Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Anxiety as a Grad Student

I've avoided writing about this all semester. I've gestured towards it, but I have not publicly talked about it. I've found myself even on Facebook, which is family and friends, not work people, writing posts, and then deleting them.

Because as much as things have gotten better, there's still a stigma about these things.

But yesterday I had lunch with a friend, and we were talking about a tangential topic and I was sharing stuff that had been going on and their response was, so and so has also gone through this. And so has this person. And I've heard that about this other person. This prompted a discussion of how isolating being a grad student can be. We're not encouraged to share these experiences, as if sharing them admits we're vulnerable, and that's a weakness, and we can't have that. The result is that lots of us are going through the same things and feeling all alone.

Which hit a nerve for me. Because part of the reason I blog is because I think sharing stories and experiences helps people feel less alone. That these posts not only provide information, or approaches on what it's like to go through a grad program, but also let people know they are not alone.

So, it's the end of the semester, but I want to share this.
Since the beginning of this semester, I have suffered from anxiety. It has been bad enough that I have sought help from Student Health, and medication.
It has been a roller coaster all semester, with some weeks better, some worse, and then feeling gut punched when it came back after weeks of being gone.

It has affected my teaching, my work productivity, and my comfort level in leaving my house.
It started in August, so even before the semester started. I started in the job seekers workshop we had feeling awful. For me it was a physical start- feeling like I was choking, breaking out in a sweat, nauseous, stomach issues, feeling like I was going to be physically ill in front of people.

This went on for weeks. I was downing Pepto-Bismol and Immodium, going through a ridiculous amount. If I stayed home, I was fine, but Tuesday and Thursdays when I had office hours, then taught my two classes back to back? I was a wreck. I doubted every single one of those days whether or not I could get through the day. I had some days when I worried about having to run out of the room to be sick, or worse, the public humiliation of being sick in front of people.
And this became a self-perpetuating cycle. Even if I felt okay when I got to campus, I would start to worry about this, and so would make myself sick.

Since my anxiety manifested as physical symptoms (and because of student comments about being intimidating) I stopped wearing ties to work. So my work wardrobe radically changed.

This brings me to my second issue with my anxiety this semester. I am opinionated. I am loud. I always have been. At 39, I've made my peace that I'm not going to wake up tomorrow and my personality will have changed overnight. I'm also socially awkward. I don't read social cues well if I don't know you, or if it's not a situation that has recognizable rules or guidelines for me to follow. 

I've made adjustments over the years. I have a dry sense of humor, but when students commented on it, I dialed back my sarcasm in the classroom. Because I would never want a student to feel bad in my classroom. The first day I tell all my students that I'm direct, but I never mean that to come off as harsh, so if it ever does, please know I don't mean it, and come talk to me.

But here's the thing too, if you don't like me. If you think I'm harsh, or too opinionated, or intimidating, that's also not something I can take on. But I did this semester. I internalized this. I spent nights at 2 and 3 and 4a wondering what I needed to change. What I should do differently. 
What was wrong with me.
But talking to my friend yesterday at lunch, as we talked about academics being socially awkward in general, I realized something. That if there's one place where me being smart, opinionated, teaching difficult topics should be accepted, it's here. I've spent my whole life being made fun of for these things. But they should be strengths in academia. I should not be made to feel that there's something wrong with me. But that is what has happened.

Here's the other thing. If someone makes a snap judgment or bases their opinion on a perception and not reality, that's also not something I can control. But again, I internalized this all semester, and it made me physically ill.

I am not comfortable around a lot of people, I am awful at small talk. Because I'm bad at reading social cues, I worry I will misstep. This awkwardness, my awkwardness, is what endears me to my friends (I think) but also makes some people not like me. 
But as my friend yesterday pointed out, it doesn't help me. I've had a supervisor call me "boot campy." I've had another tell me I'm too in people's faces.
The list goes on.
Just because I can't read social cues doesn't mean I don't know when I'm being made fun of. Or that I can't get my feelings hurt.
And each of these people, I'm sure if I asked specifically what informed this perception, what it was based on, would flounder.

