Sunday, December 21, 2014


It is at this time of year that I think I should find something else to do. One might assume that is because at this time of year, at the end of the fall semester especially, it seems impossible (overwhelming, exhausting, etc…) to read and grade final assignments and to assign and upload official end of semester grades. It seems more impossible when one has to do that for seven classes. Indeed, I am in denial of a major panic attack at this very moment. But, in fact, it is at this moment that instead of doing final grading—in time, before the deadline, after which  institutions shut off the option for any final grade entry in the computer and one has to show up in person and file the grades by hand—at this moment I am sending out job applications for jobs that do not involve teaching. At this time of year I see the very real possibility of having too little work to support myself come January. The planning for winter semester always happens optimistically early in the fall semester, sometimes earlier. I get scheduled for classes, and then imagine that more classes will become available as the winter approaches, though, the last few winter semesters, the opposite happens. One semester I was entirely left off the schedule and only miraculously was found some classes at the last minute. Other semesters, sections that I was scheduled for didn’t enroll fully enough and were cancelled. Teaching seven classes in the fall isn’t about raking in money because it’s available for the taking. It’s about having to survive and pay bills for the rest of the year that is not Sept.-Dec. If I keep doing this, I think, should I take eight sections next fall? Or, I wonder, can I sit in an office from 8-5 every day, including during all of the summer? And how might I enjoy doing work that doesn’t involve teaching, or reading and learning about texts and ideas, or having conversations with students about texts, ideas, and the world? I wonder how I will do work that doesn’t include watching students learn and grow and mature, and learning about how interesting they are as writers and as people. I am sure there is other work in the world that I might find fulfilling. But I have been teaching since 1994, and so I also think about why I have to give up doing something that I enjoy, something that I am good at, something that benefits so many students, something that is supposed to be of value in the world. I can see the ways in which so many students learn and benefit from the classes that I help facilitate. I say help and facilitate because I have learned, and am still learning, how students make and do a class. I organize and schedule and give assignments and facilitate conversations and activities. But I have to open the space so that students can engage, participate, and make the class what it will become. Some classes become more than others. And some students get more out of the classes than other students get. But at the end of every semester I see how much we have all done, how far we have all come since the beginning. This semester I received some extended thanks, in person and in writing, from at least two students. But regardless of the explicit, the implicit and fulfilling happens when I read their final papers and projects; when I see in their written reflections, in their own words, what they have done over the course of the semester; when I remember how I didn’t know anything about any of them on the first day and how much more we all know now about each other and about the ideas we have shared over the past weeks. One challenging aspect of teaching so many sections is that it takes longer to learn students’ names and get to know them as people. And I think about how many fewer people I will know and learn from when I have to give this up to go do something else. In the middle of any semester, the teaching becomes challenging. Students get tired, they stop reading, they slack on assignments. But that is part of the process of learning and critical thinking. And by the end of the semester, things like these happen:

Small Steps Creating Big Impacts
A Study in Hope
Women in STEM
America – Creating a Better Country for All
Civic Engagement
Organ Donation 

Social Change in the Present 

To find out more about this mini-essay project see the Introduction:The (Contingent)(Academic)(Teacher) in 2015 

No comments: