Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Three Weeks to Go

As I sat in my office yesterday frantically trying to get caught up with my grading (again), I thought about what life would be like without stacks of papers teetering on my desk, and it was like the heavens parted and God rained down gifts of love and forgiveness, healing every fiber of my being...

And then I realized that I had no idea what I would do if I didn't teach. I love being in front of a classroom, guiding discussion.

The last time I tried to do something else, it paid really well and sucked my soul bone-dry. I was miserably well-paid. And all I could think about was getting back to teaching. 

I suppose that it's just the grading part that I can't stand. And I know why I can't stand it--because every time I open a paper and start to read, I am likely to read something that makes me think I have been speaking Greek all semester. [I have some really bright students whose papers are always what I ask for, but there aren't enough of those to take the sting out of the ones that aren't.]

I then have to take a few minutes to ruminate on my career choice: I know that for some of these students, I am having a positive impact--they leave my class with more  (or better-honed) skills than they came in with. But I am starting to wonder about the rest of them. Every time I open a paper with 
  • A 4-sentence (i.e too short) intro
  • An unidentifiable thesis or one that does not address the assignment
  • A bunch of short, unconnected paragraphs
  • A bunch of citation mistakes (or no citations at all, after I've spent several classes going over MLA and how to do it)
or any one of a number of other errors these students should not be making at this point in the semester, this is what happens inside my brain: screaming monkeys.

Some snark has crept into my comments. One one rubric, I wrote "Maybe it would be a good idea if you stopped texting while I am talking about how to do better on your papers." It's not quite the "Are you fucking kidding me?" comment from Bad Teacher (which I can't wait to see, BTW), but I am a hair's breadth from ordering a WTF stamp for marginal commenting.

I think it's probably all the crap going on politically that's making it harder to deal with this stuff, because after all, it's the same stuff I've been dealing with since I started teaching--the point in the semester where I want to throw my hands up and scream "Is anyone even listening to the words that are coming out of my mouth?!" I think there's a very delusional part of me that keeps thinking that my students are people who are old enough to follow directions, and to ask questions when they don't understand something. I can understand having to repeat myself daily to Thing Two because he's only two and a half. I cannot understand having to repeat myself daily to a group of near-adults. I keep wondering what is going to happen to these people when they leave school and get "real" jobs--who is going to hire them and then put up with the constant screwing up because they either didn't read the directions, didn't bother to follow the directions, or just made some shit up?

I am torn between wanting to help them all--knowing that they really need it, whether they know it or not--and wanting to just teach the ones who are paying attention and want what I have to give. For Christ's sake, I was our campus coordinator for Engaging Students in the First Year--a program designed to try to help students help themselves--for 3 years!! I know that I have to teach the students I have, not the ones I wish I had. But seriously, how long can I keep banging my head against a brick wall before what's left of my brain just calls it a day?

/end rant.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Have Been Remiss...

I haven't felt like writing for a while. The tumult at the Capitol has died down somewhat, though a new tumult (in the shape of a suspicious bunch of votes in Waukesha county for the Supreme Court race) has arisen.

And I'm just sick of it all.

I want to retreat. I want to go make art. Write. Take pictures. Love my husband. Love my children. Love my life.

And I have had a really hard time doing all of that this past month or so. It has been an almost daily struggle just to teach my classes, not to mention tackle the stack of grading sitting next to the couch right now. We are down to the final three weeks of classes, and instead of feeling a bit wistful, as I usually do, I am feeling anticipatory relief.

It's not because I don't like my students, or the material I'm teaching; quite the opposite. I have had some of the most stimulating one-on-one discussions with students during the past week or so--and it's been these that have given me the wherewithal to keep going...for now. [I think the Universe senses my distress, and has been sending me bright lights to keep me from spiralling into despair.] What I'm teaching has value--my students keep telling me that they're glad they took my class because they'd never really thought about Native Americans/the future/the impact of their food choices before.

It's just that in the larger context of what's going on in this country--cuts to arts and humanities funding... oh hell, I'll just call it what it is: the continued Republican assault on everything I care about, along with their continued bullshit tax cuts for the rich, which we've known don't work since REAGAN started "trickle-down" economics--I just want to go somewhere quiet, away from all of this, and not wake up angry every single day after nightmares about not being able to provide for my family because of other peoples' fucked up priorities (like more tax cuts for the rich instead of money for education).

The constant stress (and my impaired ability to deal with it) is starting to wear me down. It's wearing my marriage down. I have started swearing at NPR reports again, so I've had to stop listening to it in the morning because Thing Two has started asking "What's wrong, Mama?" when I start to curse while driving.

What's wrong? So very many things.