Category Archives: teaching writing

always a teacher

Yesterday, we drove by the college where I taught as a new adjunct instructor last fall, and I began thinking about teaching again, which brings me to a few of the questions some of you asked last month.

Ash wrote,

What about continuing to teach higher ed…curious on your thoughts there, especially in this struggling economy? What about teaching online? (I have some suggestions if y’all are interested.) That’s our plan when we actually start TTC/have kids.

Cindyhoo also asked,

What is your ultimate vocational goal?

First, let me give you a little history. I have long thought that I would eventually have a stable career in academia. That has not been the case. I began teaching at a university as an adjunct in 2000. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “adjunct,” it refers to those of us who teach on a “part-time” basis. We are not tenure track, and we have no job security. Essentially, we are permitted at most community colleges to teach 60% of full-time. At state universities here in California, we can teach full-time, but we are temporary, seasonal, transient (as we were once called by administrators at a school where I taught), and without any sort of job security or (usually) much pay or any sort of health benefits. Yeah, it’s a great deal.

I have taught for a state university and two different community colleges. I used to teach at both simultaneously while also working at my online job at an educational support company. I was one of those “lucky” Americans with three jobs. Sometimes I loved it, and sometimes I hated it. But it certainly isn’t the three jobs at a time that I miss. In fact, there are a lot of things about teaching that I don’t miss in the least.

For example, as an adjunct, few people typically know who I am. I am a ghost of sorts, arriving to teach right before class begins, leaving soon after class is over without leaving so much as a streak on the whiteboard. It’s gets fairly lonely having little to no camaraderie with my colleagues; it’s uncomfortable to always exist on the fringes. This I don’t miss.

Because I teach writing, I bring home a lot of papers, journals, responses to readings, and I spend countless hours responding to these things. These I do not miss.

I often have to teach at multiple colleges or at least multiple campuses at once. Last fall, I taught at two separate campuses at opposite ends of the day–one class at 7am, one class at 5pm. I had two separate offices (each shared with at least five other people), two separate mailboxes, two separate sets of office staff to charm, two separate campuses to learn, but just one puny paycheck. The confusion, the commute, the miniscule pay–these things I do not miss.

But I do miss the students. There is something so electric about the first day of class. I typically come in wearing a suit, heels, toting my welll-worn black leather professor bag. I place the papers to be handed out in stacks on the desk, write my name on the board along with “English 100” or “English 1A.” I examine the roster and freak out a little about the hard-to-pronounce names. I look up at the students coming in and smile, take a few deep breaths as I watch the clock, and as soon as the top of the hour strikes, I begin. I’m always a little nervous the first day of a class, but as soon as class begins, that fades away, and I’m on. I do my best to charm each new group, to strike a little fear in them while also working to sell them on the class I’m teaching, and by the end of the hour, after I’ve spoken with the stragglers who want to impress me from day one, I float on this little bit of a high for an hour or so.

And then there are those days in class when I’m so on, when all of my synapses are firing properly, and I’m explaining things well and engaging my students in great activities and actually getting them to participate. These are the days I live for–the days when students leave talking about the class content for the day, or they stay behind to talk with me about it. These are the days I miss. I  miss the connections with the students, the fact that I am in some way changing how they think or how they view the written word, that I am, indeed, making a difference in someone’s life (as cliché as that may sound).

I guess I have known for a long time that I would teach, and despite some extreme shyness that I suffered throughout childhood and early adulthood, I really found myself in the classroom. I’m a good teacher. What I’m not so good at are the politics of teaching in higher education. I’m also not good at working sixty or eighty hours a week for what amounts to less than minimum wage when one considers the many hours of prep work and grading we must do in my field (we’re usually either paid by the unit/credit or paid by hour spent in the classroom). I’m not good at the lack of job security. I haven’t had a class offered to me since last fall, and I won’t likely get another class until–maybe–next fall, and that is only if California’s economy turns around and schools actually want to offer more classes.

