It's the end of week 6 for me, midway through the term, or as I like to call it, the trough of the term. The energy and potential of early September has wilted like those impatiens that reproach me from my sad looking front porch. Ambition falls away like all those leaves dripping wetly off the maple trees on campus. Early assignment, first papers, midterms have been written, graded, and returned. Some people are elated: students who have done well, professors who have successfully graded everything that's been handed in. Some people are demoralzed: students who have done poorly, professors irritated by late papers, poor results, cheating. We're in that kind of void now before the big push of final papers, final assignments, final exams.
We're all, it's fair to say, exhausted.
What to do? I can't change my deadlines, or my students, or my workload, or the weather. I probably can't change your deadlines, or your students, or your workload, or your weather, either. But how are we going to get ourselves out of this pit, and maybe with enough energy to spare that we can maybe our students up into the light with us?
Here's the question that's animating my climb: What do I need?
I can be flip and say "I need a sabbatical," or "I need to assign self-grading papers," or "I need an invisibility cloak." However, when I can articulate more seriously to myself what I need, I then can start to think of the steps to take to get it. My mid-term needs, it turns out, involve time and freedom from details, and since I can't magic time out of nothing, I have instead taken my family out for dinner twice this week, which saves me the time involved in cooking, and cleanup, and dishes, and leftovers, and the stressful management of the details of shopping and menu-planning that I just, frankly, don't have it in me to deal with right now. I have also temporarily given up bed-making and laundry. I have enough clean underwear to go for another two weeks, and I just might. This leaves me a bit of energy to take my girl to dance lessons, and to watch The Ultimate Fighter with my husband, and to write two public lectures and bring some life to my teaching.
What do you need to make it to the end of term? It feels great to write 'em down and share 'em--then they seem like goals, and from goals we can create plans, right?
I was pretty sure my first year class needed schooling in Awesome Music as well as New Media Art, and I surely needed a mid-afternoon dance party so you can rock out to this while contemplating what you need: