Wednesday, September 30, 2009

it's only been five weeks. good grief.

anyone who points to summers off as a reason that teaching is easy should be punched in the teeth.

today, i wonder if i'm cut out for small rural community college teaching.

my expectations seem to be too high, even when i'm trying to lower them to more adequately meet their achievement level.  and i really am.  i'm changing my lesson plans, including more workshoping time, and trying to take everything much more step-by-step.  i am, essentially, trying to move to their level and take them, incrementally, up to the level that i want them to go. i really want them to be successful, but for me successful means that you build the skills that you need. it doesn't mean easy.

it's frustrating to realize that, regardless of what i do, their choices can thwart my plans. 

for example, i sort of expect that students will do the assignments or, if they don't, at least pretend that they have.  nope.  they just sort of stare at me with nothing on their desks, no desire, it seems, to engage in the activity, the sole purpose of which is to help them be successful. 

i sort of expect that students won't loudly complain, to my face and in my classroom, about the paper lengths over and over again, as if i have asked them to murder their mothers.  nope.  one class did that quite loudly this morning.

the flip side of this is the shining star students who sit quietly, seem to soak up everything i say like a sponge, and do their work. these are the students that never show up without a book or a homework assignment, who email me to clarify assignments with thoughtful questions, who always have a response when a question is asked--and the response is almost always exactly what i'm looking for. these are the students who, even if their writing is not great, demonstrate a desire to learn that makes everything worth it.

i have some of those. i really do.  i know it.  days like these, though, make me wonder if i'm cut out for this job and make me wish very much that it wasn't essential to our survival for me to continue doing it.  days like these make me want to quit. 

i won't quit, of course, for many reasons. today i'll tell myself it's the money, but realistically it's that i can't quit until i feel successful and i know, deep down, that five weeks does not a true snapshot of skill make.  

i'm not saying all of this for someone to tell me that i'm good at what i do. i know that i'm good at what i do.  i'm just saying it to say it, because it needs to be said.  i need to say that i'm frustrated.  i need to say out loud that no matter how hard i try or work, nothing seems to really improve, that right when i feel like i have broken through some sort of barrier and figured out how to get through to my students, something else fails to work.  i need to say that i have never had such an odd assortment of problem students in my life all at the same time--the egotistical sleeper, the disinterested brick wall, the loud complainer, the participator who speaks just to hear himself speak, the constantly absent, the constant emailer.  i need to say that my bag of tricks feels pretty empty, despite my efforts to keep filling it up.

i need to say that i'm tired and that i'm doing my level best.  i don't understand how that's not really paying off. 

but i expect my students to be okay with challenging, so i guess i need to be okay with it too.  today, in the face of the complaints about paper length, i told them that they had to believe that they could do it before they could. i said that if they kept on saying they could never meet that page length then, of course, they would never meet it. confidence is the first step, i said.

so let me practice what i preach.  i'm a good teacher.  i was born to teach. so for every perplexing challenge they throw my way, for every potential problem, i will seek an equally creative solution.  and i can do that because i've done it before and i'll do it again.

and i guess i'll keep telling myself that until i believe it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

plowing, sowing, going, going, going.

i spoke earlier of my love affair with farmville on facebook.

(it's beginning to die down from burning infatuation to abiding affection, but it's still there.) 

musicboy often asks me about my farm. we have named all of my farm animals.

(the horses are bill, ted, preston, and logan...oh, please tell me you get it. the cows are larry, moe, and curly. the sheep are john, paul, and george. the chicken is funky, the duck is spunky, and the swan is chunky. listen, i know.)

and we consult about the various crops i will plant.

(right now, i'm working to be able to buy a cottage.  i have to reach level 19 and have 60,000 coins.  once i do that, i'm not sure that i'll still be as thrilled to play. i know you don't care, but i thought that i'd share.)

on sunday night, i began to get anxious.  sunday nights are the worst--for sleep, for anxiety, for everything. the week stares me down on sunday night, trying to get me to flinch. i try as hard as i can not to, but on sunday night, after writing so many thank you notes that my wrist literally hurt so bad it almost made me cry, the week was winning.

musicboy, as always, had wise words.  he told me to maybe start to think about my weeks differently. instead of seeing it as too much to do, unconquerable, unending stress, think about it as work.  just like on the farm, he said.  you're plowing and planting and harvesting and then you do it all over again.

when he said that, my first reaction was how brilliant an attitude it was.  why do i love farmville so much? because it's very clear that i am working for a particular goal. at first, it was just the thrill of getting things done and things growing the way they should. now that i have a bajillion animals and trees and plots of land to manage, it's figuring out how to best work all of them so that i can reach my goal as quickly as possible.

i sow seeds that will get me closer to my money and my experience point goal. i don't throw away my precious growing time on things that won't get me very far.  such is true with my life right now too. i have to be so very careful with my time, with making sure that i am making the most of it, or else i find myself overwhelmed my things left to do and deadlines missed.

