Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What comes next

Today is the last day of school (high school), so while I have some AP training to attend tomorrow and Friday, today is the last day I had to get up at 5a, so I'm considering it done.

With the school year ending, my defense now less than a month away, and a couple of weeks until my online summer class starts, I'm been thinking a lot about what comes next.
Certainly I know what comes IMMEDIATELY next.
I get a couple weeks to sleep, and recover from this semester's exhaustion.
Then prep for the defense.
I've blocked off the weeks after for revisions if need be.

But after that? NOTHING. I rearranged required high school training, so I have nothing until a training day on 1 August and reporting back to school 5 August.
I do have employment at my high school for next year (although I'm still waiting on paperwork) so I can afford #JobMarketTheSequel.

I am teaching online this summer, a new class Shakespeare and Film Adaptation, but it's small (40 cap) and I already built it, so that should just be fun.
I do want to take the summer to try and get a couple of articles out. One, on the relationship between Merlin narratives and the English folkloric devil. I'd like to find a home for my pamphlet chapter of the dissertation in some form. I worry because other than (hopefully) Dr. in front of my name, I'm not going on #JobMarketTheSequel with anything different than round one. Because I've been so busy with the dissertation this past year, there are no articles out that might possibly get added to the CV.

I'm more than a little nervous about #JobMarketTheSequel. Because while I feel good about my basic materials (CV, cover letters for teaching/research emphasis, statements, etc.) I honestly couldn't tell you why I didn't even make first round cut on 86+ jobs. So I don't know what to do better. I'm sure I will bug people this summer on Twitter like I did last about taking looks at my materials and seeing if there's anything I can do. I don't know how much access I'll have to my committee this summer, so I think I'll be relying on Twitter.

I'm trying not to smack people who say "don't worry, it'll all work out." Because hello, it clearly doesn't a lot of the time. But I honestly don't know what else I can do to make myself a better candidate.
  • I present at conferences
  • I actively network at conferences in a non-kiss-someone's-ass way
  • I am active in scholarly communities on Twitter
  • I am consistent about sharing my work and getting it out there, both formally (by sharing article links and blogging)
  • I have four articles from peer reviewed journals
  • I have three chapters in edited collections
  • I have a strong teaching record, and a solid online teaching portfolio
  • I think the consistency of my publication record shows I will continue to produce
  • My work splits the medieval/early modern divide
So I don't know what else I can do.
And I hate that, because that means it's all out of my hands. And that's terrifying.
I don't know how much support I get from now on. Or how much is just me.

I started the last few days to think about quality of life. The type of life I wanted outside of any particular job. This is what I have:
  • Live near a park for Nehi
  • Larger yard for Nehi
  • Be able to bike to work
  • Stop being so stressed and anxious it affects my health
  • Find a church I like to attend Mass at
It's not a huge list. They're all pretty minor things.
Then I started to think of larger things, the "not required but would be cool list":
  • Minor league baseball
  • Town/city that cares actively about the environment
  •  Weather than allows me to run 11-12 months out of the year
  • Close to an airport so travel is not a pain
Again, not a huge list. Simple things.
I guess the reason these things have been on my mind is, if I don't get a higher ed job, I need to figure out what I'm going to do.
Will I continue to pay out of pocket to attend academic conferences?
Will I continue to try and publish?
Will I stay teaching high school?
IF I stay teaching high school will I stay at my current school?
Will I move? Across town? Across the country?

And with all this, what does THIS life look like?

The truth is I don't know. And no one can tell me.
So I guess I'm going to focus on first, recovering from this last brutal year. Then get through my defense. Hopefully celebrate some.
Then I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. And hope it all works out.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


This morning there was a great conversation started on Twitter about medievalists and tattoos.
We have this conversation a lot actually. We were not consistent about using #medievalisttattoos as a hashtag so I can't Storify it, but you can check it out. @izzybeth chimed in that she was willing to start a tumblr for it. So we started to email her our images.
Then we started to have conversations about medievalists with medieval tattoos, medievalists with other tattoos, and the way these narratives worked.

And people started to share their images on Twitter- manuscript images, Old English texts, English saints, early modern texts, Shakespeare tatttoos. 

