Friday, November 12, 2010

A Week in the Life: Friday

Ahh...Friday morning. Almost the best morning of the week (second only to a Saturday morning I get to sleep in). Usually, getting the kids up, fed, dressed, and out the door by 7:45 can be a bit stressful, as Thing One is slower than molasses in January, but Fridays we can afford to run late because I don't teach (I have a 9:00 am class MTWTh). Usually, we get on the road and I don't sweat getting stuck behind a semi doing the speed limit (55 mph on a two-lane country highway). I just put on some good tunes, and we dawdle our way into town. I drop both of them off, and head to Starbucks to begin working my way through the latest batch of papers/exams/journals. After a few hours of that, I'm usually tweaking pretty hard, so I do my errands: at Target, picking up diapers and whatnot (though the whatnot usually ends up costing $100, even when I'm trying NOT to spend $$). That usually takes about an hour. Then I head over to campus to prep for the coming week, getting my calendar written out (yes, written--it helps me remember what I'm supposed to be doing) and making any copies I might need so that I'm not stuck trying to do it 5 minutes prior to class--when everyone else is trying to get it done. Then I do my PD work--work on a new poem, search the UPenn CFP list (if I don't book time to do it, I forget to do it--and then I miss deadlines for conferences, which I can't afford to do if I want to get tenure this year). At 2:50 pm, I head over to Thing One's elementary school to pick her up myself; we then drive over to pick up her brother and head back home. Friday's the only day I leave "early"--we're usually home by 4:00. 

Well, today just wasn't one of those neatly-planned, well-executed non-instructional days.

Instead, we got up this morning only to have Thing One tell me that her head felt hot. Yep, sure enough, she had a temp of 100.4. An hour later, still over 100. 

Thing Two was extra crabby right off the bat--crying for me from his crib, which he almost never does anymore. Extra clingy. Not hungry. Great. 

I made an executive decision, and we stayed home. They're both fighting something off, and while neither of them was that sick, my feeling is that they could conserve their energy today and be ready to go back on Monday. If I'd had to teach today, my decision would have been different. I'd have probably kept Thing One with me on campus, and sent Thing Two to daycare. Thankfully I didn't have to that today--courtesy of the wonders of email. I'm very grateful for the flexibility this job affords me.

Today is the first day in over two weeks that I haven't graded some piece of student writing. It's the first day I've had "off" since...sometime in October? I can't remember. I promised Hubby that I wouldn't work both days on the weekend because we need some time to spend together as a family (and he needs--and should get--time to spend in his workshop). I'm having trouble holding to that. 

The problem is that there aren't enough hours in a work week for me to get my work done, even though I work 8:30-4:00pm straight through (I would stay until 5:00, but as it is Thing Two can barely make it to 4:15--he's ready for bed by 6:00pm most nights). I am a writing teacher; grading student writing is incredibly time-consuming. It's rewarding, too--especially at the end of the semester when I get to see how far each has come since the beginning--but it takes a long time to read, process, comment, and correct papers. I simply do not have the energy in the evenings to give the work the attention it deserves. Evenings are when I read to prepare for class the next day, so that the material is fresh for me. For grading, the only solution is to have big blocks of time on the weekends: 5 hours each day. And it's still not enough to get through the volume I collect every other week.

That's how I spent last weekend--both Saturday and Sunday, because I had to grade and give back 43 (ENG 102) and 24 ENG 101 papers this week. I'd already had the ENG 102 papers for more than a week because the previous Friday (10/29) I'd been at an all-day department conference and Saturday we had to go down to the in-laws to get the kids and help with insulating the attic; then we went trick-or-treating. I'd then had to spend that entire Sunday in my hobbit-hole in the basement, grading.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, please don't misunderstand: I love my job. Of all the jobs I've had in my life (some of which have paid better), this is by far the one I love the most. I get to make a difference in the lives of the students who take my classes, and there's nothing that can compare with that. Except maybe being the host of my own basic cable comedy news show.

