As a developmental writing and reading instructor at an open-enrollment institution, I regularly (not as an exception but as a rule) share classrooms with post-secondary education’s version of the Island of Misfit Toys.
Let me be clear. I CHOSE this career, and I choose it over again every single day–sometimes multiple times a day. But that doesn’t mean that every day is a blissful affirmation of my pedagogical genius. Actually, a whole lot of the time, I’m troubleshooting–trying to figure out how to communicate with my student who has Asperger’s without losing my nontraditional, returning mother all while making sure the very insecure, very quiet eighteen-year-old in the corner knows that I’m available. Oh, and that’s in five classes a semester–six if I overload (which I like to do). This is one of the terrific features of my job: every moment is a new adventure, and I am completely confident that I will never, ever have all the answers. It’s also, though, one feature that makes the job exhausting.
I’ve always taught summer classes, so I’m used to working through those sweet, sunny months, but last summer, I worked with SS straight through the last month of spring semester right on into the first week of fall semester. . . because that’s how long it takes to revamp a writing lab, apparently. The product is definitely worth the time invested, and we’re both happy, but by the end of fall semester, we were also exhausted. I wasn’t only exhausted. I was grumpy, intolerant, impatient, quick-tempered and moo-hoo-hoo-dy! For the first time in ten years, I did not love my job.
SS and I kept reassuring each other that all of this bad mood business was really a result of our not having a break. We didn’t have time to get our patience back, to revise syllabi and develop exciting new assignments, to get excited again about the possibilities of brand new students in a shiny, new semester.
And today, despite my skepticism, I walked into the start of my eleventh year teaching and discovered that indeed, all I really need to be an excited, dedicated, patient instructor is a nice little month-long break. I told HP the other night that I think this break was the most worthwhile one I’ve ever had, and now I’m sure of it.
Thank goodness it worked. I don’t have enough money to get another degree.