Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Teaching as Coaching

I just finished Week 3 of my running app. I have the settings arranged such that while my music plays in the background, the soothing British electronic lady not only indicates when to shift from running to walking and back again, but also encourages me and gives me tips. So she's like: "Start your one-and-a-half-minute run now." But she says more: "You have 45 seconds left! Keep running!" And, crucially, "If you find this run hard, slow your pace a little--remember this run is three times longer than what you were running last week!"

Luxuriating in my five minute cool-down walk heading for home ("Remember to keep your pace brisk! I'll let you know when it's time to slow down and stretch your muscles!") I got to thinking about how easy it is to move from Couch to 5K.

And I got really mad. I got to thinking about how I spent most of my life thinking I had a hidden heart defect or lungs the size of mandarin orange segments that made me incapable running from my house to the corner, let alone in increments longer than televisions commercials. Never mind movie-length runs. Because years and years of elementary and middle and high school pays ed had painfully demonstrated that some people can run and others can't.  This is how we were taught running in high school gym: here's a map of the route, and we'll meet back here in 45 minutes. And then the teacher trotted away, leading the two students who could keep pace with her. Basically, the teacher set a goal, and gave us absolutely no indication of how to meet it.

Don't we often teach writing a lot like this?

Let's read a lot of books and discuss them in class. Now go away and come back with an essay. Oh, we'll teach you some rules, about academic integrity, and topic sentences, and proper citation. But the way that most of us were taught writing there was no: process, strategy, training tips.

Teaching phys ed is probably a lot like teaching English. Most of my phys ed teachers were strong and tan and wiry and fast. They looked like they were born with whistles around their necks. They were naturally really good at tennis or running or basketball. They made it look effortless. It was, for me, completely alienating and mostly served to reinforce the message that I could never do any of those things and it was useless to try.

I teach English. I write every day, and I read constantly. Give me 200 words of text and 30 seconds and I can craft you 400 words of analysis in the critical school of your choice. I speak and write in two languages and as I get older my command of allusions only grows. I make it look effortless. And I can see that, if my teaching style, like my phys ed teachers, is to simply model excellence, it's quite likely that a lot of my students are demoralized and alienated.

I spent decades on the couch, thoroughly convinced that it was impossible for me to be fit and enjoy it. That I was a loser who would never be able to do it. That's what phys ed taught me: that I would never be strong. Are there ways that I teach English that convince my own students that they will never be writers? That English is something they'll never be able to "do"?

If so, it's a terrible waste. Experts who become teachers risk working in a blind spot big enough for their students to disappear into: we are so good at this, so easily compared to most, that we don't even know how to coach novices into the practice.

It took me a free app with a recorded British lady doing nothing more than setting 9 weeks of goals and explicit instructions of when to trot and when to walk to get me running, happily. What simple steps can I take to draw my students into writing with as much joy and curiosity as I do?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Reflections After a Semester of Teaching (for the first time)

Yesterday, I finally pushed the big writing project of my semester off my plate. Admittedly, I did it with little aplomb or flourish (in fact, I may be legitimately concerned that it might have landed with something like a splat), I've still got 30 final exams to grade, ongoing work with the digital humanities project I work on, and a spring research trip looming. But it feels, at last, that this very busy and taxing semester actually might wrap up. My classes have ended, my final essays (and revisions) are graded, the graduate student event I've been coordinating all semester is poised to take flight on Wednesday, and this week I finally have some time in my schedule to do things which I've been putting off since the mid-term break.

As I near the point where I can legitimately say I'm not a first-time instructor anymore, I've been reflecting, like Erin about the end of this semester, my first semester of teaching. This winter, as I walked into my first-ever classroom as sole instructor of an intro English course, there were several things that I expected and had prepared for, but others that presented unique and unfamiliar challenges. As a result, there are some things that I'm pleased to say went very well, but others that I think I'm going to change going forward.

First, I should say that I am really privileged to have walked into my first-ever classroom with a lot of support behind me. In the first year of my PhD, I took a writing studies course on how to teach writing which helped me feel confident and knowledgeable about how to approach first-year composition. My department also put on a valuable proseminar on how to teach English literature. Finally, and most importantly, I was given a really excellent teaching mentor who was willing to answer basically any question I had, gave me copies of sample assignments, and helped me to assess my assignments and imput my grades. I really don't think it would have been possible to be a sole-instructor for the first time without this kind of support system, and I think anything I did right was because I had the benefit of these helps.

