So in just a few minutes I have to teach my night class even though I am just not in the mood to do it. I should note that wednesdays are always a long day for me -- lots of teaching (including a night class) and today I had an additional meeting to add to the chaos so I have been a bit on the busy side (this whole semester has been busy, busy, busy). The last few days have been particularily tough for a couple of reasons. I just sent back the first round of essays to all of my ENG 101 students and there have been, to put it lightly, a lot of complaints. Mostly, folks are not happy about the way that I grade (I write too much or I write too little or I point out misspellings and they already know that they spelled the word wrong). On some level, I know that what I am doing is right but sometimes it is hard to be strong about it all the time. There is, in fact, a part of me that wants to be liked by my students. Don't they know how much of my life I sacrifice for them? I buy (good) candy, I grade papers while I am out to dinner, I am always reading books and web sites to figure out more interesting lesson plans. Don't they know that I care?
And now that feeling has spilled over to my department. After a lot of thought, I decided to run for department chair and that didn't work out at all. I just got the email announcing the winner. I am positive that this person will be fabulous at the job but I guess this was a challenge that I wanted, something I was starting to look forward to. It would have meant a huge change -- switching to another campus -- but I was thinking that I had all these ideas to implement to make our department stronger and even more effective (perhaps making regular visits to the other campuses so folks don't feel disconnected like I often have; or maybe a newsletter that we can use to swap pedagogical ideas and news?). But I lost. And it hurts. I am not even sure why since the person who won will do a great job but I truly thought this was going to be the next step in my career. I work hard at being a professional in the sense of reading all the journals in the field and attending conferences and publishing articles and reviews. I am absolutely not saying that this makes someone a good department chair but I was ready for the next step (I think this is what I am trying to say). And now there is no next step. I have been working at my college for 12 years (and almost another 10 before that at other schools) and nowI feel like this is the voice of the universe saying that this is as far as I will ever be able to go. Maybe that is not true but that is how it feels. I love being a teacher but I thought I could work on my leadership skills so I could become an even better teacher.
Writing this helps (and don't we English teachers always say this anyway?!). I know that I need to go to class and do my absolute best to help 20 working adults get better at writing a research paper. Right now, the students are working on their "sand boxes" which is my (made up) word for a work space where they write their topics and research question(s) and then jot down search terms (think of a sandbox space where someone can draw and build and then tear it all down and start over if it doesn't work the first time). I ask students to open a Microsoft Word document and keep this "space" open as they start "playing with" their potential topics and questions. I use this same approach with my research and, hopefully, my students find it a helpful way to get started and stay motivated.
So there you go. That's me at 3:40 PM on a Wednesday afternoon, just before I walk into my 4 PM class. I am trying not to take this whole election thing personal but it just feels like no one likes me (isn't that a sad high school thing to say?). I need a tougher skin.