The return

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.

7 Comments

Filed under Life

7 responses to “The return

  1. I’m just like that when it comes to being half-drawn to the touch-feely aspects of such things and half wary of it. I also dread such things before I go and usually end up having a great time (I always dreaded work conferences and then came back energized and full of ideas). Enjoy your summer and your newly-discovered extra time.

  2. Welcome back! I don’t do very well with the touchy-feely stuff either, but I do think that such opportunities to discuss teaching are awfully important. It’s a central part of our jobs and yet it seems to me rather rare for official time to be devoted to discussing how we do it and how we might do it better. That said, I’m glad that at my school our retreats are one-day ones rather than week-long ones! The “retreat” part of the retreat makes me feel trapped.

  3. I’m trying to imagine a touchy-feely week of communing with my university colleagues, and I’m sorry but all I can feel is horror. I’m completely into touchy-feely myself, but it does depend somewhat on the company! Still, very glad this turned out to be good and useful in the end. I dread everything, almost as a matter of principle, so don’t have a leg to stand on if I offered any advice on that count!!!

  4. Emily — I’m glad you feel the same way! I think you’d enjoy this retreat, in fact, even if it did make you feel uncomfortable now and then …

    Kate — it really is a valuable chance to talk about teaching, and especially to do so in an environment where people are pretty open and genuine about it. It can feel a little claustrophobic, but bike rides help out there!

    Litlove — well, the retreat participants come from 12 different colleges and many of them have an idea of what they are getting into, so the attendees tend to be a fairly pleasant, open bunch. If I imagine a touchy-feely retreat with my department members I react with a similar feeling of horror!

  5. Welcome back! I am glad you had a good time. I’m much like you when it comes to the touchy-feely, but I am glad to hear the retreat worked went well.

  6. I’m not a touchy feely person either, so I would have dreaded this. Anticipation can be good, but when you aren’t looking forward to something it can also be a real drag. Glad it wasn’t as awful as you were expecting, however. Now you have the whole summer to look forward to–now on to the good anticipation! :)

  7. i think events like that are uncomfortable precisely because we all so desperately need an excuse to open up.

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