I need to get my act together.
Ever since the semester began in August, I haven’t felt like myself. I don’t feel particularly engaged in my grad school classes as I used to be. I honestly don’t dedicate as much time to my teaching duties as I need to.
With what have I been preoccupied?
I mean, yeah, my schedule is a little different. But by all accounts and measures, this is exactly the type of schedule I always wanted, more or less. I teach 2 courses on Monday and Wednesday mornings, back to back. They’re really early…like 7am and 9am respectively. So, I have to wake up at like 5ish to get there on time. But I never actually wake up then. I usually get up…well, when the year began, I woke up at about 530, which gave me time to clean myself and grab a bite and beat traffic and get to work with time to make copies and stuff before class. Easy peasy. Then I started getting lazy. I started staying up late…and later…and later…on “school nights” even. For example, I might go to bed at 2am knowing I would have to wake up 3 hours later. That kind of crap.
But here’s the thing… I haven’t been sleeping well…not for months. Too often will I get in bed and then lie there for like an hour before I doze off…or until I hop up and go do some work since that’s what’s on my mind anyway. I stay up late because I sometimes feel like I want to crank out more hours of the day than my body can take. I feel like sleep is unnecessary. But to tell you the truth, I’m not always being productive when I stay up… I get more “actual work” done in the wee hours of the morning after I wake up, not before I go to bed. Then why is it so darn hard for me to get out of bed in the mornings?
Teaching is and has been my passion. I love it. It’s what gets me up in the morning. As much as I gripe and groan about losing sleep, I will NOT cheat my students by choosing not to show up. I have not missed a single day this semester, which is a first. I’ve worked through headaches and other things. But somehow, my students aren’t progressing as fast or as smoothly as I would like them too, as my previous classes have done. Part of me wants to blame them for not showing up over and over again and begging me for extensions and other excuses… Part of me wants to blame myself…like I said before, I don’t feel like “me” and I don’t really know why. The bad part is, it’s affecting my students. I don’t think I’m teaching the material as well as I used to. It’s not fresh anymore, not to me. Maybe I need a new challenge. This marks my 3 time since January teaching this particular section. The first time was me getting my feet wet, finding my way. Over the summer, in the second term, it was me honing my skills, perfecting my method. Over the summer, I felt like I was on top of the world, my students started from extremely low skill levels and blossomed into fantastic writers. I was getting compliments on their behalf from across the department. It was nuts and I was proud of them and of myself. Here I am now. I’ve done this before. It should be smooth sailing, right?
Look, I know I’m not a pro. I’m not trying to boost my ego. I just feel like maybe I need a new challenge. Maybe I should try a different approach to teaching this subject. I feel like I’ve pressed out everything I can from this one. Maybe I should tweak my method some so it’ll be like recycled paper.
Maybe the problem is that I approached this class with the expectation that they would be like my summer course. I mean, one ended one week before the other began. You know how you wake up abruptly and don’t really have a chance to “wake up” before starting your activity? That’s kind of how I feel. That transition period was lost. But that’s just an excuse, I know.
Maybe my brain is clogged with stuff from grad school. These courses this term are ridiculous. One professor stresses me out with his disorganization and negative criticism. Another is draining the life out of my favorite subject. I’m applying to PhD programs. I’m presenting at my first major conference this weekend in Atlanta. I should feel overwhelmed. That would be the easy explanation. Overwhelmed, I can handle. But that’s not it. I feel fine. I’m cool. I’m chill…
Aye, there’s the rub.
I have this false sense of confidence. Maybe I’ve had it all along. It’s my second year of grad school (final of the MA program) and my second year as a teacher. In one way, I feel like a senior in high school. I’m on top of the food chain. I’m finally not the youngest person in my program. I have some critical knowledge that I can recall to make myself sound academic in discussions and debates. My chest is a little puffed out, admittedly. Concerning the teaching, it doesn’t help that I got all those compliments after the summer. In August, I literally walked into this school year with my nose high and my chest puffed. I thought I was hot stuff. Ah!
Here’s the proof: On the first day of teaching this semester, I had the confidence and the data to tell my students that my “model” for essay writing was a proven success – not to knock anyone else’s – but my way, that I promised to show them, was a good, encompassing, challenging model. I’d been successful in teaching it twice before. My students had been successful (based on their scores on the common dept final exam) in mastering it twice before. That was my data. ….Yeah.
What I failed to see in August was that along with that pride, I also brought along a shovel in which I’ve been using to dig myself into a ditch. Heave! Ho!
The tragic quality of hubris is that the character doesn’t realize that he’s a victim of it, and that he brought it upon himself. Well, he realizes it too late. Oedipus, Othello, Agamemmnon, Lear… and so many more to job your memory. the one I’ve been more keen to identify with over these past months is Hamlet. Hamlet isn’t necessarily as hubric as those others, but he and I have a lot of similarities. OK, I’m not suicidal though. I’ve got too much to live for. Hamlet and I jus have the same tendecy to resist action and hide behind our thoughts and words. But anyway, like Hamlet too, I think I’ve fallen into my self-made trap. I approached this term in the worst way… Now I need to get my act together… This isn’t a 5 act play. Real life awards second chances.
Now, I’m going to get this work done and get to bed.
Thanks, WP, for taking that little psychological journey with me. I feel better now.
#nowplaying Mozart : Requiem in D minor K262 : Rex tremendae