Saturday, August 15, 2020

A Pause

There is an old joke about a gang of bank robbers who, after months of meticulous planning and practice, have finally broken into the bank only to find themselves face to face with the security guards.  “What do we do now?” asks one of the robbers.  “I don’t know,” says the leader, “To be honest, I didn’t think we’d make it this far.”

This has been the story of my summer.

I’ve been working roughly half time as an advisor, which is slightly more than I’ve actually gotten paid for but I’m hoping to take some time off next week to balance that out.  This has involved student meetings (by phone or video conference) and staff meetings (generally video conference) and more paperwork than I’ve actually been able to keep up with so perhaps I should look into catching up on that before the fall semester officially starts.  Some of my paperwork has been complicated enough that even the people in charge – the folks at the very top of the Org Chart, where the air gets thin – can’t figure it out.  We’re supposed to be taking unpaid furloughs to help balance the budget, for example, because we all know that educating the citizens of the state is an afterthought in a state with a GOP legislature setting priorities.  These furloughs are supposed to be keyed to your appointment but my appointment is a sufficiently complex patchwork that I seem to have stumped the band.  I figure they’ll get back to me eventually.

I spent a week grading AP exams, though due to the current plague I did this from home rather than at one of the hangar-sized convention halls that they usually rent out for such things.  This allowed me to keep my “never set foot in Florida” streak alive for another year, for which I was grateful.  I did get to see my AP roommate from last year, though, since he happened to be nearby one weekend and stopped over to say hi.  That was a good evening.

I’ve taught three classes.  One was a straightforward online class that I’ve done before – they’re mostly grading and feedback but also entail a fair amount of set-up and no small amount of swearing at Canvas because that’s what one does with Canvas.  Another was a team-taught course that I have done with two colleagues for the last 22 years but which had to be converted into a Zoom class on the fly.  The third is a self-paced online class where students can sign up for a three-month window at the beginning of any month so it never really ends. 

The first one wrapped up in July.  The last one will continue for the foreseeable future.  I posted final grades for the middle one today.

I’m not really sure what to do now.  To be honest, I didn’t think I’d make it this far. 

Oh, I have a list, don’t worry. 

There are a disturbingly large number of household projects on this list, ranging from tightening a leaky hose connection to painting the west wall of the garage.  I’ve been meaning to clean my home office for the better part of two years now and it desperately needs it – at some point there is too much paper lying about even for a historian.  Lauren has been beating us about the head and shoulders to get the basement cleaned out because a) she has some ideas for how she would like the space to be used and b) she acquired a minimalist streak during her year abroad and now considers our house to be insufferably cluttered.  The basement does need to be cleaned, though.  She and Oliver painted the corner where the new project will be completed and Kim and Lauren put down some flooring, so progress has in fact been made.

I have two classes I need to prep for the fall, one of which has three sections which are arranged in such a way that by the time I meet the last one the first will have already met twice, which is quite a gap for a once per week class.  The other is going to be locked into a wholly different calendar from the one Home Campus uses so it will have to be adjusted to suit.  Plus every few months the computers on that campus reset me back to being a student rather than an instructor, which makes it hard to get anything done.  Nobody knows why.  I have never actually set foot on that campus, let alone been a student there, though I’ve taught this class for them since 2012.  Technology is what doesn’t quite work.  When it works all the time it’s an appliance.

I have at least one class to prep for the spring.  Every year you tweak classes to make them work better, account for the things that didn’t quite work, and generally sharpen things up, and after enough rounds of this you get to a point where it needs to be completely torn down and reworked from the ground up.  My US2 survey class needed that tear down this past spring but I didn’t have the time for it.  I finally figured out how to reorient the class and I had thought to do that this summer but as noted this summer was pretty busy.  Maybe this fall.

There is an outside chance that I might have two more classes to prep for the spring if all goes well.  Nothing guaranteed, of course, but it’s nice to have people discussing things with you.

Between all that and the fact that the world is on fire – we have a pandemic that the US has steadfastly refused to get serious about, in large part because our so-called leadership insists on seeing it as a political issue that might be a useful tool in their quest for absolute power rather than a medical issue that needs to be solved before the bodies pile up to the roofline, and on that note we have a so-called leadership that is actively pursuing Fascism as an open goal while 40% of Americans cheer them on – it’s been hard to focus.

But tonight, perhaps, I will call a small halt to the proceedings.  Oliver and I will perhaps fire up a frozen pizza and an NHL playoff game and do not much at all that would be considered a wise and productive use of our time.

You need that, every so often.

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