Summertime Blues

photo credit: Mr. Ducke via photo pin cc

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley. ~Robert Burns

[T]here ain’t no cure for the summertime blues. ~Eddie Cochran

The stack of books I planned to read this summer still sit on my coffee table, one moment taunting me, another accusing me. This was going to be my summer of books, when I read all of those fiction books I’ve been too busy to read and all of the pedagogy books I need to read.

The front porch is still in need of a fresh coat of paint. My study room is still a disorganized mess (I’m writing this blog at the kitchen table amid the chaos of dogs and cats and a kid and husband and dirty dishes).

That exercise plan has not been as successful as I had hoped. My determination to walk at least two miles a day has often succumbed to the temptation to sleep in and the Alabama heat.

And of the three Fall term classes (no, make that four since I just received a request to teach an overload) that I need to prep for, I have one down and two (no, make that three) still to go. I had planned to be through by the end of July so that I could enjoy the last few weeks of summer, care free.

But the summer is rapidly and unapologetically slipping away. August is almost here and with it will come the hectic back-to-school rush for first my son (who’ll be entering the fourth grade) and then myself. And I’m left wondering: Where did all of that time go? Not once did I lie in the hammock lazily sipping lemonade and reading the latest brain-candy bestseller. I still have not fulfilled my promise to take my son to the local swimming-hole for a day of swimming (I will make good on that promise this week). My list of home improvement projects will carry over for another year unless my husband gives up and does them himself.

I suspect that I’m not the only academic who has looked up and around to realize that those glorious, carefree, easy-living summers that many imagine that we indulge in are, like so many assumptions about a teacher’s life, fantasies.

But, this summer has not been a total waste. I have read a few great books, mostly notably Peter Carey’s The Chemistry of Tears, which, as typical of his books, was breathtakingly beautiful. And I’m almost through with Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart, which has given me much food for thought for my Fall classes (and is, in fact, on the required reading list for my FYC courses).

I have spent some much-needed and appreciated time with my son. We’ve begun reading The Hobbit together (although late-night summer shenanigans have slowed our progress to a snail’s pace), built Hogwarts out of Legos, and played lots of video games (which, by the way, is a great method for relieving the tension after spending the day at a laptop).

I taught two summer short-term courses in which I tried out some disruptive pedagogical practices and had some mind-blowing results. My American Literature students developed a powerful collaborative learning community, so much so that they spontaneously decided that the final exam should be taken as a class (you can read about my experiences in this class here). My second-semester FYC students explored literature as mashup and mashup as literature and produced some interesting analyses of both.

I also participated in some great professional development activities. I successfully completed my first MOOC (which I blogged about here) and virtually attended the Sloan Consortium’s “Emerging Technologies for Online Learning” conference (notes for which can be read at my Storify page). I started this blog and have been blown away by the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received. I also submitted a post to the Hackin(ing) School(ing) “One Week, One Book” project (I’m still waiting to hear if it was accepted or not). And I had the opportunity to submit to and work with the editors of Hybrid Pedagogy. This was my first collaborative editing experience and I have to say that it was an eye-opening one for me. The give-and-take of the process of revising and editing in Google Docs was so superior to the traditional peer review process that I’ve experienced with paywalled journals that I cannot ever imagine submitting to a paper-based journal again. Most importantly, in participating in open-source environments such as Hybrid Pedagogy and Hack(ing) Schoo(ing), I feel like I’m helping to contribute to the free flow of pedagogical theory and praxis.

There’s not much time left to salvage what’s left of the summer. Those books are tempting me. And the swimming-hole is waiting expectantly. If I don’t post for a while, you’ll know why.

In the meantime, you can read my Hybrid Pedagogy article “Data Mining in the Trenches: Using Storify to Teach Research.”

Here’s hoping what’s left of your summer brings you everything you hoped it would.