Saturday, August 29, 2009

Week 1 Update

by Emily May Anderson

So, I made it through my first week. It went a little something like this:

Monday, English 501: Intro to Graduate Study at 9:05am. Intimidating as heck, but encouraging too. That sounds weird, but that’s the only way I can describe it. I don’t feel at all prepared for this class, but I think that’s the point; by the time we’re done with the class, we will be prepared for the rest of our graduate study. We’re getting a crash course in theory, research methods, and how to write seminar papers. I’ve heard a nasty rumor that one of the professors (it’s co-taught by the MFA director and an older, very smart, very professorial medievalist) kind of has an issue with the MFAs in the class, like he doesn’t think we belong there or are “worthy” to be in his class with the MAs. Now I know I am as smart as anyone there so I’m taking it as a personal challenge to do really well in the class and prove him wrong. So, anyway, that was Monday morning. We got out a little bit early, so I got lunch with a couple people, then stayed on campus, did a lot of reading, then taught my first class at 4:40. It went okay; I felt nervous and I think I talked too fast, but it went fine, and I let them out about ten minutes early.

Tuesday, went to campus at 10:30, since I supposedly had Office Hours 10:30-11:30. I read the writing that my freshman had done in class the day before and was really impressed, then heated up my lunch, then went to The Writer in the Community. I didn’t know really what to expect with this class, but I am now really excited about it. We’d had an assignment before the first class to type up a page or so about our ideas of community and teaching writing in non-academic communities, so after the instructor introduced the class and went over the syllabus, each of us read and/or explained what we’d written, and we talked about them, then we decided what kind of projects we wanted to work on this semester and broke up into little groups and started talking about that. I wrote a bit more about the class on my blog earlier this week. That was my only class, so I went back home afterward, went for a nice 4 mile run, and then did some course planning for Wednesday and Friday.

Wednesday my class was Poetry Workshop with Robin Becker. Robin is scary but really great. There are 8 of us in the workshop, including two people I hadn’t met before. We talked extensively about the syllabus, then talked about our respective backgrounds and writing interests, got our assignments and then let out early. Sarah, the other first year poetry MFA, and I went and had lunch, then I putzed around my office for awhile before teaching again at 4:40. It went well, and I was much less nervous than I had been on Monday. The lecturing/writing on the chalkboard thing went well, and a few of the students seemed genuinely excited and interested when I told them that Elizabeth Alexander is going to be reading here in September. The Poetry Workshop has a chapbook focus; we’ll be reading a lot of chapbooks and we’ll be putting our own together in the second half of the semester. Each week in the first half we’ll read and respond to a chapbook, or chapbooks, in two ways: we’ll write a prose response/review and we’ll write a poem in some way inspired by a piece in the chapbook, either formally or in terms of subject or etc. Each person theoretically should get to workshop each week. I read the first chapbook and started my prose response that night.

Thursday I packed my lunch and met my neighbor Nicolette and an MA named Grace for lunch around noon, then we went to our Teaching Seminar. Talked about how the first two days had gone, got a few ideas for Friday and the first major assignment, then Grace and I walked over to check out the rec center. It’s not included in our student fees, but it’s super cheap to join as a student: $99 for the whole year and that covers multiple locations on campus, all the classes, pools, etc so I want to do it. But oh yeah, I had no money (this had been a theme of the week – I was still waiting on my student loan money so that I could buy books and groceries and pay bills and pretty much have a life). I was supposed to come home and go running again, but it was chilly and damp and I was feeling exhausted and disgruntled, so I didn’t. I think I drank some more coffee and tried to write.

Friday I spent the day carefully reading and taking notes on all the articles for 501 that were online (there were a lot of them – they made me feel stupid – I did not like them, but then again, I was grouchy anyway). I went to campus, in the pouring rain, just to teach class, but it went very well; the students were talking and interacting, and the time went super fast. That night Enru (my roommate), Nicolette, and I went up to Grace’s apartment and just chilled and watched a movie.

Today, I borrowed the books for our intro class from Enru and did that reading (not as bad as the articles, thankfully!), then we ended up having four of the girls over for dinner, so I frantically cleaned and cooked and showered. We had a nice time though, and one of the girls mentioned that she’d already gotten her paycheck direct deposited (we officially get paid the last day of the month) so I checked my bank account after they left and saw that not only had I received my paycheck but I’d also received the loan money. So, I paid a bunch of bills, and I get to buy books tomorrow!

Oh, and I also wrote the poem for Wednesday :) I’d tried to do it before and come up with something finished but very bad, so I started over tonight and it just worked.

So, in summary: it was a busy week. I’m only IN class for 12 hours a week, but there is a very definite balancing act I’m going to have to master of prepping to teach, reading/writing for my academic classes, reading/writing for workshop, AND still managing to run and have some sort of social life. I feel good about it though; I feel like I can do it, and I feel (after only a week) that I definitely belong here, I don’t doubt that for an instant, not even when I’m waiting for a bus in the pouring rain or sitting at my table glaring at an article about the Affective Fallacy.


  1. You can do it! I love reading these posts although it does make me miss school a bit.

    One of my favorite things in the last few posts has been seeing how different some of the courses are set up. Like the idea of teaching from chapbooks. very kewl!

  2. Sounds like things are going really well for you there. Yay! That was a pretty busy week. You did something every day! Everything feels better once things start to be routine, I think.

  3. It's good that you're already establishing routine! That's more than I can say for myself. I feel you on the therapeutic, after-school de-stressing runs. And I love, love, love the last sentence of your post.

  4. Thanks, everyone!

    Jessie - I've not read very many chapbooks, so this will be a new experience, but it sounds like it'll really get us writing outside our normal comfort zones to start with and then give us time to synthesize some work into a collection (whether we decide to submit it as a chapbook, or whether it just becomes part of our MFA thesis).

    JayTee - yep, the bad part of teaching is that it means I have class on Fridays. No free days :( Though Thursday I'm in class for 1.25 hrs, and Friday only for 50 minutes, so they're *almost* like free days.

    Bethany - I'm definitely trying to establish a routine, and the running does help. Have you found any good routes? And thank you, re: the last sentence!

  5. The Writer in the Community Class sounds really awesome. I hope you keep us posted on how that progresses. Glad you had a good first week. :-)

  6. Thanks, Keely. I will definitely keep you all posted!


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