Blog entry, May 12,

May 12, 2003


Blog entry, May 12, 2003 10:10pm.

Blogger is down, so I am writing this on WP.

It was not as good a day as it could have been. Not enough sleep, no naps, and no caffeine makes Ted a slow boy. Typed up a page or so from the yellow sheets, but was distrusting the quality of what I was doing. Graded some US 2 section exams, headed to the city and graded some more while waiting for students to come in with their finals. I got through most of the section exams and started reading finals by the end of the day.

Lunch was pasta and the leftover bloody chicken. That was not enough so I heated up puttanesca and angel hairs as well. Was still hungry so had a bowl of frozen yoghurt with caramel sauce before leaving for the city.

Home, had a breakfast bar on the way home. Fed the baby while J ate dinner, then had leftover chicken curry (1 plate). J took the baby while I printed off papers that had come in the email, and wrote back to the students. So far it looks like only one request for an extension. I will be a little generous, I have to do that after being such a fool myself as an undergrad, but I will not offer a long extension.

Several of the students turned in their final papers in class. I chatted with a few of them being nice and also trying to get some feedback on how I did this semester. I was striving for the tough but exciting professor who makes you work hard and at the end you recommend his class. Tough but fair, high energy, and emotions seem to be the key to good history teaching. I got most of the way there. The kids are not entirely happy about my grading - the criteria are not clear, or do not fit the questions that I ask. I had them do a lot of writing this semester, US 2 did too much writing. But it was an emotional class; I am a good lecturer although only a mediocre discussion leader. For many of the students I was the first history teacher they ever had who could make the past come alive and feel immediate and meaningful. I got a lot of comments thanking me for that. They liked the class, even though they did not like the writing. One student, a weaker writer and ESL person, commented that I was tough but fair, and that she respected that I actually did assign and collect and turn back all the things that were on the syllabus. I fear that a lot of Temple professors use the syllabus as a general suggestion rather than as a firm guide. Note, for the next time I teach at Temple, include the grading criteria on the syllabus.

Picked questions from the study sheet for my final exam. I have done better study sheets in the past. Looking over the final exams, and over the study sheet, I realize some things I want to spend more time on next time I teach. In US 1 - more women, especially in colonial era, more discussion of race and the inter-relation between race and slavery, more Puritans, more religion in general. Religion fell out of this semester's US1. Next time I teach I think it will be Ed Morgan on Puritans, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and a less expensive document reader. For US2, I fell behind on multimedia materials for the last quarter of the class. I also spent more time riffing and less time working from detailed notes, and that meant that I was less time efficient. The last day I spent an hour on the end of the cold war, that time should have been spent on culture wars and the rise of the modern conservative movement. I left out the Korean war, take 15 minutes for that next time. I also left out the political basis of the late 40s and early 50s red scares, I need to set up partisan politics and the cold war before moving towards the consensus approach of Cold War Liberalism. For that matter, I did not explain CWL very clearly either. That is a Balogh thought, I might reconsider or do more reading on my own.

Tired, but still a little wrought up. J is cranky about my slow progress on the dissertation. I made a passing comment about wanting to buy strawberries to make jam with and this set her off on the notion of my working slowly and being easily distracted. This, of course, got me going on the frustrations of working slowly and being easily distracted. Rather than getting too fired up to sleep, while being too tired to do good work, I asked her to defer the argument.

My slow pace does bother me, it does. I wish I could write faster, or rather I wish I could write serious stuff as quickly as I dash these things off. Of course, these blog entries are stand alone, they are not tying together into a planned and coherent portrait. And the language on these does not have to be precise; I can ramble about and blather on and not loose my audience. I don't know if I even have an audience. I don't know if I even want an audience. I looked briefly for a feedback tool I could plug into this, but did not find one. And I want this blog to be a writing aid, not yet another source of distraction. I am easily distracted, it is a failing. I get very tired doing the same thing for more than an hour or ninety minutes, especially if it is tedious brain work like grading papers. When I get a good writing day I can crank out pages and pages, and some of them are even good. But I am not so good at making sure I get some progress, enough progress, done every single day.

Where does my time go? Some of it falls into the web, I look up for a minute and find myself clicking away because that is easier than thinking hard about what to write next, what to say about the next paper. I thought about pulling the internet plug, but I do look things up on line while writing, mostly citations, and it is handy to have it right there. The key is self-discipline, and I am notoriously self-indulgent. Some of my time goes into reading fiction. I find that I have to read some fiction every week, and that it is better to read in dribs and drabs - on the can, for example - than to put it aside and then get caught by a fiction phrenzy. Some of my time goes into games, I do grade better over the course of a full day if I have a game session going in the background. I grade better for an hour without the distraction, but an hour gets me between 4 and 6 papers. Grading is an incredible time sink, but it is also incredibly important. I fell behind on my grading this semester. The house hunt cut into time, I made sure that writing cut into my grading time, and I also just had trouble staying focused and just doing it. I love to teach, I like it when I have written a good and a useful comment on a paper, but the process is both hard and tedious. I am whining.

J came in to apologize for picking that fight earlier. She is stressed because her job wants to promote her, and the promotion means more hours of work each week, and she does not want to spend 50 hours a week working, plus commute, plus baby, plus life. I still work too slowly.

And so to bed

Posted by Red Ted at May 12, 2003 10:41 AM | TrackBack