So the upshot is that today was basically a wash as far as work goes, though I did check email and respond to a few questions from students about the research paper. I didn't get any grading done because I spent the day looking after my two kids: we watched PBS Kids all morning, had lunch, went to the bank and Walgreen's, came home and watched Cars for the umpteenth time. I got to snuggle Thing Two a lot ("Uggle, Mama--uggle!") and I spent about an hour coloring at the kitchen table with Thing One.

It was a good day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Week in the Life: Thursday

Woke up at 4:30 again this morning. Finally figured out why: so used to getting up at 5:30, brain hasn't adjusted to the time change (fall back). Funny. I was worried that Thing Two would be the one waking up at 4 or 4:30.

Unsuccessful in my attempt to go back to sleep. Also notice that Hubby is missing. [He's been having a lot of trouble sleeping too, lately, so when it's bad, he goes to the "guest" bedroom downstairs aka the unfinished playroom we stuck a bed in.] Just as I'm making up my mind to go get him up, I hear him come up the stairs.

Everyone's up and out of bed before 6:00 am. I'll have to remember this when the Things are teenagers and I can't get them up before noon.

6:45 am: Everyone's been fed, so I vacuum the living room. I hate the carpeting. It's brown, it never smells clean even after it's been shampooed, and it's a dust trap. Bleh.

7:00 am: Time for Sesame Street. Thing Two wants me to sit with him, so I do until I'm able to sneak away to get dressed. No dice. He's right there in the bedroom doorway: "Mama. Mama. Elmo." (pointing down the hall). So cute I could just die.

7:45 am: We're out the door.

8:30 am: I'm on campus, doing last-minute prep for my ENG 102 class. Copying the PowerPoint lecture on conducting library/internet research (they like to have it right there during the lecture, so I'm trying to remember to do it ahead of time).

9:00-10:15 am: Assign the researched argument paper (#4). Go over it carefully, including the two worksheets that are due next week. Also give a PowerPoint on conducting library and internet research (some of which has been cribbed from handouts I used when I taught at Marquette). This is the part of the semester where things slow down just a bit. Although I collected paper #3 (22 from one class, 17 from the other) and I will be spending part of tomorrow and Sunday working through them, I won't be collecting this fourth paper until the end of the first week of December. (Though stupidly I think I'm also collecting assignments from the other classes that week two, so the second week in December's going to be fairly awful.) It's also usually their best paper of the semester, for several reasons:
  • They've been practicing for the last 10 weeks.
  • The assignments have been going up in complexity since the beginning.
  • They get to choose what to write about (as long as it deals with some aspect of technology/society)
  • They get 4 weeks to write the paper, and I have progress assignments along the way to ensure that they don't leave it go until the last possible minute
  • They get a chance to conference one-on-one with me (and believe me, if I had more time, I'd do this more often because it seems to be the single most effective thing I can do. There just aren't enough hours in the semester to cancel classes and have individual meetings. 48 students x 10 minutes each= a full 8 hours. And some students need more than 10 minutes...)
Anyway, I always look forward to this paper. I usually learn new things, and if they've paid attention to me at all (or read the evaluation sheets they get back with each paper), the paper's usually the best one of the semester. *fingers crossed*

10:15-10:30 am: Meet with student.

10:30-12:00pm: Regular office hours. Spend much of the time going through the two-foot tall pile of books and papers on my desk (maintenance needs to prime and paint my window frame, for some reason. I've been in this office since 2004 and the frame has been brown and not at all bothersome. *shrug* Of course now I'm going to be stuck smelling paint fumes all afternoon.)

12:00-1:00 pm: Campus Collegium meeting. The reports take forever because a lot of stuff is going on, and we're also making some changes to our campus Constitution, so there's a lot of discussion about those, too. So we don't get to discuss furloughs, the furlough resolution, or anything else.

1:00-2:15 pm: ENG 102. Same as before.