I go out of my way to help people. I volunteer. I share resources. But that's not what I get judged on. So another consequence of my anxiety this semester has been to stay home as much as possible. To limit interactions. I tried to go out with a friend to dinner near the beginning of the semester and I had to leave early because I felt bad. And this was a friend. Someone I felt comfortable with. Interactions with others have been awful, and I've avoided pretty much every social interaction I've been invited to this semester, which I'm sure has not helped people's perception of me as standoffish.
But I love teaching. I've taught since 2001, and it's an aspect of my life I've always loved. I'm a natural. It comes easy to me. I loved lesson planning, coming up with new activities, finding cool connections, new readings, ways to approach texts, how to break things down so students can understand and access things.

I blog and reflect constantly on my teaching. This year saw huge paradigm shifts in my teaching based on pedagogical conversations on Twitter, and my own reflection. I stopped policing things in my classroom, instead focusing on content. I let students revise all their work, with the idea that if it was important they learned it then IT WAS IMPORTANT THEY LEARNED IT. I share lessons. I do check in surveys every four weeks with students, so if there are issues we can course correct early and so students feel like they have a voice in the classroom.

You have to know all this I think to understand how much it has impacted me all semester to have this thing I love betray me. 
Once I started teaching, got into my classes, was the only time the anxiety went away. Once I got into my class, it went away, which is common, distracting yourself is a common tip for avoiding anxiety. But my problem was the class would end, and all of a sudden my anxiety would return. I found myself doubting choices, and if a student made a negative comment it would send me into a tailspin for weeks. 

My anxiety this semester has made me doubt my teaching. It has made me doubt my personality. It has made me doubt just about everything about me and what I do. In the final year of my PhD program, I have wondered if the last fourteen years of teaching was a misunderstanding. If I shouldn't be here. What this meant for what is next.

Logically I know none of this is true. I know I'm a good teacher. I know that for every student who doesn't like me, the fact that I'm loud, or wear ties, or subvert what they think a teacher should be, there are literally hundreds of my students who learn from me, like my class, are better after taking a class from me. Who a decade later still check in with me.
But logic has little bearing on anxiety.

This is what anxiety feels like.
You try to talk yourself down. You try to logic yourself out of the downward spiral. You journal. You change routines. You run down a checklist of things to calm down. And maybe it works for a little bit. But then it's 4a you're wide awake and the gerbil wheel starts all over again.
And your heart races, and your blood pressure skyrockets. You break into a sweat and think there's nothing redeemable you can do.
I went through all of August and September feeling like this. I didn't really talk to anyone about it. But it took me two months before I made an appointment with student health.
They promptly gave me a prescription for one medicine to calm me and one to deal with the physical issues. They gave me an appointment with a therapist who promptly diagnosed me with Anticipatory Generalized Anxiety- I anticipated something horrible happening, and that generated my gerbil wheel. I took the medicine for a couple of weeks. But I don't like taking medicine. And it worried me that this wasn't fixing me, fixing the causes. And because this is what I plan on doing, I needed to figure out what was triggering this and work on that.

So I tried different things, physical things. A new tattoo. More running. More heavyweight bag time. And this worked. Identifying my triggers. I was able to go almost a whole month without the medication AND not feeling bad. Then something happened last week and I was right back to where I was at the beginning of the semester.
Last week I guest lectured in a professor's class and I had to take all my medicines because I thought I was going to be sick. It was August and September all over again. But like those months, I felt this way in the thirty minutes before class, but as soon as I started, I was fine.

I have three classes, and two weeks left in the semester. And I don't know what these will be like. 
The lunch yesterday with a friend, and another friend who is constantly checking in with me have helped. Talking to my dad has helped. And I know this is probably all exacerbated by general anxiety about the job market, finishing this year, and me feeling isolated. But again, logic does not really belong here.

The line that now runs on my gerbil wheel is please just let me get through the end of this semester without anything else.

In a lot of ways, I feel like this has been my best semester. I love my survey of early English class. I'm in the second round of dissertation revisions. I've applied to 43 jobs. It's been a productive semester. And I need to keep reminding myself of that because the gerbil wheel seems to want to erase all that.

At this point I just want to get through the end of the semester without anything triggering my anxiety.
Because the great thing about teaching is that each semester is a new start. And next semester I'm only teaching an online class, which I think will help a lot. As will finishing the dissertation.