So I am in a position where I am not sure whether or not I want to go back to teaching in higher education. Or rather, I don’t want to go back on the same terms. I don’t even know if I want that full-time, tenure-track position I have pined over for nearly ten years because I don’t think I would want all the time away from my family spent in committee meetings. I really am at a point in my career, my career that never really took off, where I want a major change, and yet my training is in one very specific field. I have a master’s degree in English with an emphasis in teaching writing. My work experience lies in teaching writing, so I’m qualified to do little else but, you guessed it, teach writing.

I don’t know what my next career will be. I would consider some online teaching, but I have to say, I think I would really miss the magic of the classroom. I have other interests too–things like nutrition education, linguistics, and more. And then there’s the lure of a doctorate, but then I have to question what field I would pursue. I really am at a crossroads with my career, and I just don’t know where I’ll go.

For now, I guess I’m just focusing on my new favorite student and taking one day at a time. My career will come later; for now, I’m way more interested in learning how to make this guy laugh.

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Filed under teaching writing

dropout

I received an email this morning from the chair of the online teaching committee informing me that I was going to have to type out every last lecture for the class I was possibly to teach spring semester, and I broke down. Last week, the department chair informed me that there was a strong possibility that the class would not be offered in the spring due to budget constraints, but that I could still plan it, just in case. Mind you, there was no pay that was going to be offered for these hours of planning. With no assurance that I’ll get to teach the class, and with dozens of hours more work than I anticipated (not to mention the 30-hour work weeks I’m still putting in at my other job), I gave up. I couldn’t do it. I wrote to the online chair, and I officially backed out of the class. Part of me–the professional side, the academic, the intellectual that doesn’t give up no matter how hard or tedious a job or how underpaid I may be–is very disappointed in myself. I’ve been crying for nearly two hours about this. I feel like a professional failure.

And then there’s this other side of me–the emotional side, the pregnant woman, the soon-to-be mom of this little boy who is jostling about inside my belly as I type–who knows this is the right decision. You see, people keep asking me if I’m excited, and when asked that, I automatically respond, “Oh, yes!” But the truth is, I have been filled with stress and fear and anxiety about all of the things that have to get done before I can even entertain the prospect of being excited about our son’s arrival. I keep telling myself, “Just meet this next deadline, and then you can get excited.” My heart has been breaking over this. I have wanted this baby for so very long, so to not feel excited–well, that was about the worst thing I could imagine.

So I’m taking this as a lesson in prioritizing, and for me, right now, my family has to come first. There will be other classes to teach in the future–maybe even in the spring. There will be other professional endeavors. But what I won’t have is a second chance at these last few weeks (or days) before our baby arrives. I won’t get back these last few sacred moments with my wife where we’re just a couple. I won’t get another chance at the building excitement, the final preparations, or even the hours just sitting and staring at my belly wondering who this little boy is and will be.

In my heart, I know I have made the right choice. I just need to get my head to follow.

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Filed under Egghead, family, teaching writing, the P word

Remember me?

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Allow me to introduce myself. I am T. I used to blog here regularly. There was even a month when I blogged every day. Then the student papers swallowed me, and I disappeared.

But I’m back. You see, the student papers have been returned to the hands of their rightful owners, and I am free. Free I tell you. All that is left for me to do is to calculate and submit grades, offer J plenty of moral support and caffeine as she finishes her grading, find my house under the grading rubble, and collapse.

And even though I am writing all of this, it hasn’t yet hit me. The realization that I dont’ have to get up at 5am on Wednesday has, but the rest of it? Nope. That will hit in mid-January, right around the time when the English department chair will call asking if I can pick up a last-minute class–a class I have never taught–a class that begins at 7am and that requires me to once again rise at 5am. Yes, that’s when it will hit.

Our sperm arrived today. I think we’re going to call it Pops, as in an abbreviation for popsicle. I don’t think I even remember ordering the stuff. My feeble final’s week memory aside, we will use it later in the week. I even peed on a stick tonight, although, I was so tired I admittedly forgot to use the test at first and nearly wasted prime four-hour urine. Never fear; I woke up enough to salvage a few drops.

How did we get here again?

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Filed under Pops, teaching writing

let it snow

I am not typically much of a trend follower, but the snow I’ve been seeing on various fabulous blogs these days is too cool not to use, hence the snow on my blog.