2:15-3:00 pm: More sifting through my piles of books and papers. Putting away materials from before the midterm. Finding articles I printed out but didn't have time to read.
2:45 pm: Student comes in to talk to me about his grade in the lit course. He's failing (bombed the midterm). Tell him he's got to pull a B from here on out to shave a C. Tell him he's going to need help from me / from a tutor to be able to do it. He's willing to try.

3:00 - 3:25 pm: Start this blog. 

3:30 - 4:00 pm: Update grading rubric, print + copy.

Picked up the kids at 4:15 pm and came home. Tonight is going to be a catch-as-catch can night. I'm tired, the boy is cranky and clingy, and nobody's hungry. Did the dishes, at least.

6:20 pm Hubby arrives home. We're all sacked out on the couch, watching Monsters Inc. Boy is cuddled up against me with his blankie. Early jammy night for us. 

7:00 pm: We're all in the kitchen. Thing Two is eating a banana and cereal, and Hubby is prepping the chili for the slow cooker. Thing One is coloring. No more work for the night except housework: putting away laundry, straightening the place up.

Good night.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Week in the Life: Wednesday

Crashed at 7:45 pm last night. Didn't sleep well (kept thinking about all the things I have to do this week, plus I had "Go Outside" from Sesame Street's guest appearance by Jason Mraz -- complete with Elmo's high-pitched humming along-- stuck in my head.) so another groggy morning. Except that since I got up early enough, I can take a shower while Hubby's still here to keep the Things occupied [he leaves at 6:15]. 

Morning proceeds as it normally does.

8:30 am: Arrive on campus after dropping the Things off at their respective schools. Hustle into my office to email myself the Douglass/Jacobs presentation (it's on my netbook) so that I can finish tweaking it. Also wolf down a bowl of generic Honeycomb cereal because my hands are shaking from the coffee. Or from the stress of trying to get everything done. Whatever.

8:55 am: Hustle over to the Large Group Instruction room to get the presentation up and running.

9:00 - 10:15 am: Team-teaching ROCKS! I love the interplay between disciplines (in this case, History and Literature). We are talking about ante-bellum reform (abolition in particular) and examining excerpts of Frederick Douglass' Narrative and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. After we lectured for 35 minutes, we broke the students into smaller groups (3 or 4 each) to have them discuss what they thought was one of the most significant themes in either of the readings, and gave them about 15 minutes to talk (along with questions on the slide in case they got stuck). Each group had something different to say, and it was a very productive class. (Each of us has more than 25 students registered, but not everyone was there today--we had about 45 students all together.)

10:30 am -12:00 pm: My usual office hours (Monday-Thursday). Graded the remaining 6 ENG 101 papers, met with two students about their ENG 102 papers.

12:00-1:00 pm: Lunch (PBJ + pretzels, Diet Pepsi) at my desk. Prep for ENG 101 (need to start teaching them how to summarize and how to incorporate outside material into their papers). Draft a "Summary Worksheet" to help guide them. (This is off-calendar--we're supposed to start the final unit today -- on Technology -- but I need to get them practicing summaries. This is what I get for doing a new course prep during the final semester of my tenure bid.)

1:00- 2:15 pm: ENG 101. Go over writing summaries; P.I.E. (Point Illustration Explanation) as an acronym for smoothly incorporating summaries and quotes into one's own writing. Give assignment (by Monday, they have to have summary worksheets printed out for both articles, in addition to a rough draft). Think this may be too much, but will also prevent them from procrastinating until Sunday night to come up with a draft. Hope they will see (before I tell them on Monday) that the summaries they're working on are a perfect way to begin the draft.

2:20 - 2:55 pm: Grade ENG 101 D2L (Desire to Learn) posts for topic which closed Monday. I'm actually on top of all the grading!! Oh, except for the 20 literature journals that came in this morning. And the summaries I had the ENG 102 class do last week. Rats.

2:55-3:10 pm: Begin this blog entry.

3:15-4:00 pm: Prep for ENG 102 tomorrow. Assigning fourth (and final) paper: 6-8 page researched argument. Copies. Coaxing the copier to cooperate.

4:00 pm: Leave campus to pick up kids.

