Temporary Lack of Inner Resources

I went to high school right at that pivotal moment when those who argued to require students to memorize poems lost that argument. However, lucky for me, some of those teachers persisted.

I remember one of the poems I memorized.  It still resonates with me:

“Dream Song 14” by John Berryman

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) “Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.” I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

Clio’s recent posting about “living with these three goblins of dread, demoralization, and futility”  reminded me of the poem.  But while Clio describes classic burn out syndrome, I’m more bored. I’m heavy bored.

And I’ve tried to fight it.

Professionally: I’ve revamped my composition courses with new assignments and new approaches to evaluating student writing. I’ve volunteered to serve on not one, but TWO newly formed, potentially powerful, task forces. I’m trying to focus on a writing project (and I have so many fabulous ideas).  I’m spending time planning and daydreaming about one of my favorite literature courses that I will be teaching spring quarter.

Personally: I’ve signed up for another half marathon and will once again join the weekly “training” group with what is usually a great group of women.  I’ve added new novels to my Kindle, ones that I’m excited about reading.  I make sure I’m staying social, and not crawling under the covers with chocolates and Mad Men as Clio describes (though frankly, that sounds utterly wonderful).

Seasonal Affective Disorder? Perhaps. But the weather is oddly spring-like these days.

Our college will soon have several administrative-type positions open, and I am being actively courted by a variety of people to apply. I mean actively: phone calls, emails, asides in the hallway, chats over wine during happy hour, invitations for more chats during happy hour.  It is, naturally, quite flattering, and I’m finding myself somewhat intrigued.

And after spending the last 2 days grading papers for 8 hours a day, I find myself very, very interested.

But in my current state of utter boredom, my obvious absence of inner resources, do I have what it takes to even make it through the application process?  Would a new position really save me from my boredom? Or, as Berryman’s mother says, do I just need to go find some damned inner resources?

My Poker Face

My 9th grade teacher once said to me:

“Do you know how I know if a lecture I’m giving or a class activity is going well or failing miserably? I just look at your face, Annie!”

My Poker Face: let’s just say I don’t  have one.

This morning I woke up all agitated. I must have changed my clothes five times, going from casually professional to  jeans and a sweater, and back again, finally just sticking to the jeans.  Although I do take some care in what I wear, I am not usually obsessive like I was this morning.

But I figured out that my indecisiveness this morning was merely a precursor to today’s big meeting where we had to make a big decision, and face a conflict between two members of the committee where we would  be asked to pick a side.

I wouldn’t say I usually make decisions easily, but I am not one to agonize over every decision. There are those, however, some small, some huge, that I do struggle with, and today’s was one.  Luckily, the decisive vote was majority rules, so my position of “neutral” since I truly believe that either course of action had strengths and weaknesses  (but yes, still a non-position if there ever was one), was ultimately a non-issue.  And now that it’s made, I’m happy with the decision.

But then there was the choosing sides conflict.

One of the committee members said to me after the meeting that watching my body language as the discussion moved to the area of conflict was quite entertaining (he is easily amused).  He said I turned physically away from the two combatants, and averted my gaze completely from them.  Even when I spoke up, and ultimately chose a side (this wasn’t a difficult decision, just an awkward one), I still physically leaned away from the sources of conflict.

Clearly, I’m never going to be an actress, never.

Summer Reruns

While you semester folks are either finished or nearly finished with the term, I am slogging through week 7 of an 11 week quarter, with those damned miles to go before I, literally, sleep.  So still teaching, still grading, still advising, still committee-meeting, still interviewing candidates (yeah, late, I know, and I have oh so much to say about that—someday), still writing an essay due in 3 weeks, still training for my half marathon (which is the day after graduation—I believe it shall be my annual celebratory big run!).

So, while I’m scanning the blogosphere daily, and commenting when so moved and in between student conferences, this blog will be quiet for a bit. 

