Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Flying on one engine

We've reached the point in the semester where everything is rapidly falling apart. Somehow I held it together through midterm, but it's been carnage since then. Most days it's a question of which disasters I'll avert and which I just have to let happen.

At the top of my disaster to-do list are grading and my Italian homework. But a few weeks ago I reached the point that I hit with any new obligation where I consider just cutting and running. Every Monday and Wednesday I toyed with the idea of skipping class, and then wondered whether I shouldn't drop the course entirely.

For as long as I can remember, that's been my first response to stress: a desire to shut down all nonessential operations. I fight this desire, usually, and usually it's worth it. Sooner or later things calm down and it's harder to start things back up than it is to keep them running. By now I know, too, that the point at which I'm tempted to abandon ship is often the point at which I'm starting to make real progress.

My students don't necessarily have that knowledge yet. Last week, on a day when my freshmen had a paper due (their second or their fourth, depending on how you count), six of my twenty-two students were absent. Most eventually contacted me and I gave extensions where I could, but the schedule for the next two weeks is punishing; there's no real way around it.

I feel for them. In recent weeks my Italian instructor has been doubling our homework; for some class meetings, I've spent four or five hours preparing. Last night (after teaching until 9.15 and getting home at 10) I managed to get through my homework in two hours--though whether that's because my comprehension is improving or because I was cutting corners, I don't know. Then today my instructor got sick and cancelled class. It's a brief reprieve, but I need it.

I can't eliminate any of my students' paper assignments, but I hope I can help them steer through this rough patch.


Historiann said...

"Tempted to abandon ship?" Hell, Flav, you ARE abandoning ship at the end of the spring term! I'd say let'er rip and burn the whole place down.

That's what I did when I resigned a job 14 years ago. Sadly, I only had 2 months to let'er rip because I resigned in March. But I got the best teaching evals of my time at that uni, mostly because I think I just didn't care what anyone thought, and that worked somehow.

Anonymous said...

One thing that I never understand is why I assign papers and midterms that I then find excruciatingly painful, boring, and uninteresting to grade. The evaluation process then becomes torture for me on top of all the other things I am doing - yet, I've completely brought it on myself.

Flavia said...


See, the difference here is that I really like my job and my colleagues and have no desire to leave.