Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scattered Thursday Thoughts

I decided that the class to drop from my schedule was the class with the low enrollment. Points in favor of doing so: the likelihood was that the class was going to get canceled anyway, and that would have meant getting another section of Gen Ed Class. So either I'd be doing a ton of prep work for few students or no prep work with substantial grading. Points against: the only reason I resisted getting rid of this class is that I think it's bullshit that this Very Important Class can't make enrollment within the current curriculum. (The last time I taught it the class didn't really reach the enrollment minimum either, without a lot of exception-making and back-door dealing.) I suppose, though, this is why it was important that I spear-headed the move to change our major in the ways that it shall change next year. In theory, this will never be a problem for this class again. So while I'm philosophically saddened by the fact that the class won't be offered next semester, it really was for the best that I chose to drop it from my schedule. Also, and this is no small thing, this means that I won't need to get to campus as early, which is a good thing for the research motivations I have for the other days of the week.

In other news, I had back-to-back students in tears in my office today, which sucked. I hate it when they cry. First, I rarely have tissues or other props for student breakdowns (or even for my own infrequent break-downs) at the ready. The benefits of this lack of props involve the fact that people need to keep their shit together in my office, at least a little bit. The negatives are that when students (or on the rare occasion I) cry, they're all snotty and without a kleenex. Second, when my students cry I immediately tear up. Seeing them cry makes me feel like crying. Because, dude, I've been there and I hate to see them so stressed out and freaked out. That's the thing: I'm a tough cookie in a lot of ways, but part of that persona is about not being able to hang with the breakdowns. (I should note that the tears weren't about any grade-related complaints or problems related to me or my class, really. They were about the students' personal stress and a paper deadline that drove the students over the edge. Normal stuff. And I think I calmed both students down and made them feel better, at least a little. So all in all it was fine, but it doesn't mean I like it when they lose it in my office.) Oh, and then after the back-to-back office crying I showed a film in my class that made everybody upset and some students teary. Merry fucking Christmas, students! The world is filled with violence, brutality, prejudice, and injustice! I'm the harbinger of doom and bad tidings! Have a nice day! (Must rethink the syllabus so that I don't do this to them next semester at the very end. I knew that this would not be the most positive ending (emotion-wise), but pedagogically it made sense to organize the course as I did (and intellectually I think it was a good ending). Not sure how to fix it, or if it's possible or good to fix it. But I want to fix it.)

Tonight I fed my grad students a swank end-of-semester meal - lasagna, salad, and fancy (store-bought) cookies. And then they talked about their papers and workshopped them. That was a very positive way to end the semester in there. Good times.

But so anyway, I've been feeling something since I got the news of my course release that I only just recognized while driving home tonight. For the first time in over a year, I feel positively happy. I feel like myself. This is not to say everything's totally perfect right now, or that I've not had happy times interspersed in there over what I'm thinking of as the Dark Year, but really, since my chair died last year, and then another colleague died quickly thereafter, and I found out about my father's cancer and my uncle's terminal illness, and then my father died, and then summer teaching and Service from Hell that was very important and I'm very glad I did it all, but dude, HELL, and feeling out of sorts with all manner of other things.... Well, I haven't felt like myself for like a year. I've felt sort of like I was going through the motions and just trying to hang in there and to keep up. I think that teaching this grad seminar has had a lot to do with my change in attitude. I started a research journal a couple of months back, and while I've not written loads in it, just the fact that I felt like I had ideas again that I should keep track of was a pretty big deal. And since finding out about the course release, I've found myself making a map of plans for the next calendar year about things that I want to accomplish thinking-wise and research-wise. (Note: the plans right now are WAY too ambitious. And even these are all predicated on the as yet to be confirmed sabbatical.) And I feel excited. Yes, I also feel exhausted. But I really feel excited about what comes next. This hasn't been the case for so long that I almost didn't recognize the feeling when I realized I was having it this afternoon and evening.

So anyway, yeah. Apparently I'm feeling energized and excited. Who freaking knew that could happen? That said, I'm also avoiding grading because I don't want to ruin the happy place with such mundane tasks. Time enough for that when absolutely necessary (say, Monday or Tuesday).


life_of_a_fool said...

I am often the harbinger of doom in my classes, only minus the swank meals.

I'm glad you're feeling happy and optimistic and enthusiastic! I hope to reach such a stage one of these days soon. . .

Bardiac said...

Glad to hear of your happiness. May it long grow and spread.

I keep a box of kleenex hidden in a drawer. It's there and I know it, and pull it out when someone needs one. Even me, during cold season! (And students during cold season need them too.) Since cold season lasts 6 months around here, easy... they're helpful.