But here's what I hope people take away from this:
  • You are not alone. Whether or not anyone is talking about it, lots of people are going through what you are. Find someone you can talk to, whether it's online or face to face, a peer, or a mentor.
  • Use the resources your campus has- support groups, student health, counseling.
  • Take care of yourself. While this semester has been awful in a lot of ways, Nehi, time with her, running, have all made sure I didn't go from bad to worse.
 So that's my share. It's embarrassing. It highlights how awkward I am. It's personal. Perhaps it's an overshare. But I hope it helps some people realize that they're not alone, and that there are ways to get through it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

#DevilDiss2 Update 16 November

Last week was not a productive #DevilDiss week.
I spent most of the week struggling to play catch up because I kept writing things down in my Passion Planner to be done, and the day would end and it wasn't done. So I'd feel bad, and then get further behind.


I felt really good about how I revised CH 1 based on notes, and the time in which I did it, so I didn't realize when I started round 2 revisions that something was off.

It was the end of the week before I realized that there were real reasons why I felt like nothing was getting done. During the summer I'm up between 5 and 6a. Nehi and I are running at 6, 630a, and we're back home with coffee, breakfast, and I'm at my computer by 7a. I eat lunch at my desk, and work until 4 or 5p. Long days are productive days.

But DST is behind us. And the end of the semester is upon us. And that means it's 8a before we leave for our run because it's too dark and cold to run before that. So it's 9a before I'm at my desk. And I have to stop working by 4p on Monday, Wednesday, Friday #DevilDiss days because Nehi needs her walk before dark. So I can't create the long To-Do lists that I have during DST. I needed to realize that what I can accomplish on any given day is less because the work days are shorter and because at the end of the semester lots of little things pop up that need to be dealt with.

I felt a little better realizing I could let myself off the hook.

I also received CH 4 notes last week, and will get CH 5 and 6 notes by the end of the month. This means I will not make my intended deadline of completing round 2 revisions by 5 December. I wanted to have these done by then so I could get notes back after the new year, but there's just no way I can get them done.

The way to address a lot of the notes I have for this round of revision is to show more scope and depth and interaction with secondary sources. And despite me knocking this pile down/out for all the books I need to start on CH 2 and 3 round 2 revisions, that's only part of it.
It's just not possible to finish revisions by the first week in December.
The CH 4 notes were good, apparently I addressed a lot of the issues, which I think is good, that I'm making big improvements between drafts, which I think is where I should be. But there are still a couple of major issues.
I was a little disappointed, because I thought with the time/lessons learned between the revisions of the first and second halves, that CH 4-6 were in better shape than 1-3. But I just need to focus on getting the revisions done.

On Friday, when I went to Storify my #DevilDiss tweets for the week, I realized that I'd hit the limit of tweets for Storify (it's 1000 by the way). So since I'm in round 2 of revisions, it seemed appropriate to start a new Storify and hashtag: #DevilDiss2.
Appropriately enough, my new #DevilDiss volume 2 notebook got delivered last week. I keep a handwritten notebook to trace issues from chapter to chapter and keep track of big revision ideas. But I filled it up, and so the new round of revision seemed like the perfect time for a new notebook.
Some days and weeks you have to focus on the small victories.
So, today I read through and took notes of all the secondary scholarship I'd been sitting on. The bonus was that today felt very productive, and it was good to make forward movement after last week. Now that the reading and my notes are finished, I can turn to writing/revising CH 2 and 3.
I had already written in notes of what needed to be addressed from my director. So tomorrow I'll start handwriting notes, addressing the gaps the secondary sources fill (women mystics, liminal and domestic spaces). I also need to strengthen my argument in both openings. I feel good about the new opening of the first two chapters because a committee member suggested that I do a mini-lit review that summed up the state of the field and then clarified my contribution at the opening of my chapter. This really helped me clarify my argument, and for CH 1 and 2 it helped me resituate the chapters' focus. 

Not stating my argument clearly and up front seems to be an ongoing issue with me, so I need to trace this approach through my other chapters.

I feel good about moving forward with the round 2 of revisions at this point, and with the time consuming reading done, I *think* I can stick to a one chapter revised per week schedule which would mean finishing the second round of revision by Christmas. That probably means the next round of notes by mid-end of February although that may be earlier as I'm sending my revised chapters as I finish them so CH 1 was sent off two weeks ago, CH 2 this week, etc..  It'd be nice if that was the last round of notes, and if these were surface notes. I'm certainly trying to revise with that in mind. 