(that happened yesterday. but we won't talk about that.)

so, this week, i'm trying to do that--to see my week and the things that i do as good, earthy, solid work.  i don't have to be stressed out and annoyed by students who fail to do their assignments. they didn't do it? okay.  zero and moving on.  a whole class didn't read their assignment? i can sit there and be annoyed and force them to answer questions that they can't answer, or i can give them a mini-lecture on how they need to a) find their syllabi; b) realize that college is responsibility; and c) leave and try again for next class.  i put in my time, i sow my seeds, and i move on.

if they grow, great.  if they don't, i'll diagnose the problem later.  but right now? my life is an expanse of plots of land, some fallow, some tilled and ready to be planted, some growing seeds that will take years to bring forth fruit, some that are almost ready to harvest.

somehow that metaphor works for me.  you just keep moving from place to place, from plot to plot, taking a little time to consider your next move (a good farmer is a thoughtful farmer), but you keep moving. and you're moving toward a goal.

so i'm moving, and in the process, i find myself trying very hard to give myself credit for the efforts that i do put forth, rather than spending time belittling myself for the things that i didn't do.  when musicboy mentioned trying to think about things differently, after my initial recognition that he was absolutely right, i began to wonder if maybe the reason that i needed to think of things differently and better was because somehow i wasn't doing things well.

so i asked.  "do i do life okay?"

musicboy sort of laughed and said, emphatically, "you do life amazingly."

"even if i have to think about things differently?" i wondered.

"you thinking about things differently doesn't change what you do.  you do life really well. thinking of things differently--"

i interrupted him at this point. "--only makes things easier on me."  he nodded and hugged me.

so me and my little life plots are working on working and sowing worthwhile seeds.  and when i think about it that way--what can i work on next?--it somehow seems less scary than what do i have to get done next?  i'm not sure why that is, except that i've suddenly turned it into a choice.

rather than seeing my week as a beast to be faced down and fought, i choose to work at it.  i'm not sure that will really make any sense to anyone else, but it makes some sense to me. 

ultimately, that's all that really matters. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

sounds of a saturday.

trombone scales in the living room.

cbs football commentary in the background.

the white noise of a box fan merging with the sound of my computer fan. 

that's the sound of my amazing life.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

notes from teaching: just throwing this out there.

if you are not old enough to drive, and your mom has to check up on your grades, you shouldn't be taking a college class.

i sincerely wish that i was kidding.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

yo-ho, yo-ho, an adjunct's life for me.

oh how i wish that adjuncting was remotely like know, without the illegal activity and the liquor. but i digress.

i have several options for spring. 

the major option that i have to keep in mind is DISSERTATION. i must finish it. i feel like if i don't finish it soon, i won't ever finish it.  let's be real: semesters slip by quickly. pretty soon it will have been a year since we got married and we're going to want to have a little musicbookbaby. things i won't want to do while puking up my guts--think about 19th century travel.

i need to finish this beast. also, i actually think that i just need to be done with school.  i just need it for me. i need to know that i finished it. i need to know that i did it...come what may, even though it took me two years longer than i thought it would, i did it.

so that's the big elephant beast of a task that colors all of my other options. so, keeping that in mind, these are my options:

option 1--teach 4 classes at small rural community college (three of which would all be different classes, one of which would be online, and two of which i have never taught before--including a remedial writing class). teach 2 classes at large collegetown university.  keep tutoring at large collegetown university.  run screaming insane into the night.

pros: no student loans. free healthcare. megamoney so that we could pay off my car, put money away, and never have to worry about anything ever. i'd get to teach a literature class at small rural cc, which could be fun, and i've taught the classes i'd be teaching at large collegetown u before, so that wouldn't be too terrible difficult. actually, it wouldn't be tough at all.  recycle, baby. i'm figuring out the kinks NOW.

cons: see above notion of running screaming into the night.  4 preps is rough. i only have two now, and i'm fairly well dying. i'd be commuting to small rural cc two days a week still in the early morning.  that's been tough on me too, although i do like the idea of being done early in the day, but if musicboy's schedule next semester is anything like his schedule this semester, it makes seeing each other tough when we're both fried and exhausted at night (the only time we get to see each other).

option 2--teach 3 classes at small rural cc, two of which would be lit and online, and 2 classes at large collegetown u. one of these classes would be a class i've never taught before, but it would be a literature class so i'm more inclined to not hate my life quite so much. keep tutoring at large collegetown u.

