Traditionally academics write in the summer to catch up after the business of the fall and spring semesters. I find that depressing, so I have refused to do that so far. I do all my writing between August and May, right in the thick of it. Then I teach summer classes in June, and take July and early August off completely.
To my ultimate sadness, however, the PC game publishing schedule is the reverse. Games tend to come out later in the year in prep for Xmas, which means there is typically a dearth of new games in the summer when I have the most time to play them. This is absolutely infuriating.
This summer is particularly bad. So far the notable releases are all sequels. Diablo 3, which is a retread of 2, hasn’t impressed me, pretty as it is. Max Payne 3 did – it’s a great game, if massacring over a thousand men singlehandedly can be called ‘great’ – but it didn’t last long. I’m waiting on an expansion to Crusader Kings 2 later this month, so I can’t start a new game in that yet, so… what’s left? I’m stalled in Dark Souls, disinterested in Skyrim, and plain baffled by a level in SpaceChem. Meanwhile, at least four games I want come out in October. Grrr.
Ok, now that the summer semester is half over, I can say with some certainty that using TSIS again has been a big benefit. The fruit is showing up in the early papers. I’ve been talking about the templates constantly, demonstrating how to use them, and pointing out instances of them in the essays we read, and this has trickled down into the papers. Usage problems aside, I’m seeing good engagement.
I’m not as enthused with Rereading America, but it is adequate. Many of the readings duplicate the same points, making discussion repetitive, and some are probably too long. I am only using 2/3 of the text, though, so I could assign different sections in the fall.
It is hard for me to believe that it is late June already. It seems like the semester just started. I suppose that’s a good sign, in that I’m not flaming out early.
I always have jitters before I teach early in a semester, but in this summer session, they’ve been particularly bad. They didn’t start to go away until yesterday, which was the fourth day I’ve been teaching.
Cicero said that nervousness before a speech was a sign of a good speaker; namely, it means that you care about what you are going to say and therefore you possess the core of what makes for a good speech, i.e. authenticity. I’ve said some version of this to myself before going into class this week, but I think the real reason the jitters/butterflies have been less present is not increased self-confidence, but growing comfort with the students. It’s when the students are an unknown quantity that I start feeling nervous.
This summer session is also the first time I’ve taught freshman composition in over four years, so that may also be a cause of additional stress. It’s not that I fear teaching composition, but rather that I fear not remembering how to do it. The last four days have done a lot to reassure myself that I still have ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is. I certainly didn’t have ‘it’, at least completely, when I started teaching in ’04.
I’ve learned since that writing is not mastery of grammar/usage, it is not inspiration, and it is not even an expressed distillation of reading, though those admittedly form supporting roles in a larger play. The leading roles for teaching writing are played by critical thinking and genre familiarity, i.e. style – or at least that’s what I think currently.
For freshman comp, I’ve gone back to a book I tried once halfheartedly – They Say/ I Say. It’s too early to report total success, but I feel I understand the purpose of the text more, and I can more easily wed its genre insights to a reader, which in this case is Rereading America. RA is more politically aggressive (some of the reviews on Amazon think it is pure leftist tripe) than I’m used to in a textbook, but there’s always reading against the text.