flu girl watches oscars, health improves

I think I finally turned a corner with the flu (which I keep typing, inexplicably, as "flue") at about 1:45 this afternoon. Last night I sent off a message to my Chair saying I was sick and wouldn't be able to make it to today's horrible meeting -- so I had all of today already clear for getting better. This morning I could do nothing but lie flat in bed, half sleeping. But then something shifted and I am starting to feel a bit more like myself. My fever's much lower, still about a degree left to go, but my brain is starting to cool down and function again. I've been rereading the last half of the book I'm teaching this week, and actually having some good ideas for how I want to wrap it up. So that's all good. Now I just have to finish grading that stack of essays, and I'll be golden. Since I can do that while reclining, it should be feasible, if not enjoyable. Now getting up and out of the house tomorrow may still be a challenge, but I can limit my time on campus to a few hours.

If you have to have the flu, there might as well be a tv-fest like the Oscars on. I wasn't too surprised with how things turned out (I don't expect my favorites to match the Academy's) -- except perhaps for Little Miss Sunshine for best screenplay -- sure, it was funny, quirky in that mainstream-indy way. But it wasn't interesting writing, originally structured, etc. That seemed a very odd choice, especially given the other nominees in that category. I hope that Ryan Gosling's nomination will at least get more people to see Half Nelson, and get him some other interesting roles -- it was one of the films I saw last year that stuck in my mind. I didn't for a minute think he'd get the award, but sometimes that's ok or even better for someone's career. Helen Mirren was fantastic in the Queen, but you should rent Shadowboxer as a wicked-delicious double feature to really see how amazing she is. I'm hoping that the foreign language award for The Lives of Others will bring it back to our theatres, since I missed it due to my work crunch of the past couple weeks. I really wanted to see it, and I much prefer to watch subtitles at the theatre. I haven't seen Dreamgirls yet, so I don't have an opinion about Jennifer Hudson (except that she shouldn't put her hands in the pockets of her evening gown while talking to reporters on the red carpet), though I was hoping Rinko Kikuchi would get the award. Babel seemed surprisingly overlooked, given the number of nominations. I also thought Children of Men should have gotten something -- cinematography or adaptation -- it was such a powerful and beautiful film. I thought it was way better than Pan's Labyrinth. But apparently no one else agrees with me. Totally appropriate that Marie Antoinette's costume designer won -- and how fabulous that she was wearing a tux!

During my flu, in addition to the home-repair shows on tv, I've been watching things from our shelf of DVDs for crappy days: Valley Girl, which is my all-time cheer-up movie, and many episodes of Freaks and Geeks, which is perfect medicine for whatever ails ya.



That's the number of the day, which has remained fairly consistent. But never dropping lower than that. Since my normal temp is about a full degree lower than "average" that's still a considerable fever.

And I am So. Over. Being. Sick. Yes, universe, I am grateful that this is a virus that has not involved the expulsion of gross bodily fluids. I am grateful that I came down with it just before the weekend. I am grateful that I sent off my article before getting sick. I am especially grateful for the Dish tv we got a few months ago. If one has to be sick once a year, this is not so bad.

I am trying to relax and rest and get better -- and certainly the weak state of my fevered brain means that I can't really do anything else. My eyes have been affected by the fever too, so I can only type this because I have the font set to humongous -- I can't read a book, for instance (which makes me sad since I even have some fun reading on hand from the public library).

But can't help myself from thinking about the work that needs to get done, the prep for next week, the conference paper I need to write. Will I be better for Monday's gruesome hiring committee meeting? (though, come to think of it, having a high fever as an excuse to miss that bloodbath might not be a bad thing) Will I get all the papers graded for Tuesday and teach a brilliant lively class so as to dispel all lingering questions about my abilities and commitment? Will my brain ever be back to normal?

ok, now I'm exhausted. Time to turn back to the 5 million home design/rip up your house shows I've been watching on tv. (Not that we are buying, remodeling, or flipping a house, or even own our house -- but it's fun to see how horrible most people's houses look. And I've seen a couple of neat tricks. )


fevered teaching

I'm home sick today, having been hit by one of the many evil viruses making the rounds at work. My fever is hovering between 102 and 103, so I'm really not trying to do anything more strenuous than change channels on the tv and skim a few blogs. I started feeling the onset Wednesday afternoon, but I didn't have any fever then, and kept trying to convince myself that it was just tiredness or allergies or some other non-sickness condition. But it soon became clear that I was actually coming down with something, and that I wasn't going to be able to finish grading all of my students' essays to hand back in class on Thurs. (Of course, if my psychic abilities were good enough to let me predict who would actually show up for class that afternoon, I could have just graded those students' work -- but that's not really my strong suit.) I feel genuinely sorry for my students, some of whom are anxious to learn their grades, and I hate feeling like one of those professor cliches. So I was heading into Thursday's class feeling bad about letting them down, and also just feeling plain bad physically: my head ached, I was coughing, and I could feel the fever beginning to burn.

