Friday, December 16, 2011

Putting the Term to Bed

My Christmas Card
Warning:  Limited fiber content!  Scroll down to skip the day job related blather.

When one works in education, the year is measured in semesters. Yes, there are months and weeks, but there are mid terms and summer sessions and other ways to mark the passing of time:  Registration, Drop/Add, Last Day to Withdraw. This term has been quite a challenge as I took on a Freshman seminar.  Many schools have this course:  A wide-ranging introduction to college and (in our case) the liberal arts, discussion of the summer reading assignment, etc. plus whatever content the instructor chooses.  Most professors use their area of expertise:  sociology, world religions, American history.  Others focus on study skills and time management.  The goal is the same:  to ensure that first year students make the transition from high school to college and know what support services are available to them.  They get out of their dorm rooms and become part of the college community:  taking classes, actually studying, going to different events on campus.

This year I was recruited late to teach this course - about a week before school started.  The students who registered for Section 21 were late registrants as well, for a number of reasons.  About 1/2 dozen lived far from campus and didn't attend any of the early registration events held during the summer.  Other students were recruited late to play on different sports teams; still others decided in August to go to college.  All in all, a very diverse group:  African-American & white, 3 times for men than women, about half from North Carolina, plus students from Florida, Pennsylvania, British Columbia, Oregon and a few more states.  Most students play a sport:  I had students athletes who swim, play soccer, football and baseball, run track. 

When I was deciding whether to take on this course, my colleagues gave me this advice:  It's a huge amount of work, but it is the most rewarding thing that you can do.  Well, they were right on both counts.  It was a colossal amount of work.  I had to pull together a new course with very little prep time.  I made my content analyzing primary sources - - it is my actual job. I was absolutely terrified of the advising component - I could ruin their lives! It is the busiest time of year for my 'real' job - in-school workshops for teachers as well as high season for Smoky Mountain Fibers.

Turns out, I loved the kids.  They were charming, energetic, bright, passionate about that they like.  Except for a few exceptions, they also had terrible study and time management skills, hated to read, were addicted to their phones.  In other words, they were 18 year olds, most away from home for the first time.  Again, with exceptions - they were excellent at factual recall, not so good with synthesizing what they learned.  Most of them got through high school without ever cracking a book.  They also found out the hard way that that wasn't going to cut it any more.  But the semester is over and the grades are in.  There were a few D's and a few F's and one young man whose wake up call came too late - so it's academic probation for him.

Will I teach it next year?  I doubt they'll ask me - I feel I made a mess of it.  On the other hand, I'll be at least a year smarter and would certainly benefit from this year's experience.  My colleagues insist that I'll be asked to do it again.  Warm body and all.  We shall see...

Requisite Fiber Content:   I am one hat and 4 days away from 50 Hats in 50 Days.  Actually since I have 2 hats and a pair of fingerless gloves on the needles, I'm about there.  I'll finish at least #50 this evening - a dark brown tweedy hand spun in my Trailside pattern.  I am looking forward to 2 weeks off to knit a few gifts, then stuff for me.  I'll also take a little trip, get some exercise, read some good books (or trash!), card wool for spinning, put the studio back together, and get a bit ahead on my Etsy shop that I have been letting run itself (see Freshman class above).  The list is making itself!

My relationship of the last 6 years ended amicably of late, so I am regaining some space in my house.  Although I'm a tiny bit lonely and the gourmet meals are no longer coming out of the kitchen, I'm enjoying cleaning out closets and dressers drawers.  My waistline will benefit from lighter and earlier dinners as well. My independent spirit is happy to be single again!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Close

  1. Almost to the end of 50 Hats in 50 Days.  Last evening I completed hat #44, an olive green Windy City.
  2. It's Friday afternoon and the weekend dyeing will be the many shades we call green:  bright, pale, grassy, mossy, turquoise, loden, chartreuse, and a few multi-tonals.
  3. The semester is coming to an end.  Though there are still some finals to give and grade and a few portfolios to review and a student video to tinker with and grant work to complete, I am putting this one to bed.
  4. It's nearly Christmas and that means I'll travel to Portland, OR to see my sister and her family whom I totally love.  I don't see them often enough so we hardly stop talking except to eat!  The kids will be bigger and the voices deeper.  Scary!
  5. I changed my Facebook page from 'In a relationship' to 'Single,' but then hid it. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Still Knitting

This is the time of year when I knit a lot of hats.  Although I try to knit throughout the year, it seems that it catches up with me about now.  Shops want hats, matching hat & scarf sets and this year, fingerless mitts.  I set a goal of 50 hats in 50 days but I slid a bit behind this week.  I shifted to a couple pair of fingerless mitts (aka texting mitts) that took longer to make than hats, but they are selling nicely at one of my customer-galleries, so I promised a few more pair.

My studio is a total disaster.  This is the view from the wide end of the ironing board.  Lots of yarns, grouped by color.  Some a re little bits and pieces; others are full (or nearly full) skeins.  As I get yarns matched up, they go into bags and the bags go into a tub.  Then I can grab a bag without thinking too much and knit a hat.  By the time I get to the bottom of the tub, I have forgotten what I put in and there are always a few nice surprises.

But this is the view from the other end of the ironing board.  It's a nice stack of hats in red, orange, pink, purple, and a wee touch of green.  There are even some naturals in there.  I made my hat tracking system even easier this year by using Google docs instead of Excel.  I can get to my spreadsheet from any computer and although it isn't totally fabulous, there is nothing that I wanted to do that I wasn't able to accomplish.

In the first 30 days of the challenge, I knit 36 hats and 2 pair of texting mitts.  Though not a world record by any means, (and I just admitted to slacking off), still this is acceptable progress.  I'll be calling a contra dance tonight, so I'll take a bit of knitting.  I have a preference for hats, mostly because circular knitting is easy and mindless.  I have one on the needles at about the 1/2 way point, but as it has a slightly fussy stitch pattern, I think I may need to cast on something simpler.  I'm talking about you, Windy City!