I've postponed writing this post, because I was really whiny and bitchy the first week of classes. I don't mind being whiny and bitchy (it's my blog after all), but the whole article about whether academics have a stressful job or not was being discussed, and I didn't want to be tied into that. Now, things have settled down a little, so I feel I can write more coherently.
The semester started in full force at the service level. Due to a variety of reasons coming together at the same time, there is an explosion of committees and ad hoc committees and task forces and what not this semester, and everybody has been dragged into it. It is so absurd that in two of the task forces I am in we have been promised stipends for being part of it (I'll believe it when I see the money). And they are not invitations, most faculty I know have two or three of these things on their plate. Add to that certain logistical problems (the institution is functioning with one building less than usual), and nobody is happy neither with their schedule nor with their room assignment. And yes, I know this sounds whiny to the outside world, but I don't care. If you are going to think that academics think we are special snowflakes, go ahead.
Most faculty want back to back teaching schedules. I don't, because I need some time to collect my thinking and ideas. So my only complaint (and a huge one) is a class at 8:30 in the morning with only 4 people. I am not a morning person. In addition, half of the students behave like they hate the world (and by extension, me and the class) for being forced to be there so early (when they are freshmen, their advisers make their schedule, and they have very little room for negotiation). So the energy is quite negative, and it's pretty hard to conduct a language class like that. The room sucks, too. If I use the screen to project something, I don't have a whiteboard. The first day of class, I arrived at 7 in the morning to go to my office, get the book and the paperwork. And the elevators weren't working because physical plant decided it was a good time to do repairs and test the fire alarm!!! So I had to climb 8 flights of stairs, which already set the mood for the week.
Two weeks into the semester, I am still not used to the 8:30 class. But my favorite class to teach, Contemporary Latin American Civ II, seems to be going well. I slightly revamped the syllabus (mostly changed the first week and a half, and the last two weeks of the semester), but the first batch of readings got the students interested in the class, and apparently talking about it outside of class. I just started with a few articles about what it means "lo latinoamericano" in the United States, in different realms. I assigned an old George Yudice classic (and felt old when I had to explain the reference), and these two articles that analyze representations of Hispanic culture in Spanish textbooks for college courses. The articles (both open access, one in Spanish and one in English) are here and here. In class, we analyze some visual examples, and it was fascinating.
So, so far, it is still a mix bag. I haven't had the time to do much else but survive, when the first month of the semester is supposed to be the quiet one. I have an article revision do at the end of the month. I guess that is how I will be spending the extended weekend. Besides that, I want to sleep. I am posting this, and it's not even 8:00 am!!! My sleeping pattern is messed up, and I only slept 4 hours last night.