Tuesday, September 05, 2017

starting year 3 (or 11?)

This September marks my tenth year as a university instructor (2 in China, 6 during my PhD, and 2 as a "real" faculty member). Here are ten things on my mind at the beginning of the eleventh.

1. Starting the schoolyear with a concussion feels like an apt metaphor for my present life. Everything makes me tired, and I have aches and pains that come and go unexpectedly and are troubling, but underneath it there's a grim determination to carry on and do good work under the circumstances. Maybe a little more slowly.

2. I watched a small boy throw up on his desk in a kindergarten classroom this morning. This also felt apt.

3. I'm realizing more and more that I can't force people who have more power than I do to make better (in my eyes) decisions. The challenge is to figure out how to balance what "the System" says you have to do with what you think is genuinely beneficial to students. If I let myself get too discouraged by fighting losing battles about curriculum, I'll go nuts.

4. I'm less certain than ever about how research intersects with my job, but still plugging away at some possibly interesting projects.

5. From Sept 1, 2015 to Sept 1, 2017, my yearly salary has increased by approx. 13%. This is mostly due to union stuff -- collective bargaining, cost of living increases, etc. -- but some of it is merit-based, and I feel very blessed.

6. On an unrelated note -- or perhaps not -- a senior colleague recently commented that it was too bad I couldn't get a "good position." I feel more acutely the TT/NTT divide than I used to. I'm not sure if this will continue, and I hope that whichever side of that divide I were on I'd want to engage it, because it's weird and bad.

7. Somewhat related to #3: one of my main goals for the centre where I work this year is to lead a committee looking at an initiative to implement a university-wide first year EAP program. I'm really excited about this, but I can also imagine getting so wrapped up in it that I get really burned out and disappointed by the inevitable roadblocks. Looking at student language/writing stuff from the institution's perspective -- or from administrators' perspectives, I guess -- can be very disorienting and discouraging to a workaday instructor. But it doesn't have to be.

8. Another major project this year: I'm co-chairing the Symposium on Second Language Writing here in Vancouver, the first weekend in August. It'll be held at the downtown campus of my university. This will be a ton of work, but I'm looking forward to it.

9. I'm also supposed to be working on/finishing a book for Cascade, which I really want to do but haven't been able to find the time to.

10. Also, I have to apply for permanent residency in Canada this year, ASAP, so I can keep my job. Yeep!