Funny, I’m reading over my last post about how I didn’t want to go on my retreat and am laughing at myself because I’m so silly about these things. I had a really good time. I’m very glad I went, and while I was there I kept telling myself to make sure to go again in future years. I wish I didn’t dread things so much. It’s such a waste of time and energy. But it seems that I can’t help but go through agonies of dread and uncertainty before I go off and have a great time.
The truth is, though, that this retreat has been difficult for me in the past. It’s hard to describe what it’s like. It’s a retreat where about 50 people get together and talk about teaching ideas and challenges and share their feelings about what teaching means to them. It’s not at all the typical kind of conference where you listen to lectures by keynote speakers and attend sessions where scholars read papers. Instead, we make a point of everyone being on the same level and everyone having their chance to speak and be heard.
The hard part is that this can get awfully touchy-feely, and I’m never sure what to think of it. A part of me feels incredibly uncomfortable, and the other part likes the chance to think and talk about emotions openly. The amazing thing about this retreat is that, for the most part, the usual academic posturing and posing just doesn’t happen, and instead you’re more likely to see people hugging and tearing up. When I remember that this is a work retreat, it feels utterly bizarre.
So every year I go, and every year I feel this pull between wanting to mock what goes on and wanting to make sure I stay a part of it. What made this year’s retreat so much fun is that I’m no longer a brand-new participant as I was the first year, or a brand-new staff member as I was last year, but now I get what’s going on and am familiar with all of it, so I can relax and let myself experience things instead of worrying so much.
Now that that’s all over, I’m at home trying to recover and trying to figure out what my summer will look like. I will be teaching an online course beginning next week and was supposed to teach a on-ground course too, but that one got canceled. Even though I would have liked to earn some extra money, I’m hugely relieved I won’t have to commute to campus to teach and won’t have those extra papers to grade. So I’ll have one class for a while, but will have extra time to read and ride and go to bike races. I haven’t thought much about what (if anything) I’d like to accomplish this summer, and maybe I’ll have to spend time this weekend figuring that out.
At any rate, I’m looking forward to a chance to recover from what was a very long semester. Perhaps I’ll come up with a reading list or project for my summer, or perhaps I’ll just do whatever I feel like at the moment. We’ll see.
I hope to be back soon with a review of Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge.