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Late Spring To-Do List

  • Read scholarly book #1
  • Read scholarly book #2
  • Catch up on professional journals
  • Administer evaluations
  • Grade seminar research papers
  • Write two final exams
  • Grade final exams
  • Compute final grades
  • Order books for fall
  • Find apartment in New City
  • Attend INRU Commencement!

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Friday, March 03, 2006


I'm one full day into my spring break, but even after a full night's sleep, a day of cleaning, and a lovely evening of cocktails with one of my oldest friends at Big Metropolitan Museum, I'm still not sure that this vacation is going to be long enough or profound enough to bring me back to life for the rest of the semester.

This was a terrible week, teaching-wise, and although I know that my students bear a large part of the responsibility (it WAS the week before spring break, after all, and I had a high rate of absenteeism), I can't help but worry that it's my fault and a sign of the utter deterioration of my pedagogy.
Exhibit A: on Tuesday, I was still finishing the reading for my class on Author #2 on the train into campus.

Exhibit B: on Thursday, I had not, in fact, done ANY of the reading for my survey classes. (In my defense I'll say that it's a work I know well, one that I just taught in the fall, and one that, in any event, I knew we wouldn't get more than three pages into before the end of the class period.)
I really love all of my classes, but this four-classes, two-new-preps thing is really wearing on me and I don't feel that I'm able to give my students everything they deserve. (Once in a while it occurs to me that it's really Big Urban that, by relying so heavily on lecturers and adjuncts, isn't giving them what they deserve--but even when I know that grading 110 papers in four weeks is insane and inhumane, it's hard not to beat myself up for the distractions and oversights that such a heavy load occasionally produces.)

I feel as though I'm half-assing everything, and the parts that I think I'm actually doing pretty well--the grading and commenting on papers, for example--are the ones that I'm getting shit for. Yesterday one of my more talented students asked me, in front of the entire class, whether it was, in fact, possible to get a good grade in my class. I gave her a very polite and encouraging response, but what I wanted to say was: "I gave your paper a B because you're smart and you're a good writer, but your ideas were based on a completely tendentious and superficial reading of the text. I gave your best friend a C+ because she can't write, she didn't seem to understand the work in question, and her paper had no thesis. In both cases, I gave you better grades than you deserved. You wanna try to convince me otherwise?"

I also got a rejection letter today from Small College, the school with which I had my lone on-campus interview. This isn't crushing, but it is disappointing. I liked the school, the faculty, and the students, and I could have seen being happy there, at least for the next several years; it's also relatively close to Atypical College, where George Washington Boyfriend teaches.

On the other hand, I'm reasonably happy at Big Urban, and (assuming that I get reappointed), I'll probably be able to get much more scholarship done there than I would in my first year at SC. When I look at myself realistically, I know that I'm a strong candidate and likely to get a good job eventually--I have a number of significant articles either in print or forthcoming; I've got both a solid book manuscript and an edition in progress; I'm working up a good stable of courses in my field; I have a degree from a top school--but it's still disheartening to feel that all I'm doing is treading water, and it's hard not to second-guess oneself and wonder whether one IS, after all, such a worthwhile candidate. Maybe this is as good as it gets for me.

I also know that it's probably just as well that GWB and I aren't going to be in the same place: he's going up for tenure next year and plans to go on the job market, so the fact that I won't be starting a new job gives him the freedom to look further afield; it also raises the possibility of our doing a joint search.

I know all of these things, as I say, and I even believe them--but sometimes it's still hard not to feel demoralized.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:13 PM |


Anonymous hk commented at 1:27 AM~  

Oh my darling, the good things are waiting for you just around the corner, I know they are. Keep the faith. You know who loves ya.

Anonymous Stellaluna commented at 2:52 PM~  

I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago, and am really getting into it. I loved the part about reading your evaluations, and trying to figure out what to do with them! Sometimes I think that as soon as I get tenure, I'll never read another eval! On the other hand, if I get tenure, maybe the evals won't bother me so much since I won't feel as if my life and future are riding on them.

Anyway, I can't help identifying with you again today and how your week went. I'm not sure why we always tend to blame ourselves first, and then the students, the institution, the U.S. political situation, etc. Maybe we should start with George Bush first, and then by the time we get to beating ourselves up, it will seem silly in comparison. Seriously, I really wonder if our students *deserve* better. It sounds as if you are a good professor--you're giving students real grades and constructive comments on their papers as opposed to the copout B+/A- that so many of us seem to be giving out all the time--and you are challenging your students. Maybe the idea of "good enough teaching" should be at the top or our teaching philsophies. It's all we can really do.

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 3:48 PM~  

Thanks for the good words, both of you--and Stella, welcome! Glad you're enjoying the blog.

Blogger timna commented at 7:49 PM~  

Sorry for your disappointing letter. Even if you can see the reasons that you might make considerable progress staying in place, it's hard not to get the yes answer we're craving.

hope your break rejuvenates you.

Blogger Breena Ronan commented at 11:49 PM~  

I hate it when I feel like I'm doing everything half way. :( I'm very sympathetic.

Blogger Sfrajett commented at 3:07 AM~  

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that a job can have little or nothing to do with your work, your scholarship, your vocation. Find all your paths despite those rejections and hang in there. The funny thing you'll discover is that you will.

Anonymous Dr M commented at 1:03 PM~  

I really admire you as an annual contract lecturer. I have tenure at a Comm Coll but I'm not 100% happy for a number of reasons. I very seriously looked at a lecturer position near here that would start in August. But I just couldn't give up my tenure and then wonder each year, as you are, if I would have a job. It's a tough choice. Keep publishing and you'll have a great job very soon :)

Anonymous dr m commented at 1:05 PM~  

GWB is going up for tenure and he's going on the job market? I'm confused.

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 1:47 PM~  

Thanks, Dr. M. I certainly hope so!

Re: GWB: he's not sure he wants to stay where he is, and it's a sound move to go on the market anyway to keep his options open (either in case he DOESN'T get tenure, or so that he has more leverage in re: salary and the like, whether at Atypical College or at a potential new job).

Blogger Professor Zero commented at 1:28 PM~  

The preps, the grading - I've got a lot of experience and I can tell that, although you would of course do yet better in a better situation, you're doing your job just fine. Do not stress on it, just enjoy the parts you can and feel confident.

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