4:30 pm: Stop at grocery store as we are out of a bunch of stuff.

5:10 pm: Arrive home. Begin cooking dinner. Thing One asks for pretzels, and I give Thing Two the other half of his banana from breakfast. Go back to cooking dinner.

5:40 pm: Hubby calls. Finally leaving work.

5:45 pm: Dinner ready. Dish it out. Thing Two in high chair having a nervous breakdown complete with snot running down his nose. Wants his nuk and his blankie: "'nigh-'nigh! 'nigh-nigh!" So off we go to change him into his moose pajamas. He calms down, snuggles his face into my neck, and sighs. He's had a long day, too.

6:10 pm: Finally sit down to dinner. It's cold. Good thing we have a microwave. Our old one died a few months back (like, in the middle of summer when there is no extra cash for things like replacing a microwave) and the new one is really nice. It's red, too. Sick of black and white is impossible to keep clean. Anyway, zap dinner.

6:15 pm: Hubby rolls in. We can sit and talk a little, except that Thing One wants (and should get) our attention. She reads to us, then we send her to put on her pjs too.

6:45 pm: I turn on my netbook because I have to update two worksheets for my ENG 102 research paper. Because I am having my students turn them in via D2L this year (thereby saving a few trees), the sheets need to be updated into table format to make them easy to fill out.

7:45 pm: Finish tweaking the worksheets and upload the new ones onto the D2L site. 

7:45 -8:00 pm: Final update for this blog post. 

I find that I am really enjoying writing these entries, if only because when I read them I can see how much I'm accomplishing on any given day. I used to keep a journal (I have boxes full of the things, not to mention a stack on my desk at work--they're full of ideas for poems) but I have that typical 21st century problem: not enough time/energy to write long-hand.

And now, bed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Week in the Life: Tuesday

5:40 am: Alarm goes off. [Hubby has to be at work by 6:45, and it's a half-hour drive.] After a 16-hour day yesterday, woke up groggy. Two cups of coffee only upset my stomach.

7:30 am: Go outside to get this shot: 

7:45 am: Kids and I leave for school. Day continues as yesterday (most mornings run the same way, so I'm not going to belabor it).

8:30 am: Arrive on campus after dropping both kids off at their respective schools. Spend 20 minutes considering what approach to take for my ENG 102 class because I am giving back their graded papers, and I feel like I need to spend some time exploring what I think went wrong for those who ended up in the C-range because they didn't follow directions as well as I would have liked.

9:00-10:15 am: ENG 102. Spend 45 minutes going over the last paper assignment, and talking (again) about the importance of being aware of the reader when writing. Go over (again) the assignment sheet for the current essay (due Thursday). Talk about the necessity of a well-crafted introduction to help situate the reader and make clear what the paper will cover. Talk (again) about drafting and revision and the need to give themselves enough time to revise. End class 20 minutes early to give students a chance to come and show me their introductions/thesis statements and get some advice. End up talking to 10 out of the 20 in attendance (out of 23 registered) and move the "party" to my office because someone else's class is in the room.

10:15-10:30 am: More one-on-one conferences. 

10:30-11:10 am: Grading (trying to finish the last few ENG 102 papers from the afternoon class).

11:15-11:30 am: Meet with ENG 102 student to help her with her paper. 

11:30-11:55 am: Catch up on emails that have been flying furiously all morning re: furloughs and furlough resolutions coming out of the various campuses. Morale is low.

12:05-12:50 pm: Meet with ENG 102 student who is unhappy with grade on last paper and spends time flogging the point; finally acknowledges that she can see why I'd assigned the grade. Move on to discussing current paper, and balance of summary and analysis. From there, discuss classes she needs to take next semester (I'm also her advisor, and registration starts this week). 

12:50-1:00 pm: No time for lunch, and haven't had breakfast (ran out of cereal yesterday, didn't have energy to go to the grocery store on my way home at 7:30 last night).

1:00-2:15 pm: ENG 102 runs pretty much the same as the morning class, except that at the end, only 5 students (out of 19 present--23 registered) stick around to talk to me about their papers.

