It's May! What's Next???

Today, my students' final projects are due, and I'm the cusp of a marathon grading session!
Ahhhh! I'm trying to savor this calm before "the storm."

I thought it would be useful, here, to reflect a little bit on what happened this spring semester. It's been a semester of epic waiting. It's been a semester of taking chances. It's been a semester of flux and change.

And here I am, on the other side of said semester. What I'm most proud of is that I've been able to keep my head in the game, so to speak, to continue writing and moving forward with what's important, with what matters, regardless of the uncertainties this semester has thrown my way, both in terms of my health and my career.

As a teacher, I was a little unsure of how I did this semester. I wasn't quite as involved as I typically am in my students' writing and lives, and because I was teaching hybrid and online courses, I experimented with the idea of letting them go and wander a bit, of being a guide to them rather than a lecturer. As I'm running grades, talking with students, and wrapping things up, it seems as though this approach is working quite well. So that's encouraging.

So what did I learn this spring, as a teacher and as a writer?

1. I learned that some things are beyond your control. I mean, of course we always know this, but this semester has really taught me this in a profound way. In the past, I've had such a difficult time facing uncertainty, and I like to be able to steer the direction of my life. But this semester, with everything in flux (my career, my health, my education) it's been a life lesson in letting go. And guess what? Things fall into place. They do.

This spring, I've had so much "up in the air." I'll use the example, though, of my book, The Lost Chronicle of Slue Foot Sue. You may recall that last summer, it was accepted for publication by my former publisher, Lamar University Literary Press. For reasons I can't yet share, Publisher rescinded his acceptance in February, around the time when the book was originally supposed to be released. I was saddened by this, of course, because I love LULP, but I understood. Well, Publisher decided to help me find a new press to take the book, and so I let it go, and in the end, I couldn't be happier with the new direction I'm going with this book. And in the end, the result will be even better than I could have previously imagined! So, you see, things fall into place. They do.

2. I've learned that students, too, can find their way, and sometimes, you have to let them go, too. Let them make mistakes, but be there to help them work through them. Personally, I learn more from my mistakes, so why should students be any different? This semester, teaching online/hybrid courses kinda sorta forced me to learn this lesson.

Today, one of my online students came by my office in true panic mode. I'd never met him before, though the moment he told me his name, I knew exactly who he was through his writing. He'd thought his final essay was due yesterday, but no, I assured him, it's due today, and it's not late. Phew! I then asked him how he felt the class was going, and he beamed. "It's a great class, Miss!" he told me, exclaiming it was the best online class he'd ever taken because it's structured, consistent, and accessible. He said he now reads poetry so differently than he had before, and has learned to approach it in his own way. We then proceeded to have a nice conversation about William Blake's poetry and how his social context influenced his ideas, and how those ideas are still relevant today. Boom. Goal achieved!  Even though I'd never met this kid, I still had a profound influence on him. Woot woot!

3. Mentors matter. Yes! Oh my goodness! I have been incredibly blessed with some AMAZING mentors, and this semester, they've proved just how essential they in helping me grow as a writer, a scholar, and as a teacher. Whether it's been a senior colleague, my former thesis advisor, my older writer friends, and even my former publisher, my mentors' support has made it possible for me to navigate this strange world of the writing community/academia. I learned so much from phone conversations with them, over a cup of coffee, or lunch. It's easy to underestimate how valuable these connections are, but they're vital vital vital. And for the life of me, I can't figure out how or why these individuals have been so altruistically kind to me. I've little to nothing to offer them, but they give, offer advice, and answer my silly stupid questions without hesitation. Life goal: be such a mentor to a lost, young writer some day.

4. It IS possible to write while teaching, Katie. It just takes a little self-discipline, and also, you have to make it a priority. I did that this semester. Granted, in the middle of the semester, mainly right before spring break, life happened (sickness + multiple work related trips). But even so, I feel like this semester, I've been able to master time management and say "no" to doing things that aren't beneficial to my professional and creative life. I'm not making my students turn in a million drafts to me that I have to give them feedback on. I'm not teaching overload classes. I'm making time for myself to nap, to think, to write, and to plan my classes. And so, I've been productive. I've made headway on my next book, organized it, and going into the summer, I know now what I need to do to complete it. May this be a lesson to you, Katie. Come fall, you should be able to write!

5.  Above all, B is the best. Truly. I love him to pieces and back.

No matter what's going on in my life, he's there for me 100%. We've been together for over twelve years now, and it feels like we're always understanding one another a little more each day. I'm so fortunate to have him along with me on our life journey together. So far, it's been a fun ride, the computer geek and the poet. We make it work in our own way.

So come tomorrow, I'm going to a professional development, and Friday the spring grading marathon begins. I'm ready for it! I can do this. One last final push! Tonight, though, I'll be enjoying a nice golden beer on the Schneider's Gasthaus Patio with B and my dad. Life is pretty darn good :)