Anyway, without further ado, here are some of the decisions I made that I'm really happy about:

1) Assigning an obscure text: I put a book on my syllabus that I was not sure would go over well with my students, a late-nineteenth-century feminist utopia, Margaret Dunmore, or a Socialist Home, which is totally not mainstream, but I thought might be an interesting pairing with Dracula. My students found it fascinating, and took it up productively in ways I didn't expect. In the future, I hope I'll be less anxious about making decisions to feature texts on my syllabus that are obscure if I find them interesting and/or provoking, even if they are a little off the beaten path.

2) Sequencing Assignments: For every essay, I made my students do a short three or four sentence "Question and Answer" prospectus, which consisted of a question, revised from the essay prompts I provided, and an answer that would form the thesis of their papers. (Taken from John Bean's really excellent book Engaging Ideas). When I got them back, my first instinct was that it was a terrible mistake, because they were kind of awful. But I was then able to give detailed feedback, explaining to my class again collectively and to each student personally how to write a thesis statement. It made my papers infinitely better than they would have otherwise been. I did this with both of my papers, and for the last final research essay, I also assigned an annotated bibliography which helped make sure they properly assessed the sources for their final essays and understood them in advance of the final assignment.

3) Requiring Drafts, Allowing Revisions: I had a peer review class for each essay assignment in advance of the due date, and required at minimum a detailed outline and intro that my students had to bring to class and read to each other. This meant that students were forced to get thinking early about their assignments, and able to collectively bounce ideas off each other in the classroom space. I also allowed revisions for their papers, but only up to a week after their papers were handed back. Only six students over the course of the semester took up the opportunity to revise their papers, but reading them as though they were drafts, and seeing the potential for improvement, made a big difference in how much I enjoyed marking their assignments. It was also a great pleasure to see how much improvement the students who did take up my offer to revise their assignment were able to make in their writing. I had several students bump up their marks from high C's/low B's into the A-range, and it's great to see how much they learned to clarify/revise their thinking and writing.

Of course, there were also things I did that I did that I'm not terribly pleased with--hopefully these are rookie mistakes that I won't make again:

1) Overpreparing: I often prepared wayyyy too much material for an hour and twenty minute class: too much groupwork, too long of a lecture, too much knowledge crammed into my head/refreshed the night before. This often caused me to rush through my lectures and not take enough time for class discussion if I had too much to say. This was a big issue in the first half of the semester. Serendipitously, my daughter's/my frequent illnesses in the last half of the semester meant that I simply couldn't prepare nearly as much as I had been in the first half, and I cut down my prep from probably 6+ hours for each class to just 2, and was pretty shocked to see how much of an improvement preparing the right amount of material had on my actual classes. I also got a whole lot better at being okay with letting things go if I didn't get to them. Hopefully this is something I can carry forward to my next teaching experience.

2) Poor Organization of Classroom Time: This one is related to the above, but more specifically related to how much time I took in the space of the class to a) lecture, b) do group work, and c) undertake class discussion. I was not taking enough time for lecturing/class discussion, and giving too much time for group discussion. Fortunately, I did a stop-start-continue (an anonymous assessment from my students suggesting what we should stop, what we should start, and what should continue doing in the classroom space) with my students just a few weeks in, which let me know that I was giving too much time for group work. In response, I cut down group work drastically to between 3-6 minutes, depending on how many questions I was having them discuss.

3) Overassigning: In addition to the two essay assignments and annotated bibliography (and the sequenced assignments therein), I required my students to do 7 weekly reading responses over the course of the semester, which they were required to post on a private course blog. This one is tough because I really really liked the outcomes of this assignment: my students were always very well prepared for class, they had ideas that they were comfortable discussing in groups and as a whole class, and I'm pretty sure this largely followed from the assignment. I also used these blogs to prepare my lecture: I tailored my talks to the themes they picked up on, and was able to correct misreadings and redirect discussion to the things I thought they should note. But the fact is that there were just too many things to mark, even though it was low-stakes writing. I think in the future I'm going to have to cut this down to a maximum of 5, but of course I'm concerned that if I do this, the students themselves will be less prepared.

What are the things you do in the space of your classroom that you've found work well? What have you learned as you've become more experienced in the classroom space? Do you have any advice for for new instructors that you wished you'd learned before you stepped into the classroom space?

Monday, April 21, 2014

13 - 5

Semesters are short here in Canada. Usually, the winter term clocks in around thirteen weeks if you count reading week. When you think about it that is not a lot of classroom time. This semester I was teaching the lightest load I have ever had: two classes with a total of about fifty students. I also had an independent study course with one honours student which met once a week for two hours. Still, compared to the times I have taught four classes and had a few hundred students this workload was a breeze... Sort of.

The 13-5 that makes up the title reflects the actual time I had with my students this semester. Thirteen weeks minus three weeks on strike, minus another week for a long-scheduled trip, minus a fifth for reading week, which was not cancelled at Mount Allison. Now I'm no math genius, but 13-5= not a whole lot of time. Eight weeks, to be exact. Eight weeks to teach one second year class their required literary periods course (Romantic, Victorian, Modernism, Post-Modernism), and the same eight weeks to teach a third year course on literature by women in English in the 20th and 21st centuries. Throw into the mix some unavoidable mid-semester travel (read: interviews) and that makes for one truncated term.

It's an unofficial tradition here at Hook & Eye to reflect on the end of the semester, and especially the end of the teaching year. Look back through the archives and you'll find posts on the post-semester tristesse that engulfs many of us, you'll see best laid plans for summer research and renewal, and you'll find that many of us are getting ready for the spate of conferences that come at the end of May. This year I find myself in a reflective mood, and one that is markedly different than previous years. For one thing, I've been on strike before. Without going into the particularities of negotiations which are ongoing I can say this: it was much harder than I expected. It was hard because the tensions did rise. It was hard because Sackville is a wee town, and there is no where to escape from something that consumes those affiliated with the university. It was hard because the students were stressed and I care about them. It was hard because my colleagues and I were stressed and standing up for something we felt was vital and necessary (hint: our was not a strike about pay raises, it was a strike over the core values of the academic mission). It was also hard because at the end of the job action--we are still in interest arbitration and will be for months--we all went back into the classrooms and tried to deliver the strongest classes possible.

It was a challenge to regain the momentum, but it wasn't impossible. In both my classes the students and I made a pact be be kind to one another. This meant I revoked the syllabus to drop some assignments, give them the chance to weigh in on the evaluation process, and everyone got more time to do the work that remained. Translation: I'm usually draconian about deadlines (unless there is a legitimate issue, obviously) and that went out the window. It wasn't useful for me or the classes to have strict deadlines when the students were cramming ten weeks of class into five. We made a deal to communicate about when things would come in on an individual basis, and we stuck to it. I will be grading until the last days of the month, and that's fine. The smallness of my classes allowed me to keep tabs on every student's process, and they, in turn, we're kind to me when I kept getting confused about deadlines as well. We laughed, and we are getting through it.

My reflections on the semester are these: things happen that are out of your control. Communication and being human with my students really worked for me as a means of managing my stress and expectations as well as theirs. For instance, for the first time I told students I was missing class (and they were having a guest lecture) because I had to go to a campus interview. I needed them to know why I was absent after the huge gap from the strike and reading week. They were understanding, and in turn forthright about their own challenges and constraints. We were able, too, to use the strike and the material conditions of my contract to talk about university governance and structures of labour in the academy. And yes, we did some amazing with with literature as well.

It feels strange to be at the end of another school year. I am as tired, but in different ways. I am as unclear about future work, but again, in different ways. The constant thing is this: I am as grateful for the privilege of being in the front of the classroom as ever. In the midst of grading, or the inevitable student apathy I am reminded of the incredible responsibility and privilege to stand in a room of people and teach and think together. We may have lost five weeks, but I know we got real and important work accomplished.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I forgot to be nice to myself for a long time, and here's what happened

Things have been, shall we say, stressful. As someone who scores pretty damn high on the privilege scale, I feel like a jerk for enumerating those stresses because they are totally the problems of the privileged. I have a very busy (full time, salaried, benefits paying, secure) job that costs me plenty of missed downtime and sleep, a major renovation looming (on a home we own in a city we love), a dissertation that demands lots of time and energy (which is part of a PhD I'll be completing debt free), a couple of side research projects that are ramping up, and a history of sliding into states of (luckily mostly mild) depression, the triggers for which tend to be major stress and the failure to exercise self-care. And as a confirmed perfectionist, I'm very bad at cutting myself slack.