2:30 pm: Culver's again (no food in the fridge in the faculty lounge, and I didn't have time to pack a sandwich other than Thing One's this morning). Still have about 6 ENG 101 papers left to grade, but I am cached at this point. Eat my "lunch" and watch "Castle" on my computer. Also read more furlough emails. Some people think we should be happy we have jobs (I am), but I'm not going to sit back and accept the absurdity of the furlough situation (that we have to take furlough days on non-instructional days), or accept the Republican governor-elect's campaign promise to make me fund more of my own benefits out of my already lower-that-average salary. What do I do on non-instructional days? Stay tuned to find out! (Friday)

3:30 pm: Abruptly remember that I'm team-teaching tomorrow on Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs with my friend the American History professor. Find the PowerPoint from the last time we did this and send it over, hoping she'll see it before I have to leave at 4:00 to pick the kids up at the daycare center. She does, and we agree that I'll add a few things to the slides, clean them up, and get them ready to roll for our 9am combined class.

3:55 pm: Email myself the presentation so that I can work on it at home.

4:05 pm-5:00pm: Leave campus to pick up the kids.  Collect them from the daycare center (which thankfully has an elementary school pick-up service, otherwise I'd have to leave campus at 2:45 to pick Thing One up at three--which is what I had to do all last year). Get gas. Drive home. 

5:00 pm-5:45 pm: Dinner is frozen pizza because the sink is still full of dirty dishes. Ugh. Thankfully I'm still full from my late lunch so the kids get milk and pizza and fruit while I do the dishes. Second shift has begun. I also open the PowerPoint and start tweaking it.

5:45-6:00 pm: Give Thing Two his bath, as he has smeared pizza sauce all over his face and hair. It's adorable and I get 15 minutes to play.

6:00-6:45 pm: Work on Douglass/Jacobs PP. Not done, but I'm running out of gas. Also realize I haven't updated this blog since 10:30.

6:45-7:05 pm: Update blog. Wish I could be more eloquent (after all, I'm an English professor, right?). Just too damned tired. Thing One and Hubby are watching Looney Tunes. 

And cue my exit from the work day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Week in the Life: Monday

4:15 am: Wake up with Hubby's alarm for his meeting in B___ today. He has to leave by 5:00 am to make a 7:30 am production meeting.

5:00 am: Go back to sleep for an hour. Bliss. Except for weird dreams involving my children, a hike from the Summit County Fairgrounds with my two small children to the house of an old boyfriend from high school, his wife, their friends, and a ride in a convertible BMW down some "mean streets" lined with bikers bearing futuristic-looking shotguns.

6:00 am: Alarm goes off. Time to get the kids moving toward breakfast, followed by Sesame Street so that I can get dressed and drink my coffee.

7:45 am: Leave the house.

8:15 am: Drop off Thing One at her elementary school.

8:25 am: Drop off Thing Two at his daycare center.

8:30 am: Arrive on campus. Eat 3 strawberry frosted mini-wheats and two chocolate chip cookies. Final prep and printing copies of discussion questions for today's ENG 262 (American Literature before 1865) class on the first chapter of Walden

9:00 am - 10:15 am: Good class on Walden. Students are prepared, and work in groups for 20 minutes before coming back out to have discussion on "Economy."

10:20-10:30 am: Meet with student who is currently failing the course about how he can pull his grade up. Tell him he will need to average a B on the rest of the assigments for the semester to shave a 74% C. Tell him he will need to get as much extra help as he can, from me or from a writing tutor. Tell him that I'm here to help him. He smiles and seems willing to do it. Hopefully he will. I like to reward hard work.

10:30-10:35 am: Update listing for three poems submitted to Blast Furnace. Received acknowledgment of submission on Friday, and will be notified in the coming weeks as to whether or not any of them will be accepted.

10:40-10:55 am: Begin this blog entry.

11:00-11:30 am: Talk to colleague about possible classes/direction for the classes

11:30-11:45 am: Prep for meeting for which I am the convening chair.

