Sunday, October 17, 2010

Intensive preparations

And so I enter the season of absence.  I'll be traveling eleven of the next sixteen days, including Halloween.  Those costumes I worked on this weekend -- quite successfully, if I do say so myself -- will be donned and admired without me.

Four of those days are on weekends; another two encompass my university's fall break, when no classes meet.  So that leaves only five teaching days I'm going to miss.  For one of those, my class is scheduled to meet with others in a large group led by another instructor.  Now I'm down to four.  I'm actually not missing class on the first day of my travel, since my flight isn't until late afternoon -- that makes three days I'm abandoning my duties.  Two of them are being covered by my teaching assistants, and I have a guest speaker for the other one.

So my classes are all in order.  But what about my travels?  Of course the planes and hotels have been booked for months.  The presentations for this coming weekend are just about done (always just about last thing I manage); the board materials for the following weekend haven't yet arrived for my review.  There are only two matters on which I feel dreadfully behind.  One is student work, which I always proactively stress about not being able to keep up with on my trip.  The other is knitting.

See, travel is good for two things, in addition to the stated purpose of the trip.  The long periods of downtime provide the perfect opportunity to get through piles of student work.  And when you can't read  journals, papers, and blog posts, you can knit.

But you need the right project.  I can take all the student work with me on my laptop -- it's all out on the web and in the cloud.  The only limitation on the amount of grading I can do is the amount of work that the students have done.  For the knitting, though, I have to take physical supplies: yarn and needles.  That means I have to know what I want to knit before I leave.  And the knitting needs to be quite specific: not so difficult that it requires constant attention to a pattern, not so quick that it will be done before the trip is over; not so bulky that the yarn to make it will take up a lot of luggage space.

Sometime before Wednesday morning I'll pack, print handouts, and double-check my electronic equipment.  And I'll settle on a project for the trip -- a choice with a lot riding on it, considering how large knitting looms in my plans.

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