pros: no student loans. free healthcare. less megamoney but still as much as we have now, which is way sufficient for our needs.  more online based classes so i get experience.  keep my foot in the lit teaching while also broadening and deepening my teaching portfolio.  most of the classes are classes that i've taught before, so the prep won't be as intense. 

cons: it's still three preps, and so far online teaching as been tough for me to keep up with.  better planning, now knowing what i know, will help with that, but it's still a pretty rough prep schedule.  of course, online course prep is really done, if you're smart, in its entirety BEFORE the class begins.  i'd be commuting to small rural cc for only ONE class, which is a lot of gas but is perhaps worth it to keep my foot in the door there.  i'd be teaching, more than likely, every single day, which leaves me no real days like i have now where i can get things done. i have no idea when i would tutor.

option 3--teach 3 classes at small rural cc (same three as above). teach 1 class at large collegetown u (same class that i'm teaching now). keep tutoring at large collegetown u.

pros: more time to work. i can conceive of a schedule that had me teaching in the morning and being done in the afternoon. this would allow me to plan time at large collegetown u's library or assorted other out-of-the-way writing places that might encourage me to get the diss. done.  i keep my foot in the door in both places, allowing me to simultaneously pad my resume and make friends and influence people. once the diss. is well and truly drafted, this leaves me some time to pick up online u classes.

cons: less money. still free healthcare and no student loans, but less money per month.  i think that's okay, especially since it would be a limited amount of time (i.e. spring semester only), but it would be good to have extra money going into the very lean summer months.  still an aggressive prep/grading schedule, but if i know this ahead of time, i can be wise in my planning.   i have no idea when i would tutor. 

as was true this past semester, i have a carnival of options. i seem to have made so many friends that they all want to just shower classes upon me. it's a lovely problem to have, but it's still a problem.

any thoughts?  i'll be talking to musicboy about this soon (tonight or tomorrow night), and i need to make a decision soon as well. we need to pray about it, i know.  and i know we'll be guided. i just don't want my desire to take care of us color what i should do for me.  i know i can make a decision--i just don't want to make the wrong one. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


so, you'll notice there's a new sidebar.

the new 30 day shred challenge.  i've done it before.  i did it most every day that time, or close.  it got SERIOUS results. 

i've lost 130 pounds over the past four years, 30 to 35 (depending on the day) in the last year.  that last jump was all through exercise. i grew to love it and was pretty passionately committed to it. i felt strong and fierce and i constantly had goals for myself.

then i started dating musicboy. i kept exercising at first, but once we got engaged, it got a little more sporadic.  once the wedding got close, it pretty much went out the window.  since the wedding (nearly TWO MONTHS), i can count the number of times that i've exercised on one hand.

i've been doing pretty well, all things considered. there are lots of desserts in our house and processed foods, but i've pretty much stayed within a 5 pound window of when i got married.  i'm pretty proud of that maintenance, but i've hit the threshold.

i just FEEL bigger. i feel like i'm backsliding, and i don't like it.  the reality of my life is that a) i will always struggle with my weight; b) the struggle is a lot easier when i'm exercising; c) i have family medical history that makes it ESSENTIAL that i exercise regularly; d) i feel like i can conquer anything when i feel physically strong; and e) strong is sexy for me.

so...despite all of my woe-is-me whining about my schedule, i have decided that i will compromise. i can't manage exercise every day right now. i just can't. but i can manage it three times a week. 

thus the new 30 day shred challenge is born.  i will do the beastly thing for 30 days...over 10 weeks.  i will, after 10 days, move on to level 2.  i may not feel ready, but i've done it before so i need to move on and challenge myself.  i will record my progress in my sidebar.

today's results are there already, and friday is my next scheduled challenge.  i fully expect it to be just as hard, but this time it's a bit easier because i actually know with a surety that i CAN do it.  even when i feel like jillian just sucked the heart right out of my chest with her black magical ways, i know not only that i can do it, but that i will see results. 

wish me luck.

detergent and dirt plots.

i'm blogging from the laundromat. 

yes, the laundromat has wifi and i make use of it every time i come here. it's the reason i come to this laundromat, which is also air conditioned, even though it costs a bit more.  well, i don't know for sure that it costs more--the washers are supposed to take two loads and, by my non-scientific research, it seems to be basically true.  i don't know.  they cost about the same, i guess, but here i can delude myself into thinking that i am getting things done while i'm waiting for my clothes.