I still don't have a defense date, just a summer 2016 expectation, and I admit that part of me wonders how bad the drafts still are that I can't move that up. I know I should focus that regardless I'm graduating this year, I admit that I'd like to actual be graduated at graduation in May. For one, I'm not sure where the $600 in tuition I'll have to pay in order to defend in summer 2016 will come from.

There were some good things though. I think it's easy to get bogged down on focusing on the negative, but there have been some positives:
  • Last week marked the third week where I won my battle with anxiety, and while that doesn't seem like a lot, it feels like it. I love teaching, LOVE it. So feeling anxious every time I step into my classroom has really impacted things this semester.
    • I've also really loved the new chance this semester to teach the Survey of Early English.
  • Also, I received acceptance for ACLA in March “The War in Heaven is Personal: John Constantine is the Hero We Don’t Want to Need” in the seminar “Devils in the Details: Demonic Horrors, Devilish Afterlives, and Infernal Desires.” Conferences are expensive, and 
    • I'm a little worried about paying for my spring conferences if I don't get funding help, but I am excited about this one.
    • It also means insanity of ACLA and PCA/ACA back to back (like the SCMS and PCA/ACA insanity from this past year) but I'm ignoring all that.
  • I also got my first request for additional materials from a job. And my online teaching portfolio is getting a lot of hits, so unless you guys are all suddenly clicking on it, I think the views are due to search committees looking at my stuff. So yeah me.
  • This week is also the week a professor asked me to cover their class while they are out of town. It's a medieval evil class so they asked me to give a version of my job talk on the devil.
  • I also wrote a Supergirl review that I'm waiting for feedback/notes on, but I'm really happy with.
So that's where the round 2 revisions of #DevilDiss are.
As always, more to come.
For now, since I got all my reading done early, I'm going to take Nehi running in the snow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Writing Tips for Students

There was a conversation on Twitter this morning about tips for MA students writing theses, and larger graduate student writing.
This got me thinking. I follow a lot of smart people who are teachers on Twitter. And many share ideas or projects they're working on in their classrooms.

But for teaching at large, there still seems to be a weirdness about sharing materials, lessons, syllabi. I'm not sure why. I hear the phrase intellectual property used, and concerns about plagiarism. I'm going to acknowledge those concerns without addressing them because I think those are bigger issues and attitudes. I will tell you that I share all of my teaching materials. It's all in Google Docs folder, and I'm of the opinion that if you can use anything in that, help yourself.

Scholarly writing often has dual purposes- to both contribute to the field of scholarship AND for use in a classroom with students. Yet I've yet to come across a scholarly text that gestured towards this. I'm considering for my Revising Milton project beginning each chapter with a mind map, geared towards teaching.

How often do we, as teachers, write TO our students, not just for them?
I do every week, in my Blackboard Learn weekly announcements. They're direct address reminders, tips, etc. And I provide a lot of hyperlinked resources on my hyperlinked syllabi, but this all got me thinking- how often do we write TO our students?
@gcgosling writes a lot FOR his students, posting advice on how to read for his courses and field, and how to write. But I can tell you this is a rarity.

So, with the end of semester in mind, and the final writing assignments this entails, this is for my students.

Dear Students:
The end of the semester is near. We have four weeks left of classes. And there's a lot to get done. But here's the most important thing- stay calm. Don't panic. It will all be okay.
This post is an attempt to give you some advice on how to get through the last month of classes successfully.
First, I strongly suggest that you write down in your planner, iCal, Google Calendar, all the due dates of your final papers. I'm partial to bright red impossible to miss ink. Which I then circle in bright red highlighter. I have panicky feelings about missing deadlines, so this makes me feel better.
Next, using these deadlines, and knowing your schedule, backtrack when you need to have drafts, ask professors for help, go to the writing center. So, for example, my Survey of Early English class has these deadlines:
  • 29 October: Brainstorm ideas for final paper/project
  • 5 November: Crowdsource the rubric in topic groups, fill out organizer
  • 12 November: Send me your thesis statement and title
  • 17 November: Go over writing tips and tricks
  • 19 November: Send me rough draft
  • 5 December: Final draft due uploaded to Learn
Good time management helps in several ways. The first is that a schedule, a plan, knowing when you're doing what, will help with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
The second has to do with this:
Writing is hard. And writing is a process. If you asked lots of different people they will all describe it as a DIFFERENT process, but most would agree that there are steps.

