Week one of Fall 2011. Teaching has begun.
One of my favourite things to do is to prepare new lectures, which is a darned good thing because I’m teaching that new course this term and I have to prepare every lecture from scratch. I love the assembling of materials, the careful reading of the texts, the glossing of meanings and the noting of stylistic effects. I like forming an interpretation and putting the literary work in context. Oh, yes, that’s why I’m an English professor. I LOVE this stuff! But today I’m also remembering how long lectures/classes take to research, organize, write up at least in point form. As well, I’m making some nifty presentations with visuals. In this course—Global English Literatures—I need a lot of maps. So today I am grabbing stuff from the internet and designing PowerPoint slides. Not too many, just some eye candy.
1886 British Empire Map
Question: when you grab an image off Google images, drop it in your slide and it’s too big (head cut off, for instance), how can you make the image smaller so that it will fit your slide? Huh? I’m spending way too much time on this kind of thing. The other day I spent at least an hour figuring out how to embed a YouTube video in a slide. Worked like a charm on my computer/s; but the link in the slide wouldn’t connect to the internet during the presentation. And no one seems to know why not. Grrrr.
Today’s lesson (actually next Monday’s lesson) will be on British imperialism in general and colonial India in particular. The two literary works we’ll be studying will be Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” (yes, I know, dear old Kipling gets a bad rap and this poem is, as Arlequino points out, probably his least representative work) and Wilkie Collins’s essay “A Serman for Sepoys.” Very cool stuff. The challenge will be to complicate the obvious themes of both by making Kipling look less like an imperialist goon and Collins less like a friend of the colonized.
Only two more days until I will be in the classroom. Start time: 9:00 am Monday morning. Early for all of us after a summer of a different kind of work schedule. I’m having a hard time getting my head out of research and back into teaching.
Reading these books (memoirs, all) has been completely absorbing, as has doing the genealogical research on my family members. More memoirs call my attention. It’s almost a siren call. Some old family photographs await scanning. Piles of scholarly articles and books have been moved off my desk (which at home is my dining room table) and into a basket on the floor. I have dozens of library books out on the topics of expulsion, post war, memory, life writing, guilt, and other topics at hand–but set temporarily aside.
I’ve been writing a new blog for the department, and I’ve been designing a new first year course. New course is on Global English Literatures, whatever that means. But here’s an image I used in a poster that advertises it.
Still, I admit it: I have the jitters about teaching this new course. Also, it’s been a long time since I taught a course here–last one was in Croatia!
I realized today that I have been having difficulty getting out of the house before 9 o’clock; in less than two weeks I will have to be in the classroom at 9 o’clock. Yikes! Summer is coming to an end and teaching is imminent. I have checked out my classrooms, checked that the books are in the bookstore, checked my enrolment numbers (low in both courses for reasons unknown), drafted syllabi, ordered a documentary film, and thought about what I will talk about during the first week. What I have not done is:
- made an appointment with the hairdresser
- figured out which teaching clothes I need to purge from my closet
- figured out which new teaching clothes I need to buy
- found old lecture notes to reuse
- written new lecture notes
- polished up my Blundstones
I always feel ambivalent about late August/early September. For we nerdy types who liked school it’s exciting. New books, new clothes, new pencils and pens and notebooks. There’s a frisson in the air as students begin to come back to town. People are moving in and out of apartments and residence dorms. It’s still warm and sunny, but there’s a chill in the early morning air and heavy dew on the outdoor furniture. For we nerdy types who like school it’s also hard to let go of the extra time to read, think, and write. It’s hard to let go of the unscheduled days. My rhythms, at least since coming back from Croatia, have been to wake up without an alarm clock, check email, go on Facebook and see who’s posted what, play a few rounds of Scrabble (often with strangers in ‘public’ games), read the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star on the iPad, read bits of whatever novel or memoir I’m currently absorbed in. All this at intervals punctuated by shower, looking after the cat’s needs, standing outside to see what the day feels like, drinking tea, and eating breakfast. You see how busy I am in the morning! But soon I will have to set the alarm, think ahead of time what I will wear, make a lunch, pack my briefcase and rush out the door.
So, what can I do to maximize my appreciation of these last days of the summer non-teaching term?