We finished our Spring semester a little over a week ago. Graduation came and went… We had our final, full faculty meeting of the academic year. Grades were submitted.
Summer is Here (Sort of)
My mind and body haven't made the shift over to summertime yet. Part of that is because I still have some work-related commitments to attend to… An academic retreat, some departmental hiring decisions meetings, and participation in a visit from an external reviewer.
Part of my not being entirely sure what season I'm in is because it can be difficult to shift into an entirely new way of working.
I'm writing a book this summer. My time is being steered by Pacemaker, a writing word-count web service, as well as a time tracker called Timing that watches what I do on the computer (and even when I leave the computer's side) and asks me to account for that time. But, I haven't quite gotten in a groove yet that has me at my most productive. I find myself looking at clutter that didn't bother me during the academic year, but has me convinced that I ought to overhaul our pantry, or perhaps re-organize my entire home office.
By no means am I complaining. I find such joy in teaching and am already missing the pace of the semester. Sometimes.
After bawling through John Warner's post on his “Last” Class in The Chronicle, I was all that much more aware of the joy that I find in having a tenured position at a university. It wasn't like John just gave up all of the sudden, but has chronicled his difficulties in the past. It was strange to experience that kind of sadness over someone whose class I never sat in, or ever even met.
Another recent post that brought me to tears was Sean Michael Morris' writing about what his Dad taught him about teaching. He writes:
To teach, we must believe in the potential of each person in the room. Unwaveringly. This is not to say we don’t get to have our bad days, our off days, the days when we really can’t stand to talk to another student or plan another lesson. But it does mean that we teach for a reason, and that reason lies in what lies in the heart of a student. What lay in our hearts when we were students. Hope despair melancholy desire passion hunger confusion. All the things it takes to learn to walk. All the things it takes to learn to do anything. All the things it takes to live in Los Angeles, or to love someone who is hard to love.” – Sean Michael Morris
I started reading Stephen Brookfield's book: Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Brookfield asserts that if we commit ourselves to critical reflection, we will receive the following benefits:
- Align your teaching with desired student outcomes
- See your practice from new perspectives
- Engage learners via multiple teaching formats
- Understand and manage classroom power dynamics
- Model critical thinking for your students
- Manage the complex rhythms of diverse classrooms
It wouldn't be a book that I would recommend as a starting point for someone in their first year or two of teaching. However, after 14 years of teaching, and me having read only 20% of the book, I'm already being challenged in important ways.
The other trouble with summer is that there's always so much I want to do that it is easy to become stuck in the thinking of the possibilities phase. I'm still contemplating if I'll open an account on Patreon to try to find supporters of the podcast to cover some of the associated expenses for producing the show (web and podcast hosting, editing and production costs).
There have also been inquiries about transcripts over the years. If I could get enough supporters to cover some of the foundational costs of the podcast, it would be a good time to start including transcripts with each episode. That would only be if there was an expressed need for them that was compelling enough that people would want to give, financially, to support that effort.
I experimented this week with an automated transcription service called Trint that was promising. Here's what the episode #150 text output looks like, after exporting the basic transcript.
The transcripts can also be produced as something richer than plain text. I then used Camtasia to add a graphic of the logo, along with the audio file, together into a single .MP4 file and uploaded it to YouTube. Trint allows you to export a transcript in what is called .SRT format, which is one of the ways to import closed captioning into YouTube. If you view episode #150 on YouTube and click the button to view the CC (closed captioning), you'll see the transcript is included there, and has the correct timing settings without me having to do anything. It was pretty remarkable.
What are your plans for summer, or do you even get to take a break at all during this season?
As a small step, consider taking advantage of this free online subscription to the Washington Post (for those with .edu email addresses). Or, think through some aspects of your digital literacy, using this post from Catherine Cronin. If all that sounds like too much, maybe you just want to do some coloring in Julie Schumacher's Doodling for Academics?