So here's the next set of tips:
  • Brainstorm several different topics or ideas. I keep a writer's notebook where I keep all these things. Just because an idea doesn't work for THIS assignment doesn't mean it wouldn't work for something further down the road.
    • Once you have your ideas, run them past me (your professor) for a couple of different reasons. First, your professor can let you know if this is something that can be covered in the assignment length. Some topics like the role of women in medieval literature is HUGE. Books and books have been written on this. Choosing a topic you can address well and completely in the pages given is key to doing well.
    • Your professor is also your greatest resource. We are experts in our fields. So we can recommend not only how to narrow down topics, but also books and articles that you can use.
  • I like the next step to be cursory research. I think particularly for undergrads, going to the library website, typing in some search terms, and seeing what's out there, what's been said, can help you.
    • This is also where the size of the assignment is important. If you're writing a 4-6 page paper, and you can only find two sources on your topic, you're probably fine. If you're writing a 8-10 page research based paper and you can only find two sources, you might want to choose a different topic.
  • Next, start writing. At this point I suggest that you write YOUR argument. Don't worry about polishing. Don't worry about adding secondary sources, or formatting, or anything but highlighting what YOU want to say about this topic. 
    • I avoid a lot of formatting issues by having an MLA template document- size and font are set. Margins are set. Header and heading is there. So I just open this, click Make a Copy (in Google Docs) or Save As (in Word) and I'm all set.
      • Here's also my plug for Google Docs. It's the best thing ever. First, you don't ever have to worry about losing a document, not saving it, the file being at home and you wanting to work on it on campus. It's easily shared with peers for editing, as well as with your professor. If your professor wants a Word doc or PDF, you can easily download it in those formats.
    •  My general writing tips:
      • I encourage students to make sure their introduction outlines their paper. However, a lot of times you don't know what your paper is about until you're finished writing it. So consider making your introduction the last thing you write.
      • I like clear topic sentences that tell me what topic the paragraph is about AND what you have to say about this topic.
      • I like evidence from the text that proves your point.
      • Then I want you to explain to me HOW this text proves your point. Think of it as showing your work in math.
      • With conclusions I like to think of it as this: you've spent all this time and energy analyzing/arguing. Now that you've done all this work, what big picture statements can you make? What themes or big ideas emerge? What trends? What effects?
    • Here's the professor secret: we've read your secondary sources. We know what other experts in the field argue or say. Usually (and this may depend on the field or the assignment) but we're not looking for a summary or review of what's been done. We're interested in what you have to say, to contribute. How you use, or see the issue.
    •  Here's another secret: It's MUCH easier to revise and work once you already have something on the page. Nothing is more intimidating than a blank page, so fill it. Even if you end up revising most of it, if your future drafts look nothing like your first draft, this first draft does a lot of the heavy lifting.
      • Everyone writes differently. The only thing that matters is that you write in a way that works for you. You don't have to do anything just because it's how others do it. That being said, if you don't have something that works for you, you might want to try these techniques:
        • Pomodoro Technique: is one I know a lot of professional writers swear by. You write in short, timed bursts.
        • Others don't organize writing by time, but tasks. So for example: I'm done for today when I finish writing a first draft.
        • I use a combination of both. Sort of. I can't work in short bursts. I sit down early in the morning, after walking Nehi, usually around 7a. On writing days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) I don't do anything except write until 4p. Some days this is super productive, some days I stare at Twitter a lot. Most days I'm productive because I know I'm not allowed to leave my office. Each day I have set goals- finish reading scholarship, finish typing up edits. If I finish that day's goal early, I get to leave early. It's my treat for doing well.
        • Find what works for you. It may not be any one thing, it may be a combination of things.
  •  Once you have something written, whatever it is, print it out and set it aside. This requires that you NOT write the paper the night before. If you've time managed well, this is already done for you. Scheduling a couple of days between drafting and revising accomplishes a couple of things. The first is, it is easy with projects to not realize the difference between what's in your head and what's on the page. This is not an undergraduate thing. This is not a young writer thing. This is an EVERYONE thing. If you set something aside, and then come back to it it allows you some distance. This distance helps to clear the cobwebs, and helps you see what's on the page versus what you need the page to say.
    • If you have friends or classmates who are willing to look at your work (and I encourage you guys to do this for each other) this is when I'd send it to them.
    • This is also the point where you can send drafts to me. For the record, with me, you can send me drafts at any stage. If you want me to just look at an intro, or a section, that's fine too.
  •  So, you've waited your couple of days. And now you're ready to go back to it. Before you look at the paper again I suggest you reread the assignment guidelines. This will help you read the paper to make sure that it does what it's supposed to do. Most professors will tell you this is the first thing that they grade papers according to- does it do what I asked?
  • I like to write revision notes as handwritten notes because I think it helps to see it. I start by reading it out loud. Even if you don't know what the error is, you often know what sounds right. Read with a pen in hand, and make changes as you go along. This is also the stage where you can make notes about where you should insert that secondary scholarship.
  • Once all your handwritten revision notes are finished, the next step is to type up these notes. Once this is finished, again, set it aside for a little bit. I don't think you need days, but I still think a little distance between each step helps.
  •  For me the next step is often the last one. I bring up the file and the first thing I do is grammar and spell check. Get rid of all those red and green squiggles. Then I check formatting, that the citations are correct, that my Works Cited is on a new page, and accurate.
  • You're done! Submit it and relax!
I hope this was helpful. Please feel free to tell me what tips or tricks you use, what works for you, what doesn't.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Talking About Student Evaluations with Students