But--first world problems are still problems, especially when they start to become debilitating. And when Saturday came around--a beautiful sunny day that I'd normally give anything to be outside in--and all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch, mainline Friday Night Lights on Netflix, have a little sniffle and feel sorry for myself, I knew something was wrong. After weeks of pushing myself to my limits, my limits pushed back. That this was about to happen shouldn't have come as a surprise, since Saturday was presaged by a whole bunch of warning signs that I had been ignoring, most of which involved my total failure to practice self-care. Carrots replaced with chocolate? Major lack of exercise? Mindless surfing taking the place of reading? More takeout than cooking? Work upon work upon work? Meditation practice off the rails? Waking up in the middle of the night to obsess about all the things I was doing and all the things that I wasn't getting done? Incredible difficulty getting out of bed in the morning? Failure to take my vitamins? Checkity check check check. It amazes me how thoroughly I can put my mental and physical health on the back-burner when work and stress come 'a calling. 

Just as a studies have started to show that frowning may cause depression as much as depression causes frowning, my failure to take care of myself exacerbates stress and depression just as much as stress and depression make me fail to take care of myself. It doesn't help that we work in a culture that tells us that work should come before everything else. Or that that same culture subtly reinforces the idea that our bodies are just vehicles for our brilliant brains and deserve only as much care as we need to give them to keep functioning. But after Saturday's meltdown, I realized that I needed to do better. Waiting to treat things once they become problems doesn't make much sense, and practicing some self-care is the best way for me to prevent something mostly manageable from become major.

So, little by little, I'm trying to regain the practice of self-care that my body and mind forcibly reminded me I need. It's hard to do when all you want to do, and feel capable of doing, is a whole bunch of nothing. But the more you do, the more you do. I've gone for a couple of runs since then, and spent some time in the garden. I've cooked dinner almost every night, and started in again on my giant "to read" pile. I'm taking a four day weekend, starting tomorrow, and I'm not going to think about my office job one bit.  And I'm finally celebrating the birthday that largely got lost amidst all the craziness.It helps, too, to know that it's not just me. Even with all my privilege, I really can't have it all (can anyone?), although that doesn't stop me from trying. But I need reminders, like Boyda's, and Jana's, and Aimee's, and Erin's, and Margrit's, that there's more than work and responsibility, and that slacking and self-care are not synonyms.

How about you, dear readers? Have you had a facepalm total self-care failure recently? How'd you turn things around? 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Associate Chair Grad Studies: Me

Did I tell you guys I'm going to be the new Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in my department, as of July 1?

It's a pretty big administrative role for me, and I'm excited, and nervous. I asked to be appointed--and apparently, I'm the first one to ever do so, which I actually found a little surprising. Grad studies questions are near and dear to my heart, as you know, since I've written extensively here (as have Heather, and Erin, and Melissa, and Margrit, and Janna, and Boyda) about grad student issues (just look at our keywords in the sidebar, and you'll see a compendium of writing on the subject--32 posts tagged "grad school").

I'm pretty proud of the intervention that Hook and Eye has made in the practice of grad studies in Canada. Just this week, I saw our blog name-checked and linked in the excellent and ambitious White Paper on the Future of the PhD in the Humanities, put together by a group of academics under the umbrella of the SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis project on the Future of Graduate Training in the Humanities. The blog was noted for its participation in 21st century practices of open sharing and graduate professionalization. The report is pretty impressive: go get the pdf, right now. I'm hoping that as I take on this new role in grad studies in my department, I can put my money where my mouth has been on this front, in more programmatic ways. It's exciting, and it's daunting.

But since this is also a blog about being a professor as much as about being grad students, I thought I'd share some of this position with you, as I figure out how to do it. Like Heather before me, I'm wary about what it means to be an administrator of whatever level and still keep a public blogging platform active. But I think I can do it.

My excellent colleague currently in the position is starting to pass some duties on to me, like some of the planning around graduate orientation in the fall. I think I did about two hours of work on that yesterday, which really got me to thinking: boy, things are really going to change for me at work pretty soon. I've been asking for advice far and wide. Some of what I've been told is:

  • be careful how much you drink
  • listen, listen, listen
  • don't try to change everything
  • there are more meetings than you can imagine
  • be kind to administrative staff
  • don't miss deadlines
  • block of time in your calendar for writing, or you will never write
  • use fewer words
  • put limits on evening and weekend work
  • book vacation time in advance and tell everyone you'll be gone

I fear the meetings and emails and busywork will spiral out of control. I fear that my plans for making more evident and programmatic the excellence of our programs are going to be too much to get done, but I fear not getting enough done. I'm worried I'll never write. I'm worried that I'll make mistakes in discipline cases, or admissions, or conflict situations. I'm worried my insomnia will come back. I'm worried I won't be good at this. I'm a little more worried that I will be good at this.