I have less than forty hours before I start having grading conferences. This means less than forty hours to finish my grading and sleep a couple of times. I am so over this.

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Filed under teaching writing

TTC brain

I’ve been taking ovulation tests this week. Nothing yet, but I think I’ll get my surge tomorrow, and I think our IUI will be on Thursday. This is my prediction thus far based on the beginnings of EWCM.

J and I are having trouble focusing on much of anything but the insemination and the upcoming election. We have stacks of essays to grade that we don’t want to look at, class observations to prepare for that we don’t want to think about. We’re not bad teachers, just a tad unmotivated for the moment. Now is the time when a secret twin would be very useful.

I have to say, I’m surprised at the amount of hope I have about this cycle. I’m obviously excited to be ending this break, but I do have a little nervousness about what is to come. I’m trying not to entertain too many of those thoughts that take me months into the future without a pregnancy. I’ve been mostly successful, but it’s tough to break old thought patterns. It’s tough not to think about having our hopes dashed. Still, I’m pushing those thoughts to the side as much as I can because for now, they aren’t useful.

J is helping to combat any of those thought directions. I catch her looking wistfully at me, and I’ll ask her what she’s thinking. She’ll say, “How great it’s going to be to cook for you and walk with you when you’re pregnant,” or “How beautiful you’re going to be with our baby.” I can’t help but feel hopeful when she’s thinking these things.

Last night as we were getting ready for bed, she asked if we could look at our baby box. It’s a box of baby items we have been collecting since we started all of this over a year ago.  Some of the items we have purchased; others friends have bought for us as good luck charms. Looking at these items and holding them help us feel closer to our future baby and keep us thinking forward toward what will be.

There is that part of me that thinks I’m heading into dangerous territory, and then I remember that it’s all dangerous territory, but I would gladly walk through it time and again to get to our baby.

9 Comments

Filed under OPK, teaching writing, ttc

the new girl

I don’t handle being the new girl very well. I was never really a new girl when I was a kid because I went to the same school from Kindergarten through 8th grade. When I went to high school, I had my friends with me. When I went to college, it was different because everyone (at least in the dorms) was new. In my former teaching positions, I taught amongst my mentors from graduate school, so I still wasn’t exactly new. But now, I’m the new girl, and I don’t like it.

Yesterday was the first day of school. I had to get up at 5am, leave by 6am, teach at 7am. The morning was fine, as was my commute, but arriving at school, things weren’t so fine. As the new girl, and a part-time, adjunct faculty member, I’m one of the people who matter least to the other faculty. Being an adjunct is a weird deal anyway. We’re part-time, have no job security, make less money for teaching the same classes, don’t get health benefits, and don’t have a voice in department decisions. We’re a step above warm bodies. So being the new girl and being an adjunct (at a place where I was turned down for a full-time position) is wearing on my confidence. It’s difficult to join conversations with those who have been there for twenty years, who see me as some green youngster who isn’t part of their community. I’m sure it will happen to some extent, but I left yesterday after my class feeling fairly dejected. To be honest, I came home and cried in J’s arms.

It didn’t help matters that my first class yesterday was frustrating. Half of my students didn’t show up because there was no room number on my classroom door! Some of them showed up near the end, so I had to give my opening talk multiple times. None of them laughed at my usual jokes. They were still asleep, still adjusting to being in their first college classes ever. They asked no questions and responded to none of mine. That class is going to be a tough one.

But there is always a silver lining, isn’t there?

My evening class was a different story entirely. It’s on this brand new campus with beautiful new buildings and lots of excited people. I arrived to find a coupon for a free coffee beverage in my mailbox, so I used it for a chai and got ready for my evening students. I met another English instructor, and she was lovely. This campus is a satellite campus to the main campus. It’s an adjunct. Many of us who teach there are adjuncts. People are nicer, more eager to bring one another into the fold. On top of this, the students were fantastic and fun. They laughed at the appropriate times, asked questions, and were generally eager to participate. I can tell already that they’re going to be a good group. When I came home, I walked in the door smiling and excitedly told J about my experience. I’m sure she was relieved that I wasn’t crying again.