I took some initial doodles based on the conversation.
There's also a parallel between how we can read the narratives of tatttoos on people's bodies and how hagiographies portray saints' narratives as written on their body, usually through torture, but also as a witness, a visual narrative to others, much the same way tattoos are.

It reminded me of a class I took with Bruce Smith, Poetry <--> Body <---> Self during summer at Bread Loaf. I made the video below as my final project. I lost a lot Bread Loaf files when my laptop crashed in December, old stuff that never made the shift to Dropbox or Google Docs, so I was happy to find it.
There was a lot of interest and it was suggested that it would make a great conference panel.  So there was some interest, and I started writing a proposal, "Medieval(ist) Bodies and Boundaries."

I had a very clear image in my head of what presentations for this topic would look like. The visual would be as important as the discussion. Some ideas I had:
  • How the presentation could counter norms
    • What if I wore something that was NOT the norm for a conference presentation? What if I wore something instead that displayed my tattoos? What if my body became part of the canvas, the conversation?
  • The intersection of scholarly paper presentation and visual images
    • How can we have two parallel narratives? Paper and images? What if we ran a slideshow of the tumblr images in the background as accompaniment? What if I presented a movie, or slideshow, of my tattoos or tattoos related to my topic, in the background?
  • The idea of meta-text, medievalists who get medieval tattoos, particularly manuscript images
    • How do we read these layers of texts?  
For me, I immediately started to think of medieval hagiographies about female saints who fought or faced off against the devil. In many cases these battles did not have physical consequences. In many the devil's appearance coincides with the often pagan lord/king torturing the saint. So the devil is shown as bearing witness. Yet in images we see the visual rhetoric of the saint overcoming the devil.
St. Marina beats the devil (can't find attribution, help me out!)

St Margaret emerging from the dragon (detail of f°165v) -- Book of Hours, Troyes? (France), 1460-147 [BL Harley MS 2974]
Yates Thompson 49 v.1, f 60
St Juliana and a demon- Codex Bodmer 127 044v 1170-1200

The female saint is shown in a power of position, clearly dominating the devil. We don't see the torture, the narrative, the journey. Instead we see the end result, the victory.

But Google medieval female saints and torture and you see something else.

So for me, this became very interesting. How is this narrative shown? What is gained or lost by displaying or not displaying the torture narratives on the body? How are the rhetorics different? 
Layering this, how can I overlay these ideas of pain and narrative over my own tattoo experience? My 13+ hours to get my back piece?
So I have an idea to write a piece that examines the bodies of female saints in narratives where they face off against the devil. In a conference presentation I would then layer this, support it, with images of my tattoos in the background.

So those are my initial thoughts.
I'm hoping to have a conference panel or roundtable to announce soon, and we'll see where we go from there.
So pay attention!  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

This is the End

This week is the last week of classes at my high school, then we have final exams next week.
I am technically done Wednesday but have been told I am not qualified to teach AP Language, and therefore need to attend a two day seminar/training in order to teach it next year.
Despite having taught it before.
And having a College Board approved syllabus.
And you know, almost being a Dr.

It's fine, I'll go, and I won't have to get up at 5a, and can come home at lunch to let Nehi out, so it's fine.

But it got me thinking about the huge gap between high school and college teaching.
I talked months ago about the privilege that comes with college teaching. The flexibility it provided. So I thought, since things are winding down, that I would talk some about the work load of high school teaching. It is an alt-ac for PhDs, but I would wager most don't know what it looks like.

So here you go.

