Monday, September 5, 2016

Dream Job: Year Two

94º ~ feels like 106º ~ after several easy days, the humidity returned today and we are back to swamp weather ~ with enough rain so far this summer, the grass remains green, the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. remain fat and happy

NB: What follows should in no way be read as complaint. I'm still wildly in love with my dream job.

Classes at UCA began on 8/18, while I was away in Hudson, NY attending the Home School. Luckily, I had two great colleagues who agreed to meet my classes on Thursday and Friday so I could take advantage of the opportunity to study with such amazing people, both faculty and students.

I returned to Arkansas thinking I'd done enough prep work before I'd left to handle the start of the semester. I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, I had my syllabi and my initial assignments set up, but the reality of still being new to my dream job hadn't quite sunk in.

Last year, I wrote some about "leveling up," moving from a 10-year career at a community college to a tenure-track job at the University of Central Arkansas. This move means that many of the courses I'm teaching now, I'm teaching for the first time. At the community college, I could only teach first- and second-year courses, and that meant first-year writing, intro to creative writing, world literature, and every once in a while, forms of poetry.

At UCA, the only creative writing course that I am repeating from my cc time is Intro to Creative Writing. Because of a difference in structure, the Forms of Poetry class at UCA is a bit different from the one I taught at PTC. Also, at UCA, as of last spring, I no longer teach any first-year writing. The result of this is that I find myself with four different classes, three of which have all new preps. Here's my schedule.

Introduction to Creative Writing (covering 4 genres...and oh, I changed the book this semester).

Forms of Poetry, a 3000-level course that incorporates theory and workshop.

Forms of Illustrated Narrative, a 3000-level course looking at a multitude of media that incorporate text and visuals from comics and graphic novels/memoir to collage and body-mapping to digital modes and writing for video games to 3-D installations. This course incorporates theory and workshop.

Special Topics: Ecopoetics, a 4000- and 5000-level course (8 grad students, 7 undergrads) that explores the latest theory in ecopoetics and asks students to write and workshop in the genre.

Aside from the actual class time, prepping new classes means reading more than the students, taking a stab at the pacing for the entire semester and then breaking that down into what needs to be covered in each class period, creating class notes, making assignments and then once those assignments come in providing feedback. Yes, I did some of this during the summer, but not enough. Lesson learned.

Along with content management, I have to keep records of attendance and fulfill other university requirements in a timely fashion. I'm also the type of professor who encourages my students to email me with their questions, and I maintain on online classroom of resources for each class to help bridge any gaps that might form between what I covered in class and what the students have to do outside of class.

Besides teaching, now that I'm in my second year at UCA, there is a full-on expectation of all of the out-of-class work that tenure-track faculty do. I sit on multiple committees, and, as many of you know, my big task in particular is to direct the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference. I also attend conferences and on-campus professional development in order to stay on top of current pedagogies. In the meantime, I'm also trying to write, revise, and submit in order to keep my publications coming on a regular basis.

In other words, dear reader, my cup runneth over.

As I noted at the start, please do not read any of this as complaint. I'm still completely thrilled by my position at UCA. In fact, I'm happier than I've ever been in my teaching life. I'm also more challenged than I've ever been. I know that in a few years all of this hard work will pay off when I get to teach a repeat of these courses, and I'll be able to revise and fine-tune all that I'm trying now.

In the meantime, I hope to pop back into the blog more regularly and am resolved to find a way to do so.

Until the next installment.

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