Absolute Power

Pearls Before Swine

It’s almost February.  I know a couple of people here who got their tenure letters in February.  My previous officemate got his in April, but still. . . people have gotten them in February.  And so I wait, and I imagine.  Will it be a personal delivery to my office?  To the writing center SS and I worked so hard to put together?  To a class?  Or will I walk in one morning, fresh from sliding my way atop the ice-covered parking lot, coffee slops splattered onto my sleeves, to find a letter on my paper-covered desk?  (Note there is no possibility here of not receiving a letter.  I cannot entertain such a thought.)

The silly thing about my eagerness for that letter is that really, it changes very little.  Yes, it gives me some deal of job security.  I think it may mean fewer reviews by and meetings with my department chair.  But it doesn’t have anything to do with my pay.  And it’s not like I’m going to be one of those people who gets tenure and then completely disappears from campus.  I won’t actually get away with stealing from people’s homes–not that I would do it anyway.  So really, what’s the deal with all the build-up?

These lovelies are the deal:


These will be my tenure gifts to myself, and I’ve been planning for them for months!  Is it too much to ask that they just hurry up and get me my letter already so that I can get my bag and my Chucks?


And she’s back

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.