Sometimes a project can come together very quickly. An article is with some efficiency. That book review is only one month late. Book projects, of course, take longer. Much longer. And then sometimes, certain labors of love take a very long time to be released into the wild that is the community of scholars and teachers of history. Yesterday, I am pleased to announce my labor of love (shared with M. Christine Anderson and Judith Metz, SC) that is The Journal of Sister Justina and the Santa Maria Institute, a new American Catholic History Classroom hosted by American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at Catholic University, went online.
Well, our American Catholic History Classroom featuring Sisters Justina and Blandina Segale (Sisters of Charity and biological sisters) and the Santa Maria Institute (a social settlement house established to aid Italian immigrants in Cincinnati, OH) is available for teachers and scholars everywhere!
And, better yet! I got to talk about why this exhibit and working with everyone at CUA’s archives are so wonderful as a guest contributor to the archives’ blog: The Archivist’s Nook. Go see what I said. Check out other posts (subscribe to it even). And while you’re at it, explore the wonderful resource that is the American Catholic History Classroom!
If I am not mistaken, I have not posted since June. I have had a long summer and it involved a lot of travel for work. If there were a time that underscores the upside-down-ness of my affiliation with academia, it would be my summers. Don’t get me wrong, an administrative position in a organization dedicated to higher education housed in an institution of higher learning is slightly bottom side up all year round, but the summers… The only remotely summery feeling I get is that I don’t have to dress as professionally as I do during the Fall and Spring terms. Starting in April, I am up to my eyeballs in conference planning. Then I spend May – August pulling them off, which involves traveling to them. I am getting very good at picking people up at the airport and then returning them there at the appointed time.
But, this is not a What I Did Over My Summer Vacation report. (Partly because I really didn’t have one.) No, the semester is beginning – classes begin Tuesday! – and I am teaching a Freshmen Gen Ed course again this term. I am excited to get back to the classroom and to teach this class for a second time. The first was such a new experience on so many levels, I often felt I was barely keeping my head above water all semester long. It was fun and exciting and I think my students made it through the chaos fairly well, but I am glad I will have some past experience from which to draw this time.
This week I have gotten a chance to be a “faculty member” albeit an adjunct faculty. Today I joined the larger faculty workshop and heard about the futures of MOOCs. Apparently the bubble hasn’t burst just yet on them. Neither has the use of business language when discussing the future of higher education. Earlier in the week, I sat through two-days of workshops for this Freshmen course and we talked about learning outcomes, rubrics, and writing assessments. Sadly we have agreed to require MLA formatting for all writing assignments. I don’t want to get into any arguments about style manuals, but frankly Chicago Manual of Style is far superior. But, I was a part of a conversation with other teachers about teaching and learning. It was a wonderful two days, where I could draw straight lines between my work and, well, the learning outcomes. That is one of the wrinkles with administrative work – it is harder to see the connections. They are there, but you have to look at the world differently and think creatively about your place in the universe. I mean University.
And while I was off playing – because it must be play, for I had such fun – my day job was still waiting for me. And here is something that is not foreign to anyone juggling personal interests and work responsibilities – I had to return to my office and tackle my administrative tasks. Faculty members – you know the ones with full time positions on their way or already with tenure – have menial tasks or at the very least stuff they don’t like doing. They will, like I will, spend their weekends preparing for their classes, setting up their Blackboards, maybe doing their own scholarly work (I have copy-edits for my book to go through!), and possibly, if there is time, vacuuming their carpets and hang out with family. Maybe.
Well, the fall semester started and I started teaching again. (I am teaching a class! she said with an enormous grin on her face.) It’s a new class to me, a new prep, and there will be a lot of work and time that goes into this, but, honesty, I do not care. (At the moment. I reserve the right to complain later.) I am enjoying every minute of it. Even when they look like they are bored senseless. Or confused. Yes, I get a lot of bored and confused looks.
I am teaching A class and the rest of my time is devoted to my day job as an assistant director of this program. And then there are the revisions of my manuscript due to the publisher a lot sooner than I would think. Consequently I am wearing many hats. The funny thing is that, while I am teaching just the one class, it has risen in importance in my mind. It is what I think about most of the time (even when I am thinking about my day job, or the revisions) and I have given it a place of importance in what I do.
The fun part of it all is that while I am concerned about doing the best job I can in this class, it isn’t freaking me out. I was concerned that I would forget how to teach after my two-year hiatus. Or that teaching methods would so radically change that I would be behind the curve. The challenging thing about this experience is figuring out the culture of teaching at this institution. What are the expectations of the students; how high (or low) are the standards? How can I work well with my fellow teachers? How can I be of help to others; or better how can I accept help when I need it?
And, meanwhile, I still have to effectively do my day job. And my history job. The tricky thing is when I have to shift gears from the classroom to my office. I need to put away my concerns for class prep (temporarily) and students and take out the list of tasks that I need to do that are equally important, albeit different. At the moment, my biggest concern is getting my job done. What has been remarkable is that how the teaching is seeping into my day job and helping me think about that work in a better way. I did not expect that. Teaching involves effectively communicating with students, considering how and when one presents information, and gauging the reaction and understanding of those individuals. Effective listening skills apply here, but they also apply in my daily work in administration. I knew those there parallels existed, but I think I needed reminding. Apparently I was wrong.
All this to say that I am currently operating with many identities. I am hardly alone in that, but what I intended to with this multiple identities should be interesting.
There is nothing that I enjoy more than the first day of school. I remember it fondly (and most-likely incorrectly). If I look closely at my memories of elementary and high school, I remember nervousness, uncertainty, and a large does of shyness. If I look to my undergraduate and graduate experiences, the first days of the first years of both were challenging, but I managed to work through the utter terror of the unknown.
I think about the new first years, the freshmen, who I now will come to know as I teach a class this semester. There is so much they don’t know and will hopefully learn. And I think that is what I “fondly remember” about the first day of class. But they are all new and to a certain degree uncertain. I hope they enjoy their experiences this year and the years to come.
I started this blog and then let it go for a few weeks because we were getting ready to go on vacation. Well, we are now On Vacation. Soon we will be back to every day life and I hope to be more present.
Before I get back to all the vacationing, I have some updates:
First, Led by Mercy: I have been contacted by a university press to which I submitted my manuscript and they have said they want to publish it. I am very excited and very pleased. It also means that I will have a lot of work to do in July and early August to address some “issues,” one of which is the title. Needs to be more “sexy.” I like Led by Mercy, but hopefully I can come up with something more to jazz it up a tad. As a former bookseller, I understand the importance of a good title on the spine. As someone who trolls libraries and have made the acquaintance of a few catalogers, I also understand the importance of a searchable title.
Second, teaching: I have been given a class for the Fall semester and I am beyond happy. It is a course I have not taught before so that means a lot of work to prepare. Hopefully this also means that I will post about teaching in the future.
With these two developments, I will be quite busy.