Happy Thanksgiving!

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I feel like I have a lot to say but little to say at all.

I’ve been wanting to post for some time on the differences I’ve noticed about my students here compared to my students at Fancy Town, which may not be entirely fair–they are worlds apart, so maybe more in general regarding my experiences between my first quarter here and my first semester there.

My first semester at Fancy Town I was overwhelmed. Four writing classes right off the bat. Over 80 students. A husband in Afghanistan. A new city that was expensive as hell and as far away from any family member as I ever had been. I had zero energy after a day of teaching. I had little desire to follow any kind of work out program seriously. I was just trying to survive my first semester on the tenure track. I didn’t even have time to think about anything scholarly I wanted to do, and was so exhausted from my job, that I was starting to wonder if I’d ever have an original idea ever again. Not to mention the added stress of student complaints. And what made those complaints stressful was that they were petty. And then there were the grade complaints, the complaints about being failed for absences (one student, I remember had 12! and the nerve to complain–this student missed six whole weeks of class!) The “I don’t deserve this grade because I deserve better than this” crap. And the stress of the administration’s entertainment of these complaints as well. The day of midterm and final grade postings were anxiety ridden. The first two weeks of Christmas break were not breaks at all as it was constant emails between me, student, boss, and provost about students who failed for cheating, plagiarizing, not turning work in, failing to complete assignments. I have a headache just thinking about it right now. And I can’t say that the second semester was any better–like students complaining to my boss that my 102 class was not as much fun as my 101 class, and my boss calling me in to discuss my lack of entertainment value for the 102 class. I seriously wonder how I did not become an alcoholic.

Here–night and day. No student complaints (knock wood) to my boss. Only two grade questions out of nearly 90 students. And the one that was not legit simply replied with “okay, thanks. I understand. Happy Thanksgiving!” The teaching load is easier, which makes a huge difference (even though I will end up teaching more classes and more students, I have significantly fewer preps). And even when I admitted to the freshman that one of their essays was ridiculously hard and beyond their skill level, not a single one called “bullshit” but rather they all worked extra hard on the essay, most said that though it was the hardest paper they ever had to write, they learned a lot from it. Night and Day! I would say personally, this quarter was about as hard as my first semester. The J was nearly killed in a car accident. He was away for most of the quarter. We are a one income family, which while not as devastating as it would be in Fancy Town, life is a bit more difficult than it needs to be. And money issues are always stressful. I cannot seem to lose weight, or rather commit to weight loss and exercise. It’s been haphazard at best. I’ve been sick a few times, injured, and the last three days I’ve been tethered to a heating pad and covered in Tiger Balm (Wednesday the knot in my neck was so large that I couldn’t swallow). Last week I got really sick, too. So I would say that the last 10 weeks have been a hellacious two and a half months on the personal front. The last 10 weeks have been like stopping and starting. I get into a groove for two weeks and then something interferes and then I have to start all over again. I’m not complaining. My point is that it’s not like all the stars aligned this quarter and that’s why the teaching went well.

Here’s the big difference though in being here–despite all of this, some major stressors, whereas at Fancy Town, every single one of these would have produced a meltdown, I think I only had one major one, and I’m still not back on the meds! Here, I can deal with the stress. On top of all of this, I’ve been able to meet a deadline (editing the book chapter in just a weekend’s time), and I have even written another small article (now due Tuesday). I kept up with my grading. I managed not to gain a bunch of weight (though not able to lose any), and while we have hardly no money, we have still put something into savings this month AND we haven’t gone into more debt (unless you count a new car). Being here, I’m at least able to stay on top of things. While few things seem to have gone according to plan, or even gone well this quarter, the positives (though intangible at the moment) currently outweigh the negatives, and right now, that counts for just about EVERYTHING.

So the new quarter starts Wednesday. I have not even thought about it yet. I have to finish this article, make decisions about the weight loss and training, and try to get rid of these knots in my neck. There’s a lot to do in the next few days, but at least I can do most of it in my p.j.s.

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving! There are many things I’m grateful for this year, including this job.

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