First, a typical day:
  1. Up at 5a. I need to walk the Overlord, get ready for school, eat, and leave by 630a. Our school day starts at 725a and I aim to be in my classroom by 7a.
  2. We have 7 periods. So 1 prep, and six classes. I teach 3 ENGL 10 with 21, 21, 20 students, 2 ENGL 9 with 18 and 21, and Read 180, a literacy intervention with 17.
  3. I get a 30 minute lunch.
  4. Our day ends at 225p. I hold after school tutoring one day a week (until 3p), lunch tutoring two days a week and I'm usually home.
  5. I am home between 3-4p.
  6. I collapse then lacking the energy to do anything else.
I started teaching in 2001, so my life is easier than most. I have resources, and lesson plans I only have to add to and tweak, not make from scratch.
I don't believe in busy work.
My students have the following assignments per module:
  • Years ago I switched to Interactive Notebooks and they get graded at the end of the module. This does a couple of things- it models projects and notes, it cuts down on daily/busywork grading, and doesn't punish students for one missed day. I keep a model notebook they can check, or they  can check the class presentation which is set up as a model as well.
  • They have an in class essay for each module.
  • They have a project for each module.
  • They have an assessment for each module.
  • At the end of the marking period they turn in a project on their outside reading book project.
So each of those x 118 students.
I'm smart- I try to get the IN and tests graded as they come in. Projects are easy to grade.  But it's still a lot of work to get through.
I use my prep time efficiently. I try to make sure I'm not taking work home. This semester with juggling my UNM class, final dissertation revisions and this full time job, having a schedule for WHEN I worked on things was key.

In addition to this I have phone calls home to make. Every week. To every failing student. Plus weekly email updates to every parent. Plus emails to counselors.
We're a union state, so I don't have a lot of extra duties. But we've under renovation, and there's been an entire bookroom to organize, then pack.
Then there are the end of year stuff- tech (computers, laptops, etc.) has to be catalogued and returned. Same with class sets of textbooks. And library books.

So I'm tired. Exhausted. Ready to be done. Not necessarily because of classes or students, but because I just AM.

I've written before about taking policing out of my college classroom. And I tried to apply the same here- told the students why. But it's not been so great. Here every student is one their phone, all the time. They are listening to music, texting, snapchatting. Some days I get them to put them up and engage. Most not. In their end of semester letters, they said they knew it hurt them. But didn't seem to act on it. So next year I want to see what we can do about this. Because policing- the phones, the rudeness, the off-taskness, is exhausting.

I was asked back, but also received my pink slip, and haven't received next year's contract yet (which I hear I might not get until July) so I've had to balance prepping for next year to be here and NOT being here. In both a physical way and a mental space.
The HR form rejections are filling my email, but there were a couple of late posting jobs that despite it probably not being realistic, I still hope for.

But I also DID accept this job for next year. And arranged to renew my lease.
So it's a similar limbo to what I've experienced before.

I'm trying to cut myself some slack.
I'm trying to recognize that I've had an exhausting semester, and it's okay to be exhausted. That I've earned some time off, some sleeping in, some recovery time.
But I also admit to being a bit concerned that this week I've gone home at 3p, hit the sweats & couch and lacked the energy or will to do anything, even walk Nehi. I hope it's just a cumulative effect of what the last several months have been and NOT a sign that I'm depressed, or unhappy.
Because that's worrisome.
Because this is my life for the next twelve months.

So we'll see.

I've actually backed out of a couple of things I initially said I would do this summer, so that all I'm doing is teaching my online Shakespeare and Film class and defending.
I have one required training for APS that I'm trying to see if I can get it moved to the fall, since it falls the week after defense, which would just suck.

I'm trying to give myself the time to recover and hope it makes a difference.
Because it has to.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

#Kzoo2016 Reflections

I am currently sitting at the Kalamazoo airport having just attended my first International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Having been warned about the sheer size of Kzoo, I carefully planned out my limited days, designing my two days around trying to meet as many Twitter folks in person.
I arrived late Wednesday, and my Kzoo roomie was nice enough to come get me from the airport.
Thursday morning I started my day with a run around the Haymarket district which is really quite pretty. But what I gained by not running at altitude I lost by running in humidity. What I saw of Kalamazoo was very pretty although I admit that after three years in the desert my eyes don't know what to do with all the green. But I do miss it. And the houses are adorable, and I'd forgotten what houses looked like.
I spent Thursday wishing I'd worn sneakers, and really regretted that I'd set my Fitbit to charge Tuesday night, and forgot to grab it before I left. I feel REALLY cheated that I didn't get ANY credit for all of my schlepping around campus.
I certainly felt it in my Friday run.
Friday I presented first thing as part of a Hell Studies panel for Societas Daemonetica. Richard and Nicole also graciously added me to their group, Societas Daemonetica, which I am excited about, so look for me to be promoting that on Twitter, and Facebook, once we get a group up and running there.
My Kzoo was shorter than many, as my conference travel always revolves around Puppy Overlord, and despite repeated attempts to get them to do so, my vet does not do Sunday pick up so I have to be back home before 4p on Saturday to get the wee demon.