Feel free to read some old posts. If WordPress’s stats thingy is correct, the most popular ones are these:

eightysomething essays

Somehow, I managed to plan so poorly this term that on my desk now sits 80-something essays that need to be read and evaluated by next week (40-something literary analysis essays on Huck Finn; 40-something argument analysis essays).

Clearly, I wasn’t thinking.

I’ve just finished alphabetizing them to see who submitted them on time (of the 15 or so students who have not submitted assignments, some have been MIA for 2 weeks; others e-mailed me blank or funky, unopenable attachments; and one poor soul handed me his flash drive to prove that he has his assignment done but was unable to print it).

I decided before I left for the evening I’d read one lit essay, just for kicks. And, in what I hope is a good sign, it’s a fabulous essay: a mostly well written, well supported argument about the humanity of Jim that also refutes several of the objections that were raised during class discussion.

I feel a little less stressed already.

On a lighter note (and a possible assignment for our next discussion on The Awakening):

Short Pause…

…in which Annie discovers she has most totally over-committed herself for the next two months with “to dos”–the usual academic to-dos in addition to the usual course prep/meeting stuff/applications for future  to dos.

It’s the first week of the new term and I’m swamped. I have 4 over-enrolled classes, with many new students (including an “Annie”!) to get to know and to try to teach something to.  In one class, I had to ask the 15 folks in the wait list to literally leave the classroom to give us some air. My literature class now has nearly 50 students–a horrific number that some ancient members of our department allowed in exchange for smaller composition classes.

I have advisees who need advice about transfer issues, life, including one ex-rodeo queen (really) who has,  after 2 years of a slightly below 2.0 gpa, discovered that keeping a date book is, well, awesome.

I have several adjunct colleagues needing reference letters for their applications to the jobs that are really out there at other community colleges, and I have to decide whether or not to throw cold water on their chances of actually getting those few jobs.

I have an article due soon and two public (local-ish) presentations I need to prepare.

I am still not finished with the book I started on the airplane: John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River, a most amusing book with all its plot twists, repetitions, surprises, and just plain funny characters and plot, if you’re a Irving fan (sort of tedious and repetitive if you’re not a fan). It’s no A Prayer for Owen Meany (his true success) but I’m still reading….

I did just finish Katie Roiphe’s article from the New York Times, “The Naked and the Conflicted” and found it as amusing as anticipated. I met her many years ago at a conference, thoroughly enjoying her company (let’s say we were both enjoying ourselves at that conference), and have read her work with some pleasure ever since.  She’s the thorn in the side of those who allow themselves to be pissed off by her irreverence.  Not that I always agree with her, but this article is just plain funny, and yes, I sort of agree with her this time.

Read it, and discuss. I’ll be back….

Finals Week Follies

I know that professorial whining during the end of the term is so utterly boring, but I believe it’s my turn:

From the mouths of students–and Annie’s bitchy replies:

Act I:
Young woman, who has not been to class in 6 weeks, but who has e-mailed me weekly demanding to know when I can meet with her (and never showing up to any of the 10+ hours a week I’m available to meet with students),  stops by and says: “Can we talk about my getting an incomplete?”

Annie replies: “No. Here’s a signed drop form. You have 5 minutes to take it to the registrar before the drop deadline.”

Young woman tries again: “Are you teaching the course again? I’ve done all of the work [note: she carries nothing with her to this meeting].”

Annie replies:  “No, I’ll probably never teach that class again [composition, so not exactly true, but I will not teach it NEXT quarter] so you’ll have to take it with someone else.”

Act II:
Young man who just handed in his third late essay on a Thursday afternoon asks: “When’s the final?”

Annie replies: “Check the syllabus, the website, the Blackboard, the handouts etc. and if you still can’t figure it out, give me a call.”

Act III:
Young  woman student, who failed essay one, plagiarized essay 2, and hasn’t been to class in 2 weeks, stops by Annie’s office today, the last day of finals week, at 3pm precisely, while Annie has her coat on, and three bags of papers on her back and asks:  “Can I still take the final?”

Annie replies: “The final was 2 hours ago.”