We're approaching the end of the semester, which means we're also approaching the time of student evaluations. Most teachers/professors if asked will point out the myriad of issues with these:
  • Gender imbalance: female professors are more likely to be judged and evaluated on their looks and for the ways they conform to or counter gender stereotypes than their actual teaching.
  • Usefulness: if these evaluations are meant to improve student teaching, anonymous evaluations at the end of the semester when you can't ask clarifying questions, or use feedback to improve, do not do what we say we want them to do.
There are other related issues.
If students see their final grades before they complete evals, is the eval an actual representation of their class experience, or is it an emotional knee-jerk response to a poor grade?
Too, as more universities move to online evaluations, there's a distance. I think it's easier for students to forget that there's a person on the other end of that evaluation. As we've all seen with online communication, whether it's email or social media, it's easier for people to write things that they would think twice before saying to someone's face.
While I think this is less of an issue because I assume we're ethical teachers, and the merit pay is a K-12 argument, the flip side is, we've all had that ONE student who doesn't do well, earns poor grades that we just KNOW, can predict, will go on a vitriolic diatribe on the evaluations.
And that's the only one of these concerns we all just have to live with. Mainly because we're ethical teachers and we're not going to stop giving students the grades they earn/deserve, so that's a non-starter.

I'll start first with addressing the idea of the usefulness of end of semester student evaluations:
  • I'm a big fan of informal surveys. I conduct them every four weeks and use Google Forms. The first two are based on the university's end of semester survey.
  • These early interventions not only help me identify issues early on but they start a conversation in class. I discuss results with students, explaining what changes I can make, what I can't and why. This not only helps the students see it's their class too but also helps me tailor pedagogy to the students I have.
The first point is harder.
I am an opinionated female instructor who teaches about feminism, folklore, post-colonialism, social justice, and other gender and social issues. I speak my mind.
In addition to these things, I also counter many students' ideas of gender norms. I wear ties. And jeans. And boots. My work wardrobe is gender neutral, skewing towards male. I don't wear skirts or dresses to work. I don't wear heels. I don't wear much make up. I wear my hair pulled back in a bun.

This, in addition to my attitude and approach means I am often described on evaluations as harsh, mean, and abrasive. In many cases these words are used by students who enjoyed my class, although not always.