I always hack my conference badge first thing, adding my Twitter handle and name. I also usually doodle a little devil me. I make sure to post a picture on Twitter so people know what "conference me" looks like versus "me with sunglasses and Nehi" looks like. One thing that did strike me about Kzoo was that the tweeting seemed uneven and there were no guidelines (a la SAA), no encouragement of tweeting, and no one tweeting from the Kzoo account. I did tweet to them with suggestions for next year, including clear guidelines, adding Twitter handles to the conference badges, and having reps from them to tweet panels. Another suggestion that came out of a lunch was having one of the social events be a Tweet-Up for people.
I received no response. But, I don't know how well monitored the account is, and imagine that they're busy with the actual conference. We'll see, but with the power of #Medievaltwitter, it makes sense that this is an area that could be improved.

I found attending Kzoo a month before #DevilDiss2 defense a unique experience. Before at conferences I always talked up my work, but somehow it seemed more tangible to say "I defend in a month." I got a lot of congratulations, which was nice, but you could almost feel the shift from viewing me as a student to colleague. I met a lot of people whose work I use in #DevilDiss2 and it's still surreal to think that these are (potentially) my colleagues for the next thirty years. It's encouraging, and humbling to have giants in the field, whose work is foundational to mine, interested in my work. I also got to meet many of my Twitter feed in person, and they're all just as lovely as they are in all our interactions online. Again and again I heard how invested they felt in my progress, having followed the dissertation process online.

All of #Kzoo2016 was lovely, but some highlights that stand out:
  • Having a committee member introduce me to a senior scholar whose work was essential to #DevilDiss2, and then inviting me out to dinner with them. It was a great evening.
  • Lunch with a Twitter friend
  • GWMEMSI's Play roundtable was just wonderful, for a variety of reasons
  • I had a great meeting with an acquisitions editor with McFarland
  • I not only got to meet one of my academic crushes but had some really nice conversations with him, managed not to be a spastic fangirl, but also admit to crushing harder than ever now
  • The BABEL social event I attended last night proved that the group which I support and believe in, is just as lovely in person
I think I did okay with my social interactions, always a concern with me. I can recall only one misstep when someone said- Oh you're at UNM, do you know X? And I responded yes. It was only once they responded with Oh, okay that I realized I had shown my Amelia Bedelia colors. I HAD answered their question, but they were looking for something else.

This conference is perfectly timed, which was not initially what I thought. At first, with last revisions on #DevilDiss2 looming, I was worried about getting those done before heading here. I as also very upset to miss graduation yesterday, but my Twitter support network came to my rescue here assuring me that medievalists missing graduation for Kzoo was a rite of passage most of us go through. I was nervous about my UNM class ending this week and getting final grading done. I was nervous about missing two days of my high school teaching job and having to prep sub plans. But as always, conference attendance has proven restorative and I now feel fortified to finish the last two weeks of my high school year.
"Medievalists in their natural environment"
Another thing attending Kzoo has reinforced though is how much I want this world.
In just a few short months I will go on the Job Market: The Sequel. And again, the stats aren't good. Nothing has miraculously become better. But man, do I want this life. I WANT these to be my colleagues the next thirty years. I WANT to have Kzoo a yearly thing. I WANT to continue these conversations and friendships. And the idea of not doing this makes me sad.
I have a lot to say. I have a lot to contribute. I can make an impact. And I admit, that if I don't get an academic job this year, I don't know if I want to continue trying to attend conferences. For one, there would be no institutional support, so it would be expensive. But more so, it would be the feeling that I would be on the outside looking in. Glimpsing a world I was not allowed to have.

I don't know what the next year will bring.
For now I'm going to focus on getting home, picking up my Puppy Overlord, laundry, last looks on #DevilDiss2, sending it off one last time to my committee, heading to work on Monday, finishing teaching, grading last work, final exams. After 27 May I plan on collapsing for a couple of weeks before coming back to #DevilDiss2 and prepping for the defense.