Young woman: “I thought I had until 3 to take the final?”

Annie replies: “It’s now 3:01.”

Act IV:
Young student says as he is leaving the final: “I learned so much in this class. Thank you, Annie.”

Annie grins.

Shaken, not all stirred up

It’s one of those weeks in academia:

  • schedules for 2010-11 are due
  • book orders for next quarter are due
  • essays need to graded and returned
  • that essay I promised to write a few months ago is due
  • references still need to be written
  • requests for sabbaticals are due shortly
  • students’ grandmothers are dying left and right
  • H1N1 has taken over our town
  • colleagues are walking around sleeplessly and no one has cleaned the office coffee pot in days
  • I’m watching Dexter to relax at night, and, despite that, I had a nightmare about something even weirder: Sarah Palin was chasing me
  • did I or did I not buy my plane tickets for the MLA?
  • and the house is a wreck and not at all ready for Turkey day

Luckily, NPR has an app for all of that: a ginger martini recipe.


Summer Fun for Educators

I know that many of us involved in education save summertime (even those of us who teach in the summer) for a little r and r, (rest, relaxation, reading, writing, road trips, ruminating, roaring with glee, etc). 

But many of us also do unpleasant things like finally going to the doctor. I know, because getting an appointment in the summertime, even though I am free during the day, is quite the challenge. 

Of course some of that is because the doctors themselves, naturally, take their vacations during the summer, so the limited availability of appointments coupled with  the onslaught of teachers from pre-school through graduate school trying to cram in said appointments between our own vacations….Well, trust me, it’s a problem, especially in a small town with a limited number of doctors.

So, I’ve seen the dentist (who knew 35 year old cavities need to be replaced?), the “eye” doctor,  and my obgyn.  I was going to see the podiatrist, but put that off after hearing from the ob gym that, hmmm, there are some  indications of a problem, so you need to get a colonoscopy.

At 45, I was hoping to put that off for another 5 years (or so, after my big Thelma and Louise-like 50th birthdayweeks-long bash in Italy and Greece–without the Grand Canyon scene). 

I made an appointment for after my half marathons, but that was soon changed (the doctor had other plans). The new appointment is this week, but, it seems, I was not given the diet I should have been following for at least a week (who knew?!)  beforehand, so, mmm, we may need to reschedule for October, really such a wonderfully “free” month in terms of the academic calendar. 

I’ll find out tomorrow if that is really the case after I chat with the doctor (who, of course, is off on Mondays).

So, I’ve spent the morning searching the web for more on this supposed low-fiber diet I should have started, oh, either a few days ago, or 3 weeks ago, or not till tomorrow, depending on the author.  It’s brutal. I knew about the laxative and liquid diet required the day before, but nothing about the no-WINE rule a few days before (naturally I have a wine tasting party scheduled for Wednesday night–clearly that will be a blast for me). And really: my entire normal diet consists of nearly everything on the “do not consume” list. How much chicken broth can a girl eat when it’s nearly 100 degrees outside?

Anyway, the humor in all of this, whether or not the damn procedure is ultimately rescheduled for an incredibly inconvenient time like October, is that I found the following in my web search (and these are the creme de la creme of oodles of bloggings on the subject):

1. A first person account of a colonoscopy on a blog appropriately titled “I Laugh, Therefore I Am”

2. And, a blgo called, get this, Colonoscopy Blog.

3. A colonoscopy song (it’s actually quite catchy)

Grading Hell

So, my old office is now all packed, and at this point uninhabitable since boxes take up every free spot.  My new office won’t be ready for a few more weeks, but I’m excited about the move (I love the required purging that happens whenever I move, too).

I saved all the cartoons on my bulletin board, though only one of them may grace my new office door.  Here’s the one that’s been amusing my colleagues and students for over 3 years.  It’s even funnier in July when I am not facing a stack of student essays…

"Are you sure I didn't already grade a few of these?"

Be sure to visit Matthew Henry Hall’s website for more of his academic wit.