The Week In Review, March 9-15 2015 (Or, “You Call That a Spring Break?!”)

So, this week was our university’s spring break, which in teaching assistant terms when you are the instructor-of-record for your courses means, “the seven days you’ve got to catch up on all of the things you haven’t been able to get to because, teaching.

Here was my list of “to-do” at the beginning of this week:

Dissertation chapter draft

Dissertation research

Hortulus articles first-round reading

Correct page proofs for forthcoming publication

Book Review

Load second half of class readings into Blackboard

Grade Midterms (76)

Review Student Blogs (76)

Finalize fellowship application

Book orders to bookstore for summer I course

Syllabus drafts for summer & fall courses

Update society website for international society I’m on the executive team of

Folger reading & work on Folger presentation

Candidacy statement for an elected office for which I’ve been nominated for next year

And, here’s what I managed to get done:

Dissertation chapter draft (43 pages so far…but 40 of those were done before the break)

Dissertation research (not that this is ever “done” but I did get some in)

Hortulus articles first-round reading

Correct page proofs for forthcoming publication

Book Review (started, but not finished yet)

Load second half of class readings into Blackboard

Grade Midterms (76)

Review Student Blogs (76)

Finalize fellowship application

Book orders to bookstore for summer I course

Syllabus drafts for summer & fall courses (started, but not finalized)

Update society website for international society I’m on the executive team of

Folger reading & work on Folger presentation (started, but not finished)

Candidacy statement for an elected office for which I’ve been nominated for next year

Truly, only in Academia could you have a list that long of things to accomplish in a single week that you are meant to be taking off as a vacation, get through that much of said list, and still come out on the other side feeling like you had failed at being productive. <insert rolling eyes emoticon here> However, let this serve as advance warning for anyone who is sort-of, kind-of on the fence about becoming a professional academic: There is no such thing as a vacation. There are only the stray day(s) here and there that you steal for your own sanity (or because your family makes you). There is always something you are meant to be doing–usually, several somethings–so if you are looking for a 9-5 type occupation, only with flexible hours and not so much work to take home with you, this is not it, no matter what the governor of Wisconsin thinks.

On the other hand, one does not exist in work alone, and so I did take a little down time for myself this week as well, as you’ll read below. Just not very much, and all with the knowledge that ultimately, it would mean not getting through the whole to-do list. Flexibility in that regard, and the ability to triage what you need to get done versus what you could get done in optimal conditions, are crucial personality characteristics to develop and cultivate. If you are someone who HAS TO CLEAR THE TASKS LIST, this job will be wildly stressful. Just sayin’.

Research

For the Dissertation:

The Medieval Hall: The Basis of Secular Domestic Life, Michael Thompson

The Welsh Law of Women, Studies Presented to Professor Daniel A. Binchy, ed. Dafydd Jenkins and Morfydd E. Owen

Ireland and Wales in the Middle Ages, eds. Karen Jankulak and Jonathan M. Wooding

Beowulf, Liuzza second edition facing-page translation (Broadview)

Hugh Magennis, Images of Community in Old English Poetry

Michael J. Enright, Lady With a Mead Cup

For the Folger seminar:

John Mandeville’s Travels
Writing

4,000 words on the dissertation draft

A 300 word statement of candidacy for an office for which I’ve been nominated

Page proof corrections for a forthcoming essay

Teaching

I graded 76 midterm examinations and read through 60 of the 76 student blogs for their midterm checkpoint. I also loaded the texts for the second half of the term into Blackboard. I began putting together the syllabus for my summer online course (Introduction to Narrative) and for my fall courses (Literature and the Arts and Writing I), and I got my book orders in for the summer course.

Service

I checked and responded to what I could of GSA emails on Wednesday during my usual office hours, but we don’t hold formal hours during breaks.

Other Scholarly Activity

I reviewed and commented on the first drafts of book reviews for the new issue of Hortulus, and continued reading the book I’m meant to be reviewing for this issue. I also collected information for website updates for one of the organizations for which I am the graduate student representative, in preparation for updating the website.