That's the squishy stuff, so far.

Here are some of the pragmatics, if you don't know them, or, if is likely, it's different at your institution. It's a three year term. I'll get a stipend every year for doing it, in addition to a two course reduction in my teaching load (so I'll be 1:1). I can change my assessment ratio for my merit review to weight more heavily towards service, so instead of 40 teaching, 40 research, 20 service, I can pitch a proportion of 40 service, 30 teaching, and 30 research, or maybe 40 service, 40 research, and 20 teaching, or even 40 service, 40 teaching, and 20 research. That's a good option to have, and it reflects how the kind of things I'll be able to get done will shift during this time.

That chunk of my day yesterday thinking about orientation, and then getting led down a paperwork / policy rabbit hole for a couple of hours has made the impending new position that much more real for me. So it felt like a good time to share it with you.

I'm still collecting advice: have you held this kind of position, or been subject to it? Any words of wisdom or warning for me? I'm listen, listen, listen-ing :-)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Writing all the time, including on the plane

I've been telling my grad students that the number one rule of successful conferencing is: don't write the paper on the plane. Like writing a term paper in the 12 hours before it's due, when you write the paper on the plane (or some similar frantic timeframe / inappropriate writing location) all you find when you hit the magic right number of words is when you get that sinking feeling in your stomach that you've just hit the point where the paper ought to have started?

Yeah. I hate that.

And yet, in the midst of the overbooked semester from hell, I've slated myself to deliver two talks on two different coasts of the US two weekends in a row. On two totally different topics. And both times I've started the paper two days in advance of flying away, and both times been interrupted by one kind of work crisis or personal crisis (ask me about the bed bug scare of 2014!) and boarded the airplane with the paper uncompleted.

But both papers turned out awesome. It's not because I'm any better at magicking up 10 pages of new material. It's because I don't have to start from zero.

My paper last week was on humour and the representation of trauma in web comics. When I sat down to start writing it, pretty much after I'd already got my suitcase out of the attic, I already had 4700 words of free-writing and textual analysis notes already available to me. So I cut and pasted in a lot of that, then cut out the stuff that wasn't relevant to the conference theme, and then rewrote it to sound coherent as a paper, and to give the transitions. Then I made the slides at the hotel. I was really, really happy with what I wound up with.

My paper this week is on selfies. I need about 1700 words, and when I left Waterloo this morning, I had a paper that was 400 words long. It had two paragraphs of text and some headings. But I had, again, three different documents full of notes and close readings: on snapchat, on Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida, on Dear Photograph, on Selfies at Funerals. So I'm on a patio in LA, copying and pasting, and just moving into cutting and reframing. I'll do the slides in the morning once the text is finalized. I've been collecting images for months, it's just a matter of picking which ones and putting them in order.

Ideally, I'd like to arrive with printouts, and not read from my computer. But this has been a hell of a term, and the last couple of weeks haven't been any better. The whole term, though, craziness be damned, I've been reading. And I've been writing. Every day. Free writing. Jotting down ideas. Tuesday, my husband and I went out to lunch and we were talking about this upcoming paper, and I stopped and sent myself an email about an idea. I have got in the habit of doing that all the time. It's paying off.

I'm finding that writing "the real thing" is a lot easier when I have a lot of low stakes or no stakes writing just lying around in my Dropbox. And it's not just the word count, the cutting and pasting of finished prose. It's more that I've obviously been thinking in a daily and active way about the relevant ideas, so that when I put together the formal presentation, I'm really already quite close to done. I've had the ideas I need to have, and figured out how they all relate to one another and to the research, which is the hard part.

The last minute happens to all of us. I'm trying my best to get the formal writing done earlier rather than later, even if I'm not really succeeding this month. In any case, though, my daily low-stakes free writing habit makes all of this so much more rewarding, and my work is much better for it, with way less angst on my part. Even when I have to write the paper on the plane.