So I was upfront with my students: I explained that I was coming down with something -- this was of course pretty obvious, since my voice had dropped two octaves and I was coughing. And then we did a small group activity in which I assigned each group a section of the text, and some focus questions based on the previous day's lecture, asking them to discuss it, and come up with some specific passages to present to the class. They spent 20 minutes in their groups, then the rest of class was a moderated discussion with their presentations and my expanding on what they pointed out, and bringing up some additional passages.

Yes, this activity was easier for me to manage, given the state of my voice that day and my low energy level. But it was also the group activity I usually do with this particular novel at about this point in the text. I would have done a similar activity in any case, sick or not. There's no way to make that clear to my students, although we've done group work before in class. I'm sure some of them assumed I did the group work because I was sick.

I always give very clear directions for group projects, and make it clear how that work relates to the rest of the class (in this case it was about developing close reading skills). That, and doing lots of different kinds of things in the classroom, are part of my approach to making my pedagogy visible to my students.

Although I don't think I could or would have done anything differently, I'm still thinking it over. Earlier this term, I made the mistake of looking myself up on ratemyprofessor because one of my students said he'd enrolled in class because my ratings were good -- to me they don't seem that good, but maybe I don't know what ratings my colleagues get. In any case, there was a vicious comment from a student last semester (a term for which I have not yet seen my official evaluations) about how I was lazy and did group work because I didn't feel like teaching. I know that the negative comments always ring louder than the positives, and I also know that each semester I have a couple students who dislike an active-learning, discussion based approach. They would rather sit and listen to a lecture. Because that's not the way I teach, they're never going to be happy, and I can assume that the complaining student was probably one of that group.

I don't need every student to be happy all the time, but I also don't want my class to think I was lazy. Plus, I made myself kind of vulnerable to my students by revealing my sickness. I was honest in telling my class that I was sick. To pretend otherwise would have been stupid. But I fear that it might have seemed manipulative, like I was asking for sympathy. I suppose I feel a little odd because, in fact, several of my students were sympathetic. One offered me cough drops and another sent me an email hoping I get better soon. It's a weird position to be in with my class.


out of the rabbit hole

I'm back! My knees are scraped and my fingernails are dirty from clambering out of the perversely magical rabbit hole that dropped me into WritingWorld, and my pinafore got a bit mussed too, but I'm all back to my own true size and promise I won't ever eat any of the mushrooms again . . .

I just sent off Big Article! and am deliriously strolling around the internet, which has been Off Limits except for committee- or student-related emails for about 10 days. Luckily my caffeine intake won't wear off for a while, since I do actually have to attend to a pile of essays that I all-too-optimistically suggested to my class that I'd have ready to hand back tomorrow. That was back when I thought I'd be able to email Big Article out of my life on Friday. What is it now? Monday night (at least it was when I started typing this post). The past six days are just a big fuzzy blur, especially once Thursday night rolled around and I no longer had to go to campus. I was sleeping polyphasically and only leaving the house to walk the dogs. Wearing the same soft baggy clothes nonstop. Rarely showering. Eating salsa at 10 in the morning, and carbs late at night.

Basically, in other words, I did every single thing that Boise and other experts tell you not to do. I binge wrote. I binged, and binged, and binged some more. And in the process I found my way to an argument I'm happy with, and some really sleek paragraphs (and some that are just plain and functional). This is the way I've always written and I'm familiar with its strange rhythms, the bursts of elation and the 4:30 a.m. breakdown, the snoozing at the keyboard and footnoted dreams.

It's not how I want to live the rest of my life, or even how I want to write the next piece I have due in a few weeks. It's just really hard for me to change. But I'll worry about that later. For now, I think I'm going to go stretch out on the couch and see what's on tv.


10 things I could have blogged about

  1. how enjoyable my teaching is this semester
  2. how morale in my department is plummeting
  3. how exhausting job searches are from the department's perspective
  4. how I haven't been sleeping enough
  5. how I am writing something for a deadline and am feeling anxious
  6. how my career is all just a series of accidents and I'm really a fraud
  7. how crappy the weather has been this winter
  8. how Speedy tore her dewclaw and is now stoned on doggie painkillers
  9. how I'm a pathetic excuse for a blogger
  10. how fantastic a mate my GF is: happy anniversary to us today!