I am not known for my organizational acumen.
While it’s true that I dream of order, I am perhaps too much of a dreamer to successfully follow through with ordering my day beyond the basics: Waking up, preparing at least one actual meal, answering questions, and hopefully reading a little…in the midst of doing all those things moms are supposed to do.
You know, like shopping for groceries; coordinating pet maintenance; scrubbing stuff; watching various children as they attempt to yodel, ride the unicycle, pound splitting wedges into the dirt, and improve their time underwater; moving piles from room to room; monitoring texts and playlists; balancing budgets; creating plans for World Peace (at least in the home); exercising at least 45 minutes a day; counseling children and friends and children of friends; visiting neighbors, near and far; hauling busloads of kids to and fro; making time for oneself…I think I refer to this Superwoman problem many of us have here, right under the image of the Riace Bronzes.
And here you were, thinking I took my summer off!
Now I have to add two full-time jobs to this other job of being Superwoman. They both involve teaching.
One of them is manageable. I say it’s manageable because the worse thing that could happen to a professor did happen. To me.
little lot of background: I’ve been teaching art history since 1999; online since 2004.
My second child was born in 2004. My husband was working nights – two hours from where we lived, and the APSU department then-chairwoman asked me to teach online courses days before the course was set to start. I agreed; after all, it enabled me to stay home with my children rather than driving an hour to teach on campus, right?
Easy-peasy, I thought.
Except I had no experience teaching online. I’d never taken a class online, or even seen one before my first day of class.
When I logged on that first day, I realized I had No Course Content.
There was nothing there, no course shell that the department provided so that we adjuncts had uniformity. Sort of dazed and wide-eyed, I sat there at my old desk and tried to figure out what to do first.
As soon as I clicked around the class for a while, and started fielding student emails about where the ‘class’ was, I added a Welcome, and the syllabus that I had always used, adapting it every term to the specific course and ever-changing dates.
And then I started writing.
For two years, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
I answered student questions, and then copied and pasted my answers into longer essays. I learned how to make a hyperlink.
I downloaded images.
On dial up Internet.
My learning curve was steep, but I learned how to manage an online course. I had to stay up late in order to work, and I just lost myself in it.
I had many amazing students in those early online years. Many of them were active-duty military, stationed at Ft. Campbell and taking courses even while deployed.
Soldiers are without a doubt my most precise, on-time students.
Once I received an email from a student who was deployed with Special Forces and serving somewhere in southern Afghanistan. He asked me if I would consider allowing him to complete several assignments in advance because he was going to be out of pocket for a few weeks.
And once I had an art major at APSU who wanted to make up the mid term exam because she’d not been able to make it that early since her dog got out and she had to go find him and I just didn’t understand how serious this was and of course it should be an excused absence.
This is all pertinent because it made what happened later even more unbearable for me, knowing that some soldier-students ‘took’ my class without the benefit of having the course unfold in the way I had designed it to be taught.
And also knowing that one of the plagiarizing professors was a former student of mine. Who happened to be an art major.
You see, my online course was more than just academic: I’d worked endlessly to make it relevant.
As the semesters turned into years, my online answers and forum comments almost imperceptibly became a book project.
I toyed with publication, but on one wanted an Art History book. Too boring, no audience.
Then I toyed with the idea of editing my proposal in order to touch on vampires, supernatural encounters with a female god in a shed, and lots of sexually explicit language…but I just couldn’t bring myself to stoop that low just to get a book contract.
So I shelved it temporarily while we moved, built a house, built another baby, and then birthed baby, moved into house and celebrated Christmas in the same four-day time span.
My older children were rapidly approaching that age where I could no longer say, “We’re starting serious homeschool when we get more settled.” They were now seven and almost six.
And then God intervened. I stumbled across Charlotte Mason via Ambleside Online.
Like many other AO newbies, I was attracted to AO because it was FREE. Still is, actually.
But as I dabbled in it, I began to read more and more about Charlotte Mason. And I began to read what she had to say about education in her own words.
[I encourage you to follow suit if you believe that all children are born persons. Start with Volume 6, which is her final book called An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education; if you would like an excellent modern-day abridgment, I highly recommend Karen Glass’ Mind to Mind. And if you are still under the laughable impression that a Charlotte Mason education is all cotton candy, tea-time, and cloud-gazing, you need to Consider This. Really. Consider This is the title of the first book by AO co-founder Karen Glass, and it will certainly clear up any illusion that Charlotte Mason wasn’t a Classical educator.]
I fully committed to using AO exclusively in 2011 – the same year APSU asked me to fill a full-time, temporary position on campus. The money was definitely better than adjunct pay – let’s be straight – ANY pay is better than adjunct pay. No lie.
So my mom agreed to help teach the children on days I had to teach on campus, and my husband filled in where he could. We started in Year 2.
I even made these terrific little color-coded Time Block schedules so that everyone was on the same page in who should be doing what, when.
Which reminds me of the Actual Reason I started writing this post. Hang with me – I’m getting to our Schedule. Promise.
The art history book was forgotten. Everyone was happy as pie. We had a new house, more income, and children who were relaxed, engaged, enjoying life outside – and learning beyond all of our expectations.
And then I discovered my baby had been stolen. My academic labor of love…my toddler-years sacrificial lovechild…my hypothyroid-overshadowed, sleep-deprived baby-book-project was being used without any edits at all by other online professors.
I had been plagiarized.
My words had been callously, carelessly stolen – uttered with authority but without regard to their author – and gobbled up by countless students, some of whom were my beloved Student-Soldiers ,who knew not what they ate.
To see students commenting about my words, my thoughts, my experiences – some of them from Afghanistan – it just devastated me. Here are a few screenshots from some of these students:
At first I was angry. And then I was hurt. And then I began writing again, but this time to document how my course came to be stolen and my work to be plagiarized.
The University refused to investigate how and why my course was ‘given’ to other professors without my permission, although they did pay me for the seven courses they admitted to having used my course content.
And it made for an outstanding Christmas Card:
My story ended up in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
I ended up getting fired.
But you know what?
I’m still breathing. Still teaching online. Still writing.
And at least I can still write. I still own my knowledge of the history of art, my own thoughts about it, my own hard-won history of Sorting It All Out. None of those can be stolen or plagiarized.
But those poor folks? Wow. I cannot fathom taking a paycheck for academic work that I didn’t even read, much less write.
Which brings my back to the original purpose of this (unorganized?!) blog post: My inability to effectively organize my day has led me to bring back the color-coded Time Block Schedule.
And I wasn’t even going to share any of this with you.
But when I posted this picture on Facebook for my friend Silvia
she asked me if I’d share my schedule.
I tried to take a picture of it, but it’s pretty bad. I can discuss the history of photography but I’m not great behind the lens.
So I’m sharing it here. If you use it or adapt it, that ‘s fine. You have my permission – as long as you link back to me.
I’ve been burnt, you know. Plagiarism truly is criminal.
Also, please do not assume I’ve made this up on my own. We do follow Ambleside Online, with a few things left out and a very few things added in, so if you like what you see, by all means, read up on what AO is on their FAQ page.
This was the second job I’m starting next week, in case you were looking for the answer to what I inferred above was not manageable.
I truly believe I’ll manage my our time better if we try to follow the schedule as I’ve laid it out. It need not be to the minute – I just wanted to give everyone a basic picture of what each day should strive to be.
And thanks for reading if you got all the way here. Life is complicated, to be sure. But it’s also full of potential. I’m still hopeful that I will not only order my day, but find both success and comfort in that ordering.
I’ll keep you posted.