And so it begins. I’m teaching again, back in front of the classroom where I belong–for now. It’s going to be an adjustment teaching these new people in these new places, but I’m welcoming leaving the house a couple of times a week for work. Working from home, as I usually do, can be a lonely venture. Now I just need a sense of collegiality, a feeling of belonging. I hope to find it before long.

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Filed under new beginnings, Ramblings, school, teaching writing

sleepy head

First, a little business: If I left you a cryptic message on your blog about being nominated, please scroll down to the previous post; your award/nomination is below.

I have been waking up early the last couple of days to try to reset my internal clock. Soon, I will need to leave my home before 6:00am to teach two days a week. This will mean waking up no later than 5:00am. I can do this; I’ve done it before, but I haven’t done it lately at all. J and I have been staying up late and waking up late, and it has been wonderful, but it’s time to face the reality of scheduled sleep once again. Blech.

Also in preparation for teaching, J and I both got our hair cut yesterday. I feel like me again without the conservative, growing out all-American soccer mom look I had going. I don’t know that I’ve ever looked less like myself. But the growing out has ended, and I’ve got short, funky hair again. I’ve decided, after consulting with my stylist, to give it some color too. It won’t be drastic, but it will be more polished. She promises that we can deal with outgrowth without touching my scalp should I get pregnant in late October. I’m going to trust her because I’m tired of mousy brown. Even with chunks of blonde it was boring. J is just happy not to hear me complain anymore. I was complaining far too often about my hair. And speaking of J, she’s ultra hot with a sleek little bob ala Ni.cole K.idman in St.epford Wives.

Now that hair is dealt with, I have to finish planning the first half of the semester for both of my classes and find some professional clothes that won’t leave me melting into a puddle in front of 30 students. Luck will be needed.

Monday is on her way.

The brighter side of all this is that with teaching comes big girl paychecks and big girl benefits (from J anyway–and since we’re married, we’re now both entitled), and with big girl paychecks and big girl bennies, we get to shop for spermsicles. Today is CD1. Just two CD1s to go before we sperm up again. By golly, there is an end in sight!

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Filed under Hair, sleep, teaching writing, ttc

To Do

In two short weeks I will be teaching again. Cue the panic. I am teaching two classes that I have taught at other colleges, but not at this one. I am teaching a student population that will be somewhat familiar and yet completely different in this new locale. I am utterly freaking out. And so, I have to start planning my days a little better. With that, comes many, many to do lists. This is my first. I won’t share them all here, but maybe if I have something listed on my blog, I’ll actually remember to do it (Thanks for the inspiration here and here).

  • Spend quality time with my wife when we aren’t talking about students.
  • Cook and eat luxuriously long meals with my wife before we have to rely on the grab-and-go meal or the reheating of weekend leftovers.
  • Read the texts I’m assigning. It seems weird that I would order texts I haven’t read, but that’s what we often do. And I don’t really have to read the whole things, but I do have to familiarize myself with them enough to assign readings appropriately.
  • Plan my classes and write syllabi. It’s been so long since I’ve had to write a new syllabus with new course requirements, new college policies, new everything. Ugh.
  • Find some clothes that I can teach in during hot weather. Before, I had clothes for cold, rainy weather and clothes for cool, foggy weather. Those were essentially the same clothes with added coats, scarves, and umbrellas as needed. These same clothes that I wore in 40-70 degree weather will not work in 80-100 degree weather.
  • Learn to wake up at 5am so that I can teach at 7am.
  • Learn to be coherent and nice at 7am.
  • Join a gym so that I have something productive to do in the eight hours between my classes (I believe I’ve mentioned I’m teaching a hell schedule. Two days a week, I’ll teach from 7-9am and then from 5-7pm. These classes are in two different branches of the college in two separate towns that are fifteen minutes apart, both of which are around thirty minutes from my home. Gas prices, guilt, and practicality preclude me from driving back and forth mid-day, hence the need for something to do.)
  • Come up with some creative, romantic, fun, and inexpensive means for celebrating J’s birthday on the 13th.
  • Send in paperwork to cryobank so that we can inseminate as soon as the paychecks start rolling in.
  • Complete paperwork and other new faculty steps for new school, including fingerprinting, TB tests, and who knows what else. For the record, I’ve been fingerprinted and had FBI background checks performed on me three times just this year.
  • Watch many movies and much television without any guilt that I should be grading papers.
  • Read at least one book for pleasure.
  • Spend at least one night drinking and not thinking about what time I have to get up the next morning.
  • Revel in the absence of papers to grade.
  • Cut and dye my hair. I’ve given up on growing it out, and I’m tired of the mousy brown. I want a hip, short cut, and I want some color (anyone seen any really cute and hip styles that would look good on a femmy, fluffy, thirty-something queer professor type?) The dying of the hair, by the way, will ensure that I get pregnant this fall because then I’ll have to find a creative way to disguise my outgrowth midsemester. Maybe my students will get to see me with a shaved head.
  • Design a new tattoo and get it.
  • Remember that I love teaching. 