Nurturing My Self

I ran on Monday, Thursday and Sunday.  There was sleeping in this week. Sleeping in! On Saturday, I even spent the entire morning working on a craft project I’m heavily invested in, which is do-it-yourself modifications of Ficcare Maximas-style hair clips. I caught up on Grey’s Anatomy (Oh, Derek, how could you?!) and binged the second season of New Girl. We watched a few episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I even played a little Dragon Age and Skyrim. Because while I could have spent the entire break hunched over my desk trying frantically to get the whole dissertation chapter drafted, I also realized after two days of such behavior that it was not in my, nor my family’s, nor my students’ best interests for me to plow through the break week the way I do every other week of the term. Without a little down time, without a down shift in my energy and output, there is no way I could reasonably sustain the frenetic, break-neck pace this particular term is requiring of me all the way through May–a breakdown would be imminent, either physically or emotionally, or I’d miss something or drop a ball or several balls, and that would send me into the spiraling circle of shame: How can you not do better/be better?

Not cool. So, I consciously slowed down. My to-do list for this single week (as is almost always the case) was unreasonably long. Also, reality conspired to keep me from being ridiculously over-productive (a major flat tire ate 5 hours of a planned 8 hour workday in the library, for instance.) I therefore triaged and got done what HAD to get done–I HAD to get the midterms graded and into the system so the students know where they stand and can adjust their expectations and work ethic accordingly, I HAD to provide feedback on the blogs because I had promised I would, since they’re a substantial chunk of my students’ grade this term, and I HAD to make some progress on the diss. chapter because that’s what I’m here for, after all. I also HAD to get to the page proofs, because there are 11 other scholars waiting for that book to be published, some of whom need that publication not for the job market, but for tenure decisions, and I HAD to get to the Hortulus things because we are on  tight publications schedule and there are always snags along the way that you want to try to make some room for up front. Finally, I HAD to get the candidacy statement and the book order in because they were attached to deadlines. Then, I also got some of the smaller things done, things that didn’t require a huge investment of intellectual capital, and beyond that, just let myself lounge around a little and do things I enjoy doing as a human being. In the end, I probably could or should have taken a little more down time. I probably could have or should have set something else aside and rested more. But I feel overall pretty good about the balance of work-to-rest that I established this week, and most importantly, I’m ready to get back into the swing of things and move ahead with the term.

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About Melissa Ridley Elmes

I am a medievalist, wife and mother of two who spends her days researching, writing, teaching, painting, singing, dancing, acting and trying to find more hours in a day.
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4 Responses to The Week In Review, March 9-15 2015 (Or, “You Call That a Spring Break?!”)

  1. Samantha says:

    Sounds like a fabulous break! Productivity plus time for recharging. Congratulations! This was our spring break too. I wrote most of and turned in a full draft of my dissertation prospectus and wrote a syllabus from scratch (no grading to do this week, hooray!). I also read four fiction books, had two game nights with friends, and baked an apple pie and a raspberry-almond tart.

    Hmm, this is fun to share – I’m starting to see why you keep this blog! It’s definitely a great way to keep yourself going, but also to properly celebrate what you’ve accomplished.

    Anyway, glad you had such a great spring break!

    • Melissa Ridley Elmes says:

      Congratulations on getting the prospectus draft done and in! It feels great to know you are getting there, slowly but surely, doesn’t it? 🙂 I would love to read a fiction book just for fun again. Someday…….! Will you share the recipe for that raspberry almond tart? It sounds like something I will NEEEEEEEEEEED as the term winds down! Yes, the blogging is great for holding myself accountable and keeping myself motivated. It’s important to me (insofar as I am able) to be able to serve as a resource, an example, and a sort of virtual mentor for other people like me–those who do not necessarily have a family with a strong academic background, and who are first-generation scholars at the graduate level and beyond, which is the primary purpose of the blog–but at the same time, it also keeps me on my toes so I have something to write about!

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