Friday, February 17, 2006

Show me your PTSD!

Mister G (husband of G Bitch) works at Another University, a “better” one with Ivy League tuition and instructors, also religious but not as tightly wound and predominantly white, and professors there are suffering the post-Kat pinch, in their eyes anyway—tenured professors (only; all part-time and adjunct dismissed) teaching, instead of the regular 3 a semester that they regularly complained bitterly about, four classes each semester. (gasp, whine, moan, sound of dragging feet) Mister says the profs are starting to crack. Entire departments are job hunting. One professor is so demoralized by writing multiple recommendations for colleagues applying for jobs that he has reluctantly decided to also job hunt. Those not job hunting are preparing to retire. All this over a 4/4 schedule, the exact kind I have. No Bitch PhD-ish seminars and teaching assistant here and even when I have fewer than 75 students, it is still 12 months of work in 9 months, stuffing 55 hours of work into a 35-hour week, 4 preps 2-3 times a week, 1-3 hours of email a day, a minimum of 360 essays a semester and twice that poundage of homework. I use the same books, essays, stories and poems so I don’t have to read anything, just look at my notes scribbled in the book and start typing. And this is a tenure-track position. (Not this year but normally it is.) I have fewer students this semester than I’ve ever had, spend less time on “campus” than in the past but I can’t keep up. Other professors look dazed, worn down, rubbed too hard, exhausted, pinched and prickly. I joke (not really) to students, "I'm sorry but my PTSD is really showing today." And even when I have a stretch of uninterrupted (or at least minimally interrupted) time to work, it is hell to concentrate. And everyone, faculty and students, feels the same way. My A students, while they perform brilliantly in class and literally teach the students around them, flake out, get and stay sick, don’t follow assignments, forget deadlines, come 15 minutes late every fucking day. (And outperform the ones who came early.)

***

A former student, one I felt I graciously, generously gave a C to, emailed for a recommendation. Not one single assignment improved over the course of the semester and she came to my office the least number of times for the least amount of help. From commas to subject-verb agreement to line breaks to quotation marks and indentation for dialogue, not one thing got better. I ignored her email for a couple days b/c I didn’t want to tell her I couldn’t possibly recommend her for anything academic. But it’s for a sorority. Yeah, I’ll recommend her. She may be a sorority girl but not a real English major. I wonder if she still is an English major. She was friendly, talkative but not very serious, it seemed, and much of her discussion about literature, in class especially, was directly related to how it made her “feel” and how much it related to her own life, especially her parents and her father and past boyfriends. Some of my best teaching moments were shifting the class from her trite discussions back to the deeper aspects of literature while also making her feel heard. I’ve made her sweat. She also wants it Monday. I could piddle one out Monday after lunch, maybe. Miss C Student was in my blah blah blah…


***

Carnival has started, Mardi Gras is in less than 2 weeks. (Mardi Gras is one day, like Lundi Gras; Carnival is the preceding season of king cakes, parades and balls.) I love Mardi Gras only slightly less than Jazz Fest. My priority today was not grading the 23 essays I received Friday. (to clear my plate for the 20 I receive Monday) or the 4 lesson plans I need by Monday morning or getting my office computer to my office space or the pre-midterm alerts to students at risk of failing—it was getting to the grocery store, before parades trap me in my home, to lay in supplies for a weekend of parades and grilling and drinking. I’m a New Orleanian with New Orleanian priorities.

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