[blogging is productive, right? right?]

i have a love-hate relationship with the laundromat. i hate how much hassle it is to haul all of my stuff, how much money it costs every ten days or so (because no matter how much i actually aim to do it every week, it never happens), and having to plan my day around the chore.

i love the hypnotic sound of the machines. i'm sitting by one now, and if i'm not careful to keep my attention trained on the screen, i'll be captivated by the vision of the clothes agitating in the front-loading washers. don't ask me why, but i find it absolutely relaxing.  what i really love, though, is having 90000 machines to choose from and getting the equivalent of five or six loads done in an hour and a half. it always leaves me feeling amazed that so much got done in such a short time.

[this is key in my life right now, where there is just not time enough to get all that i want to do done.]

that's pretty much how i feel about my little farm.

oh no, we haven't moved out of the pseudoghetto into the country. we haven't abandoned CollegeTown for the sticks.

nope, i've fallen in love with a facebook application.

if you'd asked me a month ago what i thought of those farmville people, i would have scoffed in my particularly judgmental way and said that i didn't know why they wasted their time.

oh i know now.

there is something deeply, deeply cathartic and stress-relieving about having a little farm where all you are responsible for is planning out your plots, deciding what to plant, and cultivating it in an appropriate time.  planting strawberries? you'd better be there in four hours or they'll wither.  planting soybeans? you'll get more money but it'll take longer.  artichokes? good grief, you can take a vacation. 

musicboy loves it too, although he won't get a farm of his own and be my neighbor. but he will give me suggestions about where to place my trees and when to sell  my animals and what to plant. 

i love that it's straightforward. that if i plan well, things turn out right. that i am rewarded for my attention and my efforts. that bad things don't really happen unless you fail to do your part.

life is easy in farmville.  it's fabulously stress relieving, and i find that rather hilarious.

the fact that i find front-loading washers and harvesting fruit trees zen-like testifies to the simplicity and absurdity of my life like nothing else can. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

you know i'm tired when i'm grasping for metaphors like i am right now.

last week, i thought i was pregnant.

like SERIOUSLY thought i was pregnant.  every day i was getting an upset stomach at the same time. i was exhausted on a level that seriously made me feel leg-buckling faint and my mood swings were crazy. i was crying about stupid stuff at the drop of a hat. it made no sense, except when i did my typical google diagnosis and realized that these were all fairly typical symptoms of early pregnancy.

[i hadn't missed a period. i hadn't missed anything. i'd just decided that was the answer.]

i was excited at first. the timing, were it to be a surprise, would be good because spring semester would be over.  it would be a beast of a spring, but it would be doable.  we really love the idea of kids, so it was exciting to imagine. 

i couldn't really take the suspense, so i took a test on wednesday night. 

[side note: someone told me this would happen. someone told me that i would think that i was pregnant every month for a while, that it was just part of the process of adjusting to a new life with new possibilities that weren't ever possibilities before.  they were RIGHT.]

yeah. SO not pregnant. 

i felt so stupid. i can't even tell you how stupid i felt.  like monumentally, how could you not be sane and stable, yelling at myself internally, i wasted two days fretting about this when i could have been accomplishing something productive stupid. 

[yeah, that also was incredibly productive, let me tell you.]

thursday and friday proceeded to hit me like a mack truck of awful.  it was a truck destined to teach me, i think, that i'm not ready.  or perhaps just to show me that the Lord's timing is better than mine and not to guess at what He has in store.

or maybe just to teach me that all that people say about needing time to adjust to being married is right.   because, you know, a lot of people have told me that marriage is hard. that's not been my experience.  i don't think marriage is hard. i don't think living with my best friend and waking up with him and negotiating bathroom time and who's going to do the dishes is hard. 

i think LIFE is hard.  jobs are hard.  figuring out how to be a little better every day is hard.  making mistakes, admitting them, and changing is hard.  confronting my own expectations, selfishness, and frailties is hard.  letting someone serve me is hard. 

life is hard.  marriage is what you make it. so while i appreciate the motivation for people telling me that it's normal to wake up and wonder if getting married was the right decision, encouraging me to put my foot down about things before bad habits begin, and cautioning me that the first year is just something to survive, i would like to respectfully suggest that such is not always the case. 

[and to respectfully extract myself from such conversations as quickly as possible while solemnly promising to myself and to Heavenly Father that my advice will always be positive to newly engaged and newly married folks. sheesh.]

marriage is as individual as the people within it.  there's no one-size-fits-all truth about marriage and the first year or the first months or when you should have a baby or how you should handle money or any of the whole host of things that people like to pontificate about. 

but this week has taught me my truth--if marriage is what you make of it, we need some time to create and refine ours into whatever it will be.  and i need to enjoy it while i have it, rather than looking so far ahead that i forget to see the awesome that's right in front of me.  for that lesson, i am thankful for the mack truck of awful.

[and with that horrible metaphor, i will put this post out of its misery. they'll get better. i promise.]