I mean, I've even got time to write a blog post ...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Horizontal Histories and Learning from the Archive

As a medievalist, I've had the great and unusual privilege of spending a fair bit of time in manuscripts rooms handling 600-year-old handwritten books. I fell in love with medieval studies during my undergrad due to a funded summer at the University of Calgary when I was asked to help catalogue and investigate over thirty manuscripts preserved on microfilm. I then spent a summer of my MA in England, bypassing the microfilm for actual old papers and books, and this semester I get to do it again: temporarily excused from teaching responsibilities, I'm currently hanging out in the UK for a few weeks to conduct primary research for my dissertation. It's....stressful (am I looking at the right things, from the right perspective, for the right amount of time?). It's tiring (must-get-there-when-library-opens-must-stay-until-close). It's a little lonely (Oh hello, girl in the white blouse. I sat across from you yesterday. Let's be pretend friends in my mind.).

But it's also invigorating and exciting, especially insofar as I'm encountering traces of people and bodies that have been forgotten for centuries, and as I practice a history that is reconstructive and "recombinative"--as Nicholas Watson terms it. Watson argues that we as literary historians are charged with forming a relationship with the past, of confronting its phantasms in the present and combating the teleological impulse to privilege the future of modernity over the historically premodern (and the Middle Ages especially is viewed as decayed and obsolete, remnants of a vicious and irrational time) (7). If we think horizontally rather than teleologically, we can learn to listen to what traces of the past have to teach us in the present, thus countering productivist or evolutionary dogma about the future, as well as the "climate of the obvious" that demands we translate our humanist work into metrical and instrumental terms (an issue I wrote about a few weeks ago).

On a more basic level, the archive has retaught me about the value of the book, and I'm not just talking about the medieval book. One setback of this digital age, with all its conveniences and technological marvels, is that the many scholarly materials readily available on the internet foster inattentive attitudes over the means of their production. As an example, I've been consulting the British Library's online catalogue version of one of my manuscripts prior to this trip, and when I located the physical catalogue in the BL Manuscripts room, I discovered that not only this single tome, but also all twenty volumes of the early-twentieth-century Sloane catalogue are handwritten. There were no digital traces of this fact. (Of course all the texts I deal with as a medievalist were originally handwritten, scrawled and deliberated over by poor monks in harsh working conditions with deadlines and demands.)

 Court in front of ye grande British Library

Everything at the British Library is ritualized and formalized, and the conversations overheard at tea time are most often serious, engaged, passionate. When sitting in the reading room, even with a modern book, I often have to suppress a strong impulse to snap a photo with my phone of a particularly useful piece of scholarship, due to the BL's draconian photography restrictions--instead I  type it out, forcing me to slow down and more consciously ruminate on the information provided. Even the daily ritual of opening my laptop case for the security guards as I leave the reading room serves as a reminder of the precious nature of physical archival materials. Erin has written about the systematic destruction of Canadian archives under the Stephen Harper regime; I dare you, Harper, to step foot in the BL and experience firsthand their protective stewardship of primary documents.

While I don't at all mean to romanticize books, spurn digital humanities (which have been valuable for scholarship in SO many ways), or fortify the privileged domain of the ivory tower, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the value of the humanities lately--as many of us have in this uncertain world--and I think the materials and products upon which our scholarly output is based deserve more attention than they're normally given. We should also question modes of access to and policing of these materials, and so fight for increased value allotted to primary documents alongside increased visibility and access (which the digital movement has greatly aided). Back home in New York, I've tried to be active in the SaveNYPL movement, which is working to prevent the city from incurring irreparable architectural damage to the largest noncirculating library branch in America, and demolishing one of the States' most frequently used libraries, the Mid-Manhattan Branch, in the process. This is a fight not just for architectural preservation, but also against letting information circulation accelerate beyond a point where we recall the value of slow, conscientious, recombinative scholarship as fostered by noncirculating libraries. The NYPL stands to become what one activist has called a "glorified internet cafe," and I hope some of you will join me in emailing the mayor to help protest these devastating changes.

So I guess we could all benefit from living for a few days or hours as medieval monks. And what about you, dear readers? What have you learned from working in archives and libraries, from digging through the past? How do you negotiate your own slow scholarship in the midst of the rapid flow of this digital age?

Works Cited
Watson, Nicholas. "The Phantasmal Past: Time, History, and the Recombinative Imagination." Studies in the Age of Chaucer 32 (2010): 1-37.