Hello again. It’s been a while. Labor Day has come and gone, the university is fully starting back today, and we’re all holding our breaths to see if we can finish what we begin.
I spent most of my work time over the last two months preparing to teach my two classes. I took an online course to get more ideas on how to teach online courses, we drove to California without the dogs and spent three weeks, and we saw a handful of friends at a distance. Sometimes the days flew by and sometimes they took forever. But here we are.
I started my law school class three weeks ago. It’s fully remote, with at least half the students in different time zones, so I teach at 8am, which is the earliest I’ve ever met a class. I can’t say I enjoy teaching that early, but it does leave me with a lot of the teaching day free. So far it’s gone well. There was a lot of throat-clearing and introductory material in the first two weeks, because the students are new to the program and university and they’re missing the usual orientation activities. So we spend some time talking about non-class things. But they seem eager to get going and to learn.
I start my department grad class this week, finally, along with everyone else teaching in the parts of the university that were on the delayed timetable. The class is scheduled as a hybrid, with both in-person and remote attendance, but so far the majority of the students have informed me they’ll be remote. I have a feeling it’s going to wind up fully remote, but you never know. Both classes are synchronous, which means that while I have activities and assignments that try to compensate for not being in person, we’re still meeting as a class for the usual times. The main thing I want to figure out is how to get them to talk to each other outside class, since building cohort solidarity provides important resources in graduate school.
I had all kinds of plans for asynchronous pedagogy: narrated slides, podcasts, and of course the always recommended and mostly despised discussion boards. But the nature and purpose of my classes are such that student interaction is at least as important as what they learn individually. So I’m dialing back the out of class activities to focus on making the class a jumping off point for them to work together more.
I was cleared to go to campus 1.5 days a week, which has been good overall. There are very few of us in the building, although that will change this week, but it’s so nice to be in my office again.
Research. Ah yes, research, that other thing I supposedly do a lot of. We did get one paper submitted to a journal, but most of my non-teaching-prep time has been taking up with my PhD student’s job market portfolio. The number of jobs posted so far is a small fraction of the usual number (maybe 20 percent?), but he wants to try for the ones that are there, so we’re going forward. But that part is close to wrapped up, I think, so I can turn back to the work that has piled up in the meantime. I continue to be amazed at how much time I have in my day when I’m not on multiple committees and holding an administrative position.
I did do one college task, which was to hold a Zoom event for the freshmen talking about my teaching and research. There were a bunch of us who did that as part of the orientation activities. I had a good turnout, they asked questions and engaged the topic, and people seemed to find it interesting.
We continue to watch TV shows and movies in the evenings. When TheH was in California on his own for almost two weeks (house stuff, fire prevention stuff, etc.) I binge-watched Silk, a BBC legal procedural from a few years ago. It was good enough to watch one episode after another, but not so good that I had to pay complete attention. It became overly soap-opera-ish in the third series, but the first two were quite good.
I did better on my 20 Books of Summer Challenge than I have in the past. I didn’t read 20, but I did manage to get through 12 books by September 1 and finished up another a few days later. I will post separately on that, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed them all. I restarted books I set aside and was glad I went back to them. I finally read Morvern Callar, which was fascinating and wonderful and unusual. And why did I not know/remember that Northanger Abbey is the ur-text for so much Heyer? I remembered it as a Gothic sendup, which it is. But the first half provides so many set pieces that became staples of the Regency trad genre, starting with Heyer.
I spent more time on audiobooks than I have in the past. I’ve been walking and rowing regularly and they are perfect for that. They’re also perfect for 19thC novels and they made A Journal of the Plague Year easier to get through. Reading the text, I would get tripped up over the antique spelling and word choice. But listening to the very good narrator was a different experience. Everything flowed, and the episodic journal style didn’t bog me down. It is striking how Defoe talks about how people failed to appreciate asymptomatic transmission. He could be talking about today.
I petered out on my 750 words efforts, again. I was working regularly, but it wasn’t conducive to the way I’d been using 750 words. And honestly, I just forget to open the page. I’d still like to use it, but I haven’t found a way to make it a habit that works for me as something other than a journal.
I have returned to Pomodoro tracking, however, and that’s going well. I can get through quite a few of them over the course of the day, and they’re giving me a good sense of my daily rhythms. Given the weather we’ve had to exercise early if we want to do it outdoors, but that still leaves a good part of the morning to work. After a lunch break it’s not too difficult to start up again and continue until the dogs need to be walked, and then it’s back to the desk or do something else for the day. I use the first Pomodoro to set up the day and then go from there.
The 2021 Hobonichi collection went on sale on September 1, and we took advantage as usual. After some dithering I decided to do the two-planner system again for next year: the English daily for my everything planner and the Weeks for my work planner with note pages. I stopped using the Weeks this past March, but I do like having a separate planner and I went back to using it in August. I splurged and bought a new cover (one of the minimalist leather ones) and some stickers, but otherwise it’s just the usual.
Our weekly Zoom Happy Hours with old friends from my New York days continue. Other than that, it’s just teaching and other Zoom meetings. First weeks are always stressful, so it will be great to get it out of the way and get the rhythm of teaching back.
I also have a long overdue trip to the dentist scheduled. With luck it won’t be complicated. I read that dentists are seeing more cracked teeth because we’re grinding them and clenching our jaws more. You don’t say.