Thursday, January 08, 2009

Working on a fresh year

Winter break is winding down and next week it will be time to get back to work teaching, as well as taking my own classes. I'm excited and not excited at the same time. As far as work goes, I think I'm coming to a time in which I will have to think differently about it one way or the other. I like my work PLACE, and I like my students. However, I have been doing pretty much the same thing for almost eight years now, with variations here or there as time, circumstances, and class dynamics permit. There is a lot of pressure to stuff down a lot of info in a short amount of time, and that, for me, is not conducive to a lot of creativity. Maybe, though, this malaise will inspire me to solve that problem.

Relationships are also different. One thing I have always enjoyed about my job is the collegiality and friendship. Peoples lives have changed quite bit in the past few years, though, with the births of children, marriages, and so on, so the time people can spend together has been affected. Also, underlying conflicts between some people have become more pronounced, making socializing more awkward in certain circumstances. It still happens, but less often, and between fewer people. There has been a change in leadership in the past few years, and two programs have merged, and like most workplaces nowadays, people are doing "more with less." I can't help but think that has also affected the social dynamic.

I'm excited about the classes I'm taking, particularly since I have one online and one face-to-face (which hopefully won't get canceled due to too few participants). That's my favorite combo because I enjoy that there is a certain degree of autonomy in the online classes (even though there are still due dates and such), but I still get the social aspect of the face-to-face classes. The class I'm particularly excited about is the YA literature class because I will get to read books I like to read ...usually, except for some weeks which will not be my favorite genres. I know this is heresy in the online world, but I'm not a big fan of science fiction or fantasy, although I think if I can consume it in graphic novel form (another week's requirements) I will enjoy it more.

I remember feeling so excited two years ago when I started the program. I knew I would take more than two years to finish because the plan was to take one or two classes per semester, including summers. It will probably take me one more semester than I planned because of availability of local or online classes. This program has on-campus, satellite, and online classes, and there have been experiments and changes with that since I started. I'm at the point where people I started with have graduated, even though I noticed one or two familiar names on the face-to-face class roster. Like at work, I'm feeling a little leftover and stale.

I know it is up to me to take steps to freshen things up. I'm just not quite sure how to go about it yet. I'm thinking new shoes will help. New shoes fix everything.


Anonymous said...

Do you read Jennie's book blog? It's about mostly YA stuff, since that's what she does for work at her librarian job, and she has lots of good recommendations.

Now, you know I like sci-fi/fantasy, so I can't restrain myself from saying, "You just haven't been reading the right books!" Do you want any recommendations to help your appreciation of this genre? Because I'm trying to restrain myself here.

Then again, you mention graphic novel format is better for this, and I have to say that when I read fiction, I see pictures and hear conversations, so all books become sort of like that anyway. Visualization is a powerful thing, especially in a genre built on fantastic imaginings, so it may well be that that's the way it works for you.

Mary said...

Thanks for the book blog recommendation; I will check it out. And yes, I was actually sort of hinting around for recommendations, so no need to restrain yourself :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, yay! Here we go...

On the graphic novel front, here's a fantasy one that's for adults, but will be most enjoyable to people who read a lot of fairy tales as a child - Bill Willingham's Fables series. There are 10 collected "books" in this now, all super-awesome. Fairy tale characters who are immortal and now live in a community in the middle of New York, having fled a war in the fairy tale kingdoms.

On a similar theme, but for YA readers, is the Sisters Grimm series. Two sisters are sent to live with their grandmother after their parents disappear, only to discover that they are the last of the Grimm family line, and as such have been charged with the protection of the fairy tale enclave in upstate NY. (Why NY has such an attraction for fairy tale characters, I don't know.) Plus, they have to save their parents.

You should definitely check out all the books by Terry Pratchett, especially in the Discworld series. (Link contains a chronology of books and explanation of character threads.) It started as a nominally adult series, but the lines between it and the spin-off YA sub-series starring Tiffany Aching are very thin. The YA books will appeal to adults and many of the adult books will appeal to YA readers.

Other standbys of my youth to check out are Robin McKinley (esp. The Blue Sword), Anne McCaffrey, Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey (esp. the Arrows of the Queen trilogy), Susan Cooper. For newer YA talent, definitely read anything by Shannon Hale. I admit that almost everything in this paragraph is girl-oriented fantasy, but there isn't a whole lot of YA sci-fi that I can think of. McCaffrey is probably the closest, because she freely crosses the line between sci-fi and fantasy many times, but a lot of her stuff isn't really classified as YA, I just put it there because that's when I read it and I see no reason why it shouldn't be considered both.

You'll probably find a lot of recommendations out there for Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, which is more properly steampunk YA. I, however, loathed it and felt absolutely zero desire to continue on after the first book. I do not say this to discourage you from reading it, just to reassure you that if you end up not liking it despite all the critical acclaim you are not alone.

Mary said...

Thanks, Dana! I also have a class for tween lit, so I think this is going to be very helpful.