I want to say, first, again, thank you all for your patience with the new format. I think the only thing I don’t like here so far is the commenting situation and that there’s no way if you have a blogger or wordpress blog that you can comment without leaving your blog address. I apologize for that. But I thank you for hanging in there. While it’s not all about me, it’s doing wonders for my self-esteem right now (which with the unbloggable situation, like I wasn’t already on the cusp of complete darkness, really rocked it) which I am so glad to know that you guys are out there.
I have a meeting Monday to talk with my boss about my ProblemChild. I really just hate to say this, but zie really should not be in college. And of course, if zie fails my class, you know I’m going to feel guilty and responsible.
My freshman are driving me nuts, but not in an "oh my god they suck" sorta way. I do feel a little bit like I’m running a daycare in that class, but I get the feeling that a couple of them have a crush on me, so they are super eager to participate and say whatever. Although I might have lost some favor when I went off on Michael Vick (I don’t care how talented he is, he’s a piece of $hit, but I digress)–it was relevant. We were talking about animal rights and euthanizing dogs rescued from dog fighting rings, and I was talking about Dogtown, and that’s how we got to Michael Vick. But it turns out that a student is going to investigate the Vick case for the animal rights essay topic (they had three) for his paper. I think another kid is writing on whales because of my favorite book.
It amazes me, too, how fascinating they find me. Complete shock at finding out I am married. And I think I’m the topic of conversation on their down time because Tuesday I said, "oh, yeah, it’s totally like that Family Guy episode…" and one kid slapped the kid next to him and said, "Ha! I totally told you!!" So was there a conversation at some point that went "I bet you Dr. Nola watches Family Guy"? I’m a little unnerved to think that they are sitting around talking about me, I mean, I know they do, but again, like the whole Dr. Hot Pants business, I don’t want to know about it.
Right now, though, they’re cute and fluffy. It’s hard to keep the conversation reigned in because I end up going off on tangents in order to show how some of the comments are related to the readings (because some will giggle at the things this one kid blurts out), but it’s hard going on the tangent to prove a point and get them back to the main point. Again, I think a group of the male kind are participating because they have a little crush, but if it helps keep the conversation rolling in the general direction of where it should be, then I guess for freshman, right now, I’ll take it.
I think the other problem, too, is that all of our classes are 85 minutes. I know that’s a loooooooong time for these kids to sit still (since for most of the froshes this is 13th grade here at our little college). That’s asking them to focus for twice as long on any one subject than they are used to. I feel like with this class, as opposed to the classes last fall, that they probably are trying but are in sensory overload right now. Maybe. We’ll see what happens when their drafts are due.
One student in that class though is under the impression that I work for IT as zie emailed me to ask how to use hir new computer. And I know, deep down, that I probably just seem like the one person zie might be able to ask because zie feels that I won’t make hir feel dumb for it.
I feel like I’m surprisingly even-keeled about all of this so far. I think I’m a little exhausted and dehydrated because even though I’ve been bringing three water bottles to work with me, it’s still not enough. And I’ve put in some really really long days, and I’m not used to it. The pups aren’t used to it. We’re all just flat out worn out. I think part of it is, too, is that you all were right about the difference in the second year. I’m not terrified of being the new person anymore. While I know I need my evals to be much better this year than last, I don’t really feel like I need to prove anything to the students inadvertently, like "look! I’m a real professor now!" I don’t feel like I have to be "respect me! respect my authority!" because I know here, at such a small place, no matter what I do, whether I’m mega bitch or super slack, I won’t garner the same sort of respect that the male profs have, ever (and maybe the same would be true at a larger place; I don’t know), but I feel less likely to take it personally now, like I can react more objectively. Like yesterday, a student had her phone out. Rather than flying off the handle and thinking, "oh my god, she totally disrespects me. None of them respect me. This class is going to fall apart already!" I matter of factly reminder her of my policy, she blushed, put the phone away, and no one else dared to take out a phone.
I think, too, that I can’t pull off sternness, really. Like there was this one Dog Whisperer episode where all of the woman’s attempts to be stern with her dog made the dog react even more violently and caused more stress for the animal. Cesar realized it was because the dog did not buy the owner’s sternness. When she tried saying the same thing, but did it in a happy, almost rewarding voice, the dog stopped the negative behavior. (I have found with Miss T as she gets older, this is what I have to do with her). So I realize now that if I remain calm and don’t try to assert dominance forcefully, because no one buys that (it’s bad that I’m talking about my students in terms of animals; hopefully you get what I’m really trying to say though, and that it’s more about my behavior than theirs), I have already found that I get much better results. And I’m not miserable yet, which I think two weeks in last year and I was already wondering what I got myself into.
Also, as many of you have also pointed out, and as a dear friend also pointed out, I realize now that I didn’t give myself enough credit or leeway for exactly how much stress the stress of a deployment causes on the spouse. I think last year since I had no control over that aspect of my life, I was trying to exert control over every little thing, and I think in large part my reaction to my students thus far, particularly my freshman (though since I do the scheduling for those classes now, I’m scheduling myself out of freshman), has to do with the fact that The J has spent the last two weeks trying to get home and that he’s now stateside. Just knowing that he’s in country has just lifted more of that tremendous cloud that has been hanging around, and I don’t think I fully appreciated that stress until I heard the words, "I’m in Maine headed to be demobilized and then home." And that has made such an amazing difference in my ability to handle stress these last few days.
This is long enough. Thanks for hanging in there.