Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Question of Balance

I’ve been away from Throughlines so long now that I feel like a stranger in my own house. I’ve been struggling to keep my balance in the midst of a multitude of competing demands on my time: doing upwards of 25 candidate interviews for what has turned out to be three positions in my department, handling the flow of (nearly 200) submissions for the spring issue of our literary magazine and supervising the staff meetings, keeping up with my classes and having the quarter grades come due, taking nominations from department members for the English awards that are presented each spring, doing scheduling (spreading 30 teachers into 20+ English courses, each with multiple sections each semester, then filling out the multiple overlapping redundant forms that make it possible for all those courses to be successfully scheduled), taking three days to fly to San Francisco to meet with a hardware vendor and a software vendor and visit a tech-enhanced Silicon Valley high school, attending the usual schedule of eight or ten formal meetings a week, keeping up with email and posts pouring into Google Reader, preparing schedule and materials for a half-day tech retreat for the soph English teachers and a two-day off-campus retreat for 20 teachers K-12, meeting with individual students who come to see me in conference (easily the best part of my day), trying to get some sort of exercise each day and read a bit here and there.

At one point in my life I entertained the quaint notion that the longer I stayed in teaching the easier it would become, that with experience I’d become more fluid and efficient. As if.

I’m not complaining. I like the work I do, and I find it challenging and interesting and satisfying. But I definitely feel more squeezed for time right now than I ever have before. The new stuff that keeps coming at me is mostly stuff I’ve signed up for because I wanted to, because I was interested. I’m trying to support and want to contribute to ongoing on-campus dialogues about such things as sustainability and service learning and blended learning and tech-enhanced education and social entrepreneurship and authentic assessment and support for students with learning differences. These are all worthy discussions. I've got stacks of readings I have yet to get to with regard to all of them. All I need is time.

I’ve also got lots of ideas for things that I might like to write about for Throughlines. The list above would barely serve as an outline. But getting into any one of them would require time to write and rewrite and annotate. Or, for example, I’ve been reading Anna Karenina, and I’d love to write my way through some of my thoughts about that book, but I feel like I really should finish it before I start trying to sort it out, and I’ve gotten stalled out because of all the stuff in the list above. I could be reading it right now, but, well, I’m writing this instead, on the theory that if I post something tonight maybe I’ll be able to follow up tomorrow and get a little string going. And even if I were to say right now, okay, let’s talk about Tolstoy, where would I even begin? There are about a thousand points of entry.

So, not for the first time, I’m trying to find some balance in my life, trying to figure out a way to be able to do what I want to do with my time, which would include some regular schedule of reading and writing, and what I need to do. Technology has given me many more choices of what to read and what to write, but it has made it harder for me to separate them out. It’s the horizontality issue again, the postmodernist dilemma: breadth (doing 100 things very shallowly) vs depth (doing two or three things with focus and intensity). (It is probably not an accident that I was writing a very similar post at pretty much the same time last year.)

It’s eight o’clock at night in Honolulu. I had planned to go to the gym tonight. If I’m gonna make it, I’ve gotta go. When I get back, Anna Karenina will be waiting for me. Assuming I can stay awake long enough when I get back to make some progress. Wish me luck.

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