I think there are several ways the above issues can be addressed.
  • The first is that I think we need to have serious discussions about what these evaluations mean. I think we need to tell students how they are used- in assigning courses for TAs and adjuncts, in tenure promotion for professors, teaching awards, etc.
  • Beyond this, I think we need to tell them how we personally use them. I think this is easier to do too if you've already laid the groundwork with your class as to how you value and use reflection and feedback.
  • We as instructors have to start front loading our evaluations. We need to share posts/articles like this one, and what I've referenced here. We need to make students aware of gender bias, the impact of it, and how to avoid biased language in their surveys and comments. We need to have these conversations.
    • Think about how different things might be if we ALL had this conversation every class, every semester.
So what are your plans for addressing these issues this semester? Any tips or tricks to share?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Round 2 Revisions of #DevilDiss begin

My original plan was to have the first round of #DevilDiss revisions completed by the end of October. I finished a week early, last Saturday, and as a result, last week found myself faffing off a bit. I got a lot done, read the texts I had put aside since the initial draft as things to add, but it didn't FEEL like work. Which is a lot of dissertating, or writing for that matter- just readings things, then thinking about things.
But sometimes it's hard for it to feel like progress, and hard not to feel guilty that there aren't more TANGIBLE goals being met.
Chapter one actually had fewer notes than chapters two and three, but there was one big one- this chapter was defined by periodization (Anglo-Saxons), something I push back against in all my other chapters. So I needed to rethink that structure which has serious implications.

And the answer came in such a way as to also address one of the other defining, big questions of the #DevilDiss which is: 
what's the difference between the monstrous and demonic?  

By reorienting this first foundational, chapter around defining this differences, why the demonic emerges as separate from the monstrous in Anglo-Saxon England, departing in key ways, I explain the foundation of the English folkloric devil.
So I spent most of this morning throwing out my introduction to this chapter and moving one chunk to what will become the introduction to the dissertation. Slow work, although I think it will help clarify (for me and readers) the key concepts and save me time moving forward on the chapter two and three revisions.

I finished all my handwritten notes, and just need to type them up.
I will then move onto the chapter two and three round two revisions which I know will require more work.
I will focus on three key topics:
  • how women represent domestic spaces which stand in for the nation
  • more clearly expanding on the idea of liminal space and borderlands. Primarily inserting how mystics and saints can be read in these spaces, how heroes are immune to these spaces or prove themselves in these spaces, and how these are revelatory spaces
  • making clearer connections between the devil and Others, specifically Jews
I feel good about the work I did today and moving forward.

November is incidentally #AcriMo, a month academics stole from #NaNoMo, a hashtag/movement meant to encourage people to get their novels out in November.
Some academics hate it, some like it for the writing time it encourages us all to carve out, especially here at the end of the semester when guarded writing time is hard to find.
I don't tend to use the hashtag because I use #DevilDiss, but I am dedicated to getting a lot done this month.

The holidays begin 6 December with Hanukkah, and I'd like to have all of my round 2 revisions finished by then and to my director. I understand that the holidays will result in a slow turn around on notes, and figure with MLA at the beginning of January, and me busy prepping my online Early Shakespeare course for the spring, I can make this work for me.
Now, I only have CH 1-3 notes, so this is dependent on me getting CH 4-6 notes in the next couple of weeks, so we'll see, but that's where I'd like to be.
That means that on the other side of the New Year, and MLA, I'd get notes to begin round 3 revisions which I'd like to be able to start on by February. Plus, by then I will have a clearer idea all the way around of how things are shaping up, mainly because if I don't have an interviews by them I will at least know job wise to pivot to back-up plans.

I would like to aim for round 3 revisions complete by the end of February. I don't know how many drafts we're looking at, and know there's not an easy answer, but hope by that point that the notes are fewer, and less intensive.
It'd be nice if that round 3 did the trick and meant I could have approved drafts to send to the committee. Mainly because I'd still like to work hard enough to have a spring, not summer, defense (for a variety of reasons).
I continue to recognize that a lot of this depends on things out of my control. But I can only focus on what I can get done.
On the plus side, sitting in on my Old English class as my last requirement to prove fluency is going well. 
I also received an email that my article "Don't Just Print the Legend, Write It: The Odd Construction of Elfego Baca as Folk Hero"is in final copy edits and will be out soon in Western Folklore. This article was a lot of fun to write, mainly because it made me hooked on archive work as I used the Center for Southwest Research here at UNM to write it.
Last week and Halloween also saw the release of Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film, which includes my chapter, "I Framed Freddy: Functional Aesthetics in the A Nightmare on Elm Street Series" which I'm really proud of. Plus, it allowed me to continue my obsession with Freddy Krueger.

So let the round 2 revision work continue...