat. I feel bad for the readers because the texts involved are dense and it stretches out for around a hundred and twenty pages. I intentionally left out a forty-page piece that covered heroic archetypes from 1650 or so to 1726. Since I’m not in a literature department, I thought it might strain the patience of the tech-writing people. As it was though, most of the pieces were 20 pages or so single-spaced. I feel a bit overly verbose.

But then I saw it— another student’s portfolio was at least 400 pages. It was a massive brick. I didn’t know they made binding combs that big. I wonder if they measure tech-writing success by the pound? I could have gone that way, but I didn’t want to force someone to slog through all my theoretical musing. I felt most outclassed by the portfolios that were actually funny. These students made the project a creative enterprise, rather than a flexing of academic muscle. I wish I could have done that.

Now all that remains is one more twenty page paper, and the grading of around forty student portfolios. At least those are fun (the ones I’ve looked at so far). It’s so cool to see how people start out not getting it, and then eventually turn around if they stick it out.

2 thoughts on “Not Dead Yet”

  1. I don’t think the people who chose not to attend class were complacent — even though obviously I would have liked them to come. One of the biggest revelations to me about teaching at our university is that our students actually have lives outside the program, and those lives are a higher priority to them than what’s going on in my classroom or anyone else’s.
    As a single professor living far away from all my relatives, I have the luxury of being able to spend every day thinking about writing and teaching. It’s easy for my passion to become almost obsessive, such that I feel cheated when not everyone sees the value in every assignment or not everyone chooses to attend every class. But my students are often coming to a night class after having worked an eight-hour day. The work they do in our program is like a second job. Then they go home to a third: the spouse and kids, or elderly parents, or any number of taxing familial situations.
    They don’t always apologize for putting these other elements of their lives first, or for putting their own need for rest or relaxation first. Gradually I’m coming to accept that maybe they shouldn’t have to apologize. Although I came from a Ph.D. program where it was more or less expected that you would subsume your life to your studies, maybe it’s possible to still get value out of classes without giving what I would think of as 100%. Do these students get as much out of a course as someone with Jeff’s level of commitment? Maybe not. But maybe what they get works for where they are and what they have to give at this particular point in their lives.

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