Until then, thank you to everyone who made my first Kzoo so wonderful, and who were so generous with their time.

I hope it's the first of many.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hell Studies: Present and Representing Hell "The Devil's Monstrous Landscapes: Hell on Earth" #Kzoo2016

Tomorrow I get on a plane to attend the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan (#kzoo, #kzoo2016, #kzoo16). I am presenting part of my Anglo-Saxon chapter for the Hell Studies panel, not to be confused with the Hellfire Club.

Here is the link to my paper, the presentation is below.

I have not attended Kzoo before, and because of my job, finishing the dissertation, and the fact that my vet doesn't do Sunday pick-ups, I am only there Thursday and Friday.
BUT I have planned my days around meeting as many Twitter folks as possible, and hope to see many of you there!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

#DevilDiss2 The Final Countdown

This week I need to finish revising CH 4 of #DevilDiss2, and complete CHs 5-6, and the conclusion.
I also need to read over my Kzoo paper, which I didn't need to write as it's the monstrous landscapes section of my Anglo-Saxon chapter, but DO need to put in human speak to present.

Last week I revised the intro, and CHs 1-3. I felt good about the progress, because I admit when I saw the notes for these final revisions I completely freaked about being able to complete them all in the three weeks I had. With teaching high school full time, a 630a-3p day, I'm brain dead and drained by the time I get home, so weekends are when all this work had to get done. And suddenly, it didn't seem like enough time.
But I made a plan- I scheduled out exactly what work targets I had to hit each weekend. I also copied and pasted my director's notes into my #DevilDiss2 notebook by chapter so they seemed manageable and I could stay focused.
So far this plan is working.
But I'm a little stressed about this weekend.
It's a lot to get done.
I originally wanted to have all #DevilDiss2 revisions done by Monday so I could print out the whole thing and spend my Kzoo travel time going over the whole thing one last time. While I'm a tech/digital girl, I always need to edit on hard copy. BUT traveling with a 400+ page manuscript is heavy. So I've decided that I'll be reading on the computer and fixing any last things.
I get back from Kzoo on Saturday, and that gives me next weekend to finish, then submit to my full committee by 17 May for my 17 June defense.
A lot of these last months, since the close-to-final draft at the end of December has felt like limbo.
I didn't know how good the draft was.
I didn't know how I was going to pay rent.
I didn't know if I'd get a job.
I didn't know anything.
And felt like almost every big thing was completely out of my control.
As a twenty-something I'm sure that's scary. At 40? I'm just tired.
But this past week has also been a week of good things. Cool things.
We set the time for my defense- so 11a on 17 June send good juju my way. When I send my final draft off, since so much of #DevilDiss2 has been shared and digital, I'm going to ask my committee if I can video my defense. It seems like the perfect end-note to the whole thing.

As overwhelming as this last push is, I'm trying to make time to appreciate the good things.
When I graduated with my M.S.Ed. I didn't attend graduation or get a party because I was busy moving from Brooklyn to N.C because that was the summer I moved home to help take care of Mom.
When I graduated with my M.A from Bread Loaf, my best friend Dion is the only one who came. And I cried like a baby.
Which seemed to surprise people.
When I got back to N.C I had to throw my own graduation party.
I don't know if my Masters didn't get celebrated by my family because Mom was so sick, and we were all focused on that or (what I vote more likely) that they just didn't understand the big deal of higher education.
My stepdad is not coming to my defense.
My sister is.
My best friend Dion is.
But it's a small group, and none are here. So while I realize this is one of the biggest accomplishments EVER it's been hard to see the forest for the trees a lot of the time. I also think my accelerated timeline contributed to this- there has been no time for resting on laurels and celebrating the small stuff.

