The last four days for me have been spent in a new grad student orientation. One of those days it was just a general session (this is how many years you can expect to be here before receiving the PhD, this is how we support our students, this is what grad student life is like, etc.). The last three days have been teacher training days. I am teaching one section of Rhetoric 103 (basically Writing or English 101--maybe later I will go into the details of how they run freshman composition here). It has been good. My particular session has been with four other incoming grad students who, like me, have already had some teaching experience. So I am currently thinking a lot about the syllabus and class expectations documents that I am going to have to have ready when my class begins on Wednesday. Overall, I would have to say that I am very pleased with the people, the program, and the particulars of the department and campus. I have office space wherewith I can commiserate/share ideas with other students who are teaching the same material as I am. I am excited to being teaching and hope to have some fun experiences to share.
One of the things that was said numerous times at our first day of orientation was that a graduate student's first obligation is to their coursework and second to their teaching. There was some talk about how it is easy to let teaching be the thing that gets a lion's share of the time and resources devoted to it, because it is the thing that provides immediate rewards. Also, when you are teaching, there is no hiding if you are under prepared. You can hide out in a class that you haven't prepared for as much. This seems very true, and will be difficult to balance. I am much more confident (duh!) about my abilities in the classroom as a teacher than I am in my abilities in the ever-scary graduate seminar (class). I picked up several of the books for some of the classes that I am taking, but really had to rethink whether I wanted to take one of them merely by the materials that were required for it. This one class had more books (and tough materials at that!) required for it than all of my other classes put together! So, I am dealing with those kinds of anxieties.
I have been walking a lot. The institute parking lot that I have been parking at is clear on the other side of campus from the English building. My shin muscles especially (maybe because of all the stair climbing?) are sore. Either next week or the following, I will be making frequent visits to the gym. Maybe then I will stop feeling so out of shape and round. :)
There have been a few frustrating moments this week that have added a bit to the already stressful nature of beginning at the University. The picture below is a representation of one of those frustrations. At the beginning of the week, my old, indestructible Powerbook started giving me trouble. Basically, the little female adapter started coming loose so that it wouldn't recognize the male adapter when it was plugged in. Since the battery is already shot, this little problem caused it to completely loose its charge, eventually making it impossible to power up. I thought that maybe I could fix it (if you are laughing right now, don't worry, you're not alone. Somebody else seems to think that I am the antithesis of "handy"). I went to Home Depot and bought my first soldering iron.
After what had to be an hour I finally got it to the state that you see below. Getting that little chip out and accessible was nearly impossible. You can see the little thing that I needed to fix sticking out in the middle. Sure enough, it had come unsoldered from the circuit board. I did what I could to reattach it and thought that I had been successful, but when I put it all back together, it still wouldn't work. Mat thinks I may have fried it with the soldering iron being too hot. I can imagine that happening because everything is so close together on the board. But still it stinks. Having that computer was super useful (and I am ever-so gracious to Mat for hooking me up with it in the first place). A new laptop, while it will happen eventually, is a little ways down on the list of current necessities, so I'm gonna have to make do without one for now.
Finally, one of the very best things about being here is that fresh produce is super-accessible. Yesterday we went to the Farmer's Market in Urbana and got some fresh tomatoes, cucumbers (small like the should be!), corn and onions. The tomatoes especially are delicious. We are looking forward to growing some of our own next year.
I had a proud moment at lunch when I made what was already destined to be a delicious BLT all that much better. We used spinach instead of lettuce, added red onion, two kinds of tomato, and right before eating it, Tina was cutting a pear and I thought, "ah-ha! that would be so awesome on it too!" And it was. Here is my first (hopefully of many) food pic. We were trying to figure out what to call it. B-Stop? (bacon, spinach, tomato, onion, pear).
p.s. I am not the biggest fan of the band "the Fray." I have kind of played them off because of their huge commercial success. I don't know. Maybe it's the dude's haircut. But I don't know that I can diss/resist too much longer. A few weeks ago when I was driving the huge Penske truck back to the Penske place, their song "Over My Head" came on the radio. There have been moments lately when I feel this same way.