11:45-11:55 am: Zone out on Facebook.

12:00-12:55 pm: Chair meeting. Productive discussion.

1:00-2:15 pm: ENG 101 (Composition 1) class discussion of excerpt from An Inconvenient Truth (from textbook section on Nature) and excerpt from A Sand County Almanac (a handout I'd given them on the last section on the book regarding reasons for wilderness conservation and land use ethics). Sluggish start which got better after I warned them that I wasn't going to drag them backwards by the hair through the material, which I know they've read because they had to write about it on our course website--and all but five did. Maybe I was a bit cranky with them because I'm tired (poor sleep on top of waking up at 4 am will do that). But they shook themselves out of their torpor, and we had a great class. Assigned their next paper, which will have them working with one pair of the unit's readings (on food, garbage, or the environment) to explain what's going on to their friends.

2:15-2:30 pm: Chat with Hubby, who's finally on his way back from his meeting. It went well. Yay.

2:30-2:45 pm: Meet with ENG 102 student about her paper (due Thursday).

2:45-3:00 pm: Update this blog.

3:00-4:00 pm: Grade ENG 102 papers.

4:15-5:00 pm: Go to Culvers. Wolf down cheeseburger and fries at desk while reading papers. Keep grease spots to a minimum. Hooray!

5:10pm: Walk across campus to the Art building for observation.

5:30-6:45 pm: Observation of adjunct faculty member's ENG 101 class (one of my duties as campus department chair is to make sure that the people we hire can actually teach). Good thing my netbook is charged and ready because I can type faster than I can hand-write. Three single-spaced pages later, I'm glad I got to do the observation. Great class, and I may have to steal one or two of his ideas.Things like this make me love my job.

6:45-7:15 pm: Chat with adjunct faculty member about his class, and teaching, and movies, and Joss Whedon, and network vs. premium television programming. Good times.

7:20 pm: Update this blog post again.

7:30 pm: Head home. Happy that I get to hear "Exploring Music" with Bill McLaughlin via Wisconsin Public Radio.Not sure who or what we're exploring, as the program's half over at this point, but I always learn something when I listen.

7:42 pm: Pass dairy farmer driving tractor with manure spreader (empty, thankfully) back to his barn. Perspective: At least I'm not him. And thank heaven there are people like him willing to work like that so that I can have milk and cheese. And cheeseburgers not unlike the one I had 3 hours ago.

7:43 pm: Get the crap scared out of me by what I'm assuming is an early composition by Aaron Copland: seriously, this is not music to drive down a dark country highway. I actually jumped and half expected to see a deer bounding in time to the timpani right before I hit it. Luckily, no deer, but sheesh...

7:44 pm: Heart rate almost back to normal. Pass another dairy farmer on a tractor. This guy's been up since the crack of dawn too, and worked a lot harder (physically) than I have today. That's part of what I'm trying to get a handle on: how a life of the mind is almost every bit as tiring as working physically all day. After 20 papers, my brain is mush and the rest of me feels goopy too. I've had both kinds of jobs. The main difference I can see so far is that after a day of working outside in 15 degree-weather, I slept like the dead; not so with this job. Brain seems to want to keep working long after Body has given it up as a bad job.

7:55 pm: Music was Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, composed when Copland was 23. Didn't really like it all that much, but it does have the early signs of what I think of as the "cinematic" quality of his later work. Turns out this week on "Exploring Music" we're exploring Aaron Copland. Huh.

8:00 pm: Arrive home. Make cup of tea. Must grade at least 5 more papers tonight, leaving 5 for tomorrow (I have to give them back tomorrow: I promised my students on Thursday that I'd have them done by the next class meeting, and I just couldn't finish the last 10 yesterday--Sunday, after grading 20 on Saturday--so I've got to get them done now). Hubby and both Things are out cold. *sigh* At least I get to grade in my jammies, surrounded by cats. Grading also made easier by new rubric (which still needs tweaking).