But I'm trying. So this week when the email went out that the UNM Alumni Association had arranged graduation photos for us Wednesday and Thursday 730-930p I made a plan to go. Even though it was super close to my bedtime. And it meant getting duded up.
So I put on all my regalia, grabbed Nehi, and off we went.
The official photos get emailed to us next week, but on the way back to the truck Nehi and I stopped and took these. Nehi of course was a big hit with the alumnus there and the photographers.
I admit that I almost didn't go. As we inch closer to my defense I find I'm getting SUPER superstitious. Putting on the regalia before it's official seems like a jinx. As does planning any sort of celebration for after the defense (but come on, those devil themed cupcakes and red fruit punch won't buy themselves!)
I tweeted a few weeks ago about these fears. I would hope that if there were major issues, I wouldn't have gotten this far. I have faith my committee would have spoken up. BUT even if there are revisions, I have almost a month to do them. While I certainly WANT to be done come 17 June, I am prepared that there might still be minor notes. And that's okay because I'll take the weekend to celebrate with Dion and my sister, and then get back to work.

I'm trying to remind myself in panicky moments that I'm almost there.
My high school has asked me back for next year. And hope springs eternal that one of those last, late jobs comes through.
So I still feel like I'm in limbo, but at least there's a back up plan. One that buys me another year on the job market (Job Market- The Sequel!) and allows me to pay rent and Puppy Overlord kibble.
So for now it's head down, nose to the grindstone, stay focused.

Almost there.
It's the final countdown...

Teaching Early Shakespeare Step by Step: Week 16 End of the Semester

The last few weeks of my early Shakespeare class have been (mostly) quiet.
By design.
We spend eight weeks building up to the close reading paper, then a few leading up to the thematic paper. But by the time we hit Titus Andronicus, with three weeks to go, the heavy pedagogical work has been done.
The students know how class works, (most) get the big ideas of the course. So Titus is the cherry on the cake, the wrestling with multiple ideas we spent the whole semester building up to. Then they have a week of extra credit discussion boards that talk about modern day Shakespeare connections, then a week just working on their final paper/projects. So we just give feedback on ideas, and read drafts.

And that week just ended.

A lot of my students are education majors, so a lot decided to do lesson plan modules. I gave them the templates for Understanding by Design, my week by week planning, and a lesson plan template with the suggestion they do that to give the big picture, and then a fully fleshed out lesson plan with resources. So far their ideas are super cool. Some other students are doing production designs, some projects related to their major like economics. And some are doing final papers, on historicism or expansions of ideas they've been working on.

My high school students also submitted their Julius Caesar projects this week. And I was struck by the difference, but not in the ways you think. I gave my students a couple of lines of explanation for projects and they ran with it, happy with the lack of guidelines. My college students had a two page set of assignment guidelines. I asked my high school students to write what grade they thought they should have and why and every single one was on the money. When I ask my college students to do this there's a disconnect.
I bring it up because I'd love to give back my college students the freedom to do well my high students showed. I think this final project does this in a lot of ways, but I will simmer on how to better.

I also asked my students this week to submit their letter to future students end of semester reflections. Many say it's been a great class. Many say it's the best online class they've ever taken. These are all good things. I had one very scary situation this semester with a student threatening me, and a couple of instances of students challenging me. Plus it was my first time teaching a 75 cap online Shakespeare class for UNM. So there was a lot. And that's not including finishing the dissertation, and having to take a full time high school job.

So. A lot.

But pedagogically, the class did well. The choices I made worked out. A lot of my students struggle at first in my classes, f2f and online, because I use the flipped classroom model, have for years, before it was trendy! And I do it for many of the ways that Kevin Gannon points out in his recent post. But I have found that students struggle at first with this. They mostly all end up buying in, but there is a learning curve- with HOW it works, but also that the mess ups are on them, the consequences of not preparing. With an online class, there's all this AND the learning curve of how an online course works. But ultimately successful.

The first couple of weeks and making them not overwhelming is actually the only real note I have to improve the course for next time.

My TA and I will grade this week, I'll attend Kalamazoo, finish final edits on #DevilDiss2, then I have two more weeks of my high school job, then done. During this time, once #DevilDiss2 edits are done, I'll go back to spending weekends finishing building my online Shakespeare and Film Adaptation summer class. It's about half way done, and I'm fast at builds, so I'm not worried about it. And I'm excited about this class- we've raised the cap twice, and I'm currently at 40 students, so I'm excited.

So all in all I'm happy with how this semester went. But I also think given how difficult some things were, I may take a bit of a break before reading the university end of semester evaluations. I also reflect on these, make a plan to improve, take notes, but because this semester was hard, I think I need a bit of a break first.