Friday, February 10, 2012

Dread and Delight

Yesterday I wrote about the knot that I have in the pit of my stomach on the days that I have to teach. Today I want to record the flip side of that: the exhilaration that comes when teaching goes well.

My class yesterday went very well, in my own humble opinion. I have never before taught a class with such a diverse population of students, including a woman from Ghana, a woman from South Korea, a woman from Tokyo, an African-American woman, a Latina woman, as well as students from different disciplines (philosophy, biology, politics, science, women's studies). And even, in this class on Feminism and the Family, one male.

On Tuesday we had gone around the room and generated our own definitions of the family, ranging from "a group of people who live together related by blood or legal ties" to "a group of people joined together by commitment and love." We did this in the context of discussing an essay by Linda Nicholson on what she calls the myth of the "traditional family." Yesterday we talked about what families are "for" - what purposes do they serve for their members and for the wider political community? - as a way of engaging the debate between political theorists William Galston and Iris Marion Young about the degree to which certain family forms (e.g., the "intact" two-parent family) achieve these purposes better than alternative arrangements. Lots of people talked. The time flew by (at least for me - but believe me, if it drags for me, it drags even more for my students). I was happy about the class for the rest of the afternoon.

It's strange how I dread Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I teach, and look forward to MWF, which offer me wide open meadowlike spaces to write, read, work, cross all kinds of other tasks off my list, and yet I'm almost always ecstatic on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from having class go well, whereas I often sit paralyzed on MWF: I have so much that I should be doing, but nothing that absolutely has to be done TODAY, that I sit at my desk unable to make myself do anything.

Anything except for my blog, of course!

I don't know what to conclude from this. Maybe that structure is good, that real deadlines (like having to walk in the door of Asbury 112 at 12:40 and teach that class) are motivating. I need to try to trick myself into imposing more restrictions on my non-teaching days. I do find that I get more done on those days if rather than facing my hundred-item to-do list, I tell myself: just do this ONE SMALL THING, but ACTUALLY DO IT. So now I need to come up with my one small thing for today. It should either be: 1) start reading the 68 10-page submissions that I have to assess between now and February 20 for our Undergraduate Ethics Symposium - read at least ten of them today, or maybe at least five, or maybe just make myself open the zip file and read at least ONE: or 2) spend at least one hour on the paper I'm supposed to be contributing to a volume called Philosophy in Schools: An Introduction for Philosophers and Teachers - my chapter is supposed to be on "philosophical children's literature for middle school." For some reason I'm stuck on this, maybe because I just wrote something similar for a volume called Philosophy and Education: Introducing Philosophy to Young People and so I have to find a way not to repeat myself. Either one of those tasks would do. The one that is stressing me most right now is the book chapter, so I should do just ONE HOUR on that. Or even half an hour. Or even fifteen minutes.

And then dread will turn into delight. And the rest of my life will be happy forever. That's how I feel on Tuesdays and Thursdays after my class. That's how I want to feel today.

1 comment:

  1. I got a little closer, a wee bit closer, to feeling that, reading your post, dear Claudia