Back In the Saddle

After a year and half off from teaching to write, I am now back in the classroom and find myself morphing from my writer self to that other professional identity: English Professor. I worked so hard for so many years to be a good teacher and successful professor, to get the tenure-track job, to get tenure, to get promotion, to get the scholarly monograph published, to attend conferences and build relationships in my discipline. But all of that slipped away over the eighteen months I was alone at home—just me, Connie, and my computer. And I can’t say that I missed it all that much.

It did feel great to return to the classroom and share with students the new blogs I have created for them. I’m excited about sharing our work online and thinking beyond writing the standard argument essay about why everyone must read “The Fall of the House of Usher” this way and no other. I’m trying to bring a little bit of the writer me along, trying to give students opportunities to talk and write about literature without always having to refer to and mimic the so-called experts.

But I miss Connie, and I miss my time alone at the computer.

I won’t be able to stay away for long. Somehow, someway, I need to find time for her in the midst of teaching three different classes and sitting on committees and writing reports (not to mention helping my daughter with her homework and taking her to karate and orchestra). No longer does the day stretch before me (at least until three, when school gets out). No longer do the hours promise me time to dig into the difficult task of building sentences, paragraphs, pages, and chapters.

Now I spend my time frantically trying to keep up with the reading, student journals, and constant e-mail pleas for help from three classes. I get to help my students find something worth saying and figure out how to say it instead of doing that myself.

Balance in life is good, right? Too much time alone in your own cave needs to be tempered by engagement with real people with real needs in the real world. So teaching and writing should go together. But I’ve never found a way to do both at the same time. Guess I’d better figure it out fast. (Suggestions are welcome!)


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  1. More than any other professor I have had, you shared your research with the class. As a student, I think it is sometimes easy to forget that scholars are still publishing articles and books discussing the works I am reading. I become so absorbed in reading the literary works, writing about my own opinions, participating in class discussions, and writing papers. At times, it feels like the classroom is disconnected from the scholarly world. By sharing your experiences, you built a bridge for me to that world. It truly reminded me of how important it is that professors get the chance to both do research and teach.

      1. I look forward to your upcoming biography and will certainly buy it. I was wondering, though, if you could tell me whether Constance Fenimore Woolson had ever mentioned Herman Melville or his writings. Thank you. R.P. Hastie

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