This is overwhelming. I think I’ll have a beer.

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Filed under school, teaching writing

once a teacher + a request for distractions

Amidst all of the missing-this-cycle hoopla, I have not discussed at all a small, but nice, turn of events this week. I have been given a class to teach at the community college in the fall. It’s just one class, so it won’t be much money, and it will be plenty of work with thirty students, but I’m excited.

For some time, I have been convinced that I wouldn’t be teaching again for awhile, and J was in the same position. While we both just have part time teaching positions (at different schools), we will be teaching, and that is important for us. We both thought when we decided to move that we were finished with this career, and once we did move and had breaks from it, we both found ourselves missing it terribly.  So we’re going back to the classroom. This means I’ll have to be a little more careful again not to reveal my identity around here, but I’m very excited to be teaching a new student population in a new school where they know very little about me. It’s my chance to make an impression on my own merit (rather than on my reputation as a student, then grad student, then instructor).

The other good thing about this is that I have something to distract me from the break, and I need plenty of distractions.

And speaking of distractions, does anyone have any good recommendations for distractions? I’m open to nearly everything except for activities that involve large amounts of adrenaline.

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Filed under diversions, teaching writing

Emerging

Wow. I haven’t blogged in ages. I’ve finally emerged from the mountain of papers though. I stayed up all night last night grading–until 5am (not even a drop of caffeine!)–and I finished. Today I met with my last class. They were an amazing group of people–mostly in their thirties–and they apparently loved me. They wrote me these sweet letters and gave me hugs, and were shocked that I wouldn’t be teaching for awhile. It was a good send-off, and I managed to avoid crying, which is amazing considering my state of mind today. Now I just have to calculate the final grades, turn them in, and my teaching career behind the Redwood Curtain is over.  Wow. Wow. Wow. I’ve had a few teary moments, a couple of major breakdowns and panic attacks, but the ball is officially rolling toward our move.

In TTC news, well, there is no news. Not any very good news anyway. Actually, that’s not true. I’m just being negative.

Amidst our paperwork issue, I tried contacting Mr. G again, asking him–in a somewhat cranky tone–what was up and whether he was still interested in helping us, etc. He responded immediately, shocked that we would think otherwise, stating he was waiting to hear from us, that he was wondering if we might be pregnant. He apparently never got the “It didn’t work email,” so who knows what happened, but the guy is really a good guy–he’s just been busy this year, and hell, so have we. The short of it is, he’s really on board, which is very reassuring to this PMS-crazed lady. It won’t work out for him to send a donation this month due to the aforementioned Yuletide Ovulation, but he let us know that he’s ready to order more supplies as soon as we’re ready. We also reconnected a little as far as sharing happenings in our lives, which I think was important for all of us. It’s a lot easier to see that he really does want to help us when we’re actually speaking to the guy.

So this takes some of the pressure off of the paying for sperm/getting paperwork corrected issue, but that also means no spermsicles under the tree. It pains us both to go yet another month without trying, but there must be some reason for it. In the meantime, we get to have a festive holiday–even a wild New Year’s Eve if we want it–and that’s probably important with all of the emotion of finishing our careers up, leaving our best friends behind, and embarking on unfamiliar territory.

Oh my god. This is really happening.

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Filed under drinking, Ramblings, school, teaching writing, ttc