9:00 pm: Final update of blog. Can't grade anymore--eyes are scratchy. Might have something to do with poor sleep last night and early start to the day. Sleep beckons. I picture her as a dark-haired woman with a white streak at her temple wearing midnight (haha) blue silk robes. She has kind eyes.

'Night all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Week in the Life: Preview

I have been keeping track of my work schedule in a notebook I keep on my desk. It's the place where I have all 3 of my course calendars' topics and assignments written down for the week so that I know what's coming. I also use it to keep track of what I'm doing during office hours and the hour and a half I have after my last class of the day before I leave to pick up my kids at 4:00pm. It's analog because for some reason, the act of writing it down again actually helps me remember what I'm going to need to do--more than typing it up or even keeping all 3 calendar documents open on my computer does. I've found it helpful in remembering what I've done when it's time for me to write up my annual Faculty Activity Report, which never gets shared with anyone outside the academic community.

I've decided that I'd like to share my week with the wider world, with an eye toward turning it into a possible op-ed piece for the newspaper. I think it would be really helpful for the wider community to see what it is that their tax dollars are paying for so that they can have a clearer understanding of what they're talking about when they debate whether or not taxpayer-funded higher education is a good idea, because if I believe what I read in the comment posts about higher-ed, I'm the most overpaid, underworked public servant in existence (other than the guy who holds the SLOW/STOP sign and directs traffic during highway construction).

I realize that I'm biased: my salary is funded partly by tax money, partly by tuition, and partly through some alchemical combination I've yet to understand (only about 24% of our operating budget comes from the state legislature). But as I sit here in my sunlit bedroom on a Sunday morning with my cup of coffee and 21 composition papers that have yet to be graded (after spending my Saturday grading 22 composition papers), I realize that I'm also annoyed with the way I'm commonly portrayed in the media and by politicians looking to cut even more money from the system in which I am employed.

I'm not overpaid. Far from it, if the reader considers that I work at least 10 hours per weekend in addition to my 40-hour work week (with lunch eaten at my desk most days while I'm working on some project or other). So I'm going to write my day-in-the-life, every day this week (since the following week I get to be a single mom when Hubby goes out of town for work). It's a typical week: assignments coming in, courses to prep, committees to attend and/or run.

I know I'm not the only person on the planet who works hard. I am not approaching this activity in the spirit of a complaint session. But there have been a lot of times lately that I feel like the general public has no idea what it takes to do what my colleagues and I do all day, every day, 6 or 7 days a week. I'm sick of it.

So buckle up, Dorothy, because Kansas is going bye-bye.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why I Love What I Do

Today's class discussion was the last one on Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. My students made connections between the book and the documentary King Corn, which they watched last week when I was out sick. They asked great questions that did not have any easy answers.

For example, at the start of class, one student asked "How did we get here? How did things get so bad?" Another student raised his hand and said that in the film, when the two students interviewed Earl Butz, Nixon's Ag Secretary, it seemed like what he really wanted to do was provide people with cheaper food so that they'd have money to spend on other things. Another student echoed the comment about how our economy is driven by consumer spending on things other than food, and that all of this is connected. The previous student said that he didn't think Butz meant for his policies to make us fatter and sicker, but that since this is what's happening [according to Pollan], we need to do something.

Later in class, when I asked again "How did we get here?" one student said that it was partly because women went to work in the 70's and when both people are working, no one has time or energy to cook. We were careful [as Pollan is] not to blame women but to talk about the socioeconomic conditions that have helped fuel the sales of convenience food. One student mentioned that she sees families arriving at the restaurant chain where she works at around 6 or 6:30, after practice is over. Busy lifestyles leave little time for cooking. They also talked about how we eat alone, in our cars or while doing other things, how when we eat and watch TV, we eat more because we're not paying attention to whether or not we're feeling full.

When I asked how practical Pollan's advice is, most of the students said that they could follow what he recommends. I didn't ask if they were going to do it because I don't want to proselytize. I want them to think, and to judge by today's discussion, which went the full 75 minutes with almost 100% participation, they're thinking.

Days like these make me so glad that I'm a teacher.