Thursday, December 07, 2006

Disappointment, Exhaustion, Irritation, Happiness

Tomorrow will be the last day of the regular semester, and then next week is finals week. This has been a kind of strange semester, not in the least because of the job market attempt. As of the current moment, I'm feeling pretty dejected related to that attempt, as with each passing day I become more and more convinced that I've put myself in this position for nothing: that when all is said and done, the job that I have is the one that I will continue to have, whatever my high-falutin aspirations. Clearly I've not been rejected everywhere yet, but as the days tick by, with the help of that horrible wiki, it becomes clear to me where I'm out of the running. It's hard not to take it personally, even though I know (having served on a search committee) how impersonal and arbitrary the process is. I had gone into this process aware of that - and I'd thought that I could handle it - and, well, I can handle it, and I am handling it - but it doesn't make it easier, even knowing that it's not, well, me. Because it feels like me that is being passed over, however much I know that the needs and desires of departments and universities have little to do with me as an individual, ultimately. So that's the disappointment part of things.

The exhaustion, well, we're all feeling it. It comes with the territory at this time of year. Too much grading, too little energy, etc. Really, there's little more to say than that.

As for the irritation, well, today began with an irritating meeting and it ended with an irritating meeting. Both were irritating for different reasons, but both were irritating for particular reasons that have to do with the culture of my institution. Combine this with the disappointment in paragraph one, and, well, as you might imagine, the irritation is multiplied exponentially.

But then there's the happiness. This semester was one of my best teaching semesters I've had - ever. I am pleased with all of my classes - so much so that for the first time I've allowed for two of the three to have "parties" on the last day (something not unheard of at my university, but something I've never done - in part because there's never been time before, but somehow this semester there is time.) I have such a good rapport with the students in my classes this semester, and they've all come so far - from my little class of freshmen, who've grown up so much as people - not only as writers - since august, to my seniors, who have pushed themselves beyond what I'd imagined they could or would do, to all of those students in between in my survey class.

As much as I'm feeling disappointed and exhausted and irritated, it's hard to ignore the fact that I also feel extremely happy with my work as a teacher, and my work at this particular institution as a teacher.

And maybe the thing that I'm most happy about is the fact that a number of my upper-level students want to do a reading group with me in the spring for which they will receive no credit. You can't imagine the sense of accomplishment I feel about this. Students at my university, who work full time and have families and spouses and kids and all of these other commitments, don't tend to sign on for such extracurricular work. I'd mentioned that I'd be willing to lead such a thing in passing around midterm, and I really didn't think that they'd be interested. But now - in the last class of the regular semester, as I sat with them eating dessert for breakfast - they asked me would I still be willing.

And so whatever happens on the job market, I think I've got to pay attention to the fact that I am making a difference where I am. A real difference, a difference that I suspect even many of my colleagues here would never have predicted could be possible. That is real work, and it is good work. And I'm grateful for the fact that I have the chance to do that kind of work, whatever the things about this place or this job I wish were different. Perhaps the thing that really needs to change in my life is me - not my location, not my job, but my approach to things. If I can do this well with something so seemingly intractable, what else might I achieve if I put my mind to it? This is something that I think I need to think about in a serious way.

But I will not be thinking about it in a serious way right now, because I've got to make some food for my little freshmen to eat tomorrow. I know. I'm cooking for my students. What the hell is wrong with me? As BFF said, "What, are you going to start letting them call you 'Mommy,' too?" Not quite, but I really love the thing I'm making for them tomorrow, and it's the sort of dish that one cannot make when one lives alone, so there is something in it for me, too :)


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

It sounds like you are making a difference at your school. It is hard to beat that.

My mom is a wise person and she told me once to figure out where I can do good work in the world and the rest of life will fall into place. I hope this happens for you.

BikeProf said...

I love to see profs speaking like this; far too many seem to have trouble making this sort of intellectual and personal connection to their students. Your students are very lucky to have someone like you standing in front of the classroom, guiding them and showing them the generosity and compassion of a true scholar.

Anonymous said...

That's do great Dr. C. I especially loved this line: "If I can do this well with something so seemingly intractable, what else might I achieve if I put my mind to it?"

Seems like the answer is, a whole, whole lot.

Anonymous said...

er... do=so...

Dr. Crazy said...

Thanks so much for all of your comments. The support of my blog peeps means SO MUCH. I know a lot of you feel the same about that, but I feel like sometimes I don't mention enough how awesome it is to know all you guys have my back :)

Hilaire said...

You are awesome, Dr. Crazy. You should be proud of yourself for that fine classroom experience.

For me, that can do a lot for job market and other stress. Over this last difficult month, my little classes were my salvation. I totally know about wanting to make food and throw them parties. I totally get you. It's a really mother-hennish thing, as I said to one of my students the other night (at a Women's Centre cabaret some of my students were performing at...I went even though I had sooooo much work to do and a job interview to leave for in two days...How can I not go and see them perform!!)

gwinne said...

I left a job I loved (in a location I hated) for a "better" job closer to family. Many days, that's not enough. Your post reminds me of that.

Liz Ferszt said...

And so whatever happens on the job market, I think I've got to pay attention to the fact that I am making a difference where I am. A real difference. Perhaps the thing that really needs to change in my life is me - not my location, not my job, but my approach to things.

I've been criticized in the past on this blog - one of my favorites to read - because I've been impolite with my responses to Dr. Crazy and - in part - to other younger faculty. And I will admit that at times many bloggers really trip my trigger on topics that I feel I've been lucky enough to work through. I am very old, I must say. LOL.

But what Dr. Crazy writes above is about the wisest thing I've heard in a long time; it's something I think that comes with time and perspective, and it's advice I give my junior faculty every year around this time, as they scramble, looking for new jobs, new departments, and - finally - new places.

My best to you, Dr. Crazy. And enjoy the fruits of your very good labor this semester with your students in the end of the semester parties. I still do that occasionally, when a class earns it. It's always a lot of fun. But your cooking far outstrips my own ambition. I usually whip up some coffee cake and fresh squeezed orange juice!

Anonymous said...

There is something so satisfying about achieving that holy grail of teaching: the combination of intellectual connection and personal connection with a class. You're obviously a person who both thinks deeply about her students' learning (and how to help them achieve that) and who cares deeply about her students' learning. I'm so glad that you had such a fulfilling semester!

Maybe you could frame that line that kate pointed out in her comment and post it in your office, to help get you through those really tough days?

saxifraga said...

You are such a fantastic teacher and i love the way you write about your students. They are lucky to have you. I think they feel how engaged you are in them and the process of learning. I hope you keep doing this, whereever you end up.

Anonymous said...

congrats on getting your students so excited and involved!

on the job front, i hope that in the end things will be better and you will be happy!