Sunday, March 30, 2014

Don't Grade Angry

I always give mid semester surveys (based on the end of course surveys the students take) so I can see where I am, and where the class is and make course corrections before the end of the semester. I genuinely take the comments to heart, and make changes. If the students have complaints that for whatever reason I can't change, I always make sure to address these in class, and explain why I can't change these things.
I consider myself a reflective teacher, and I think this is part of it. When I get negative comments, my first thought is always to seriously think about what I did that caused it. I love teaching, and honestly want to help my students so I take these things seriously. I also take them to heart, which isn't always a good thing.

When I checked this semester's results yesterday, most of them were positive, and a couple (due to the weird wording of university surveys) were unclear, so I plan on having a follow up survey to clarify. Then I saw two entries- both of which had the exact same comment, although one had scored me higher than the other. The comments tell me that I have made them hate writing. That I put them in groups for no reason. That I'm not a good teacher. That I try to be "cheery and sweet" but am really passive aggressive. One does not recommend me as a teacher, while the other doesn't like me as a teacher.

I have to tell you, even after thirteen years of teaching, this upset me.
Because I do care. I care about my students, I care about them learning.

I stewed about it all day yesterday. I've stewed about it most of today. And none of my student papers are getting graded because I have a firm belief in not grading angry, and I am angry, and upset.
But not probably for the reasons you're assuming.

I'm not angry at these anonymous students. I'm not mad because they had the temerity for insulting me and being ugly. I'm not upset because this student says I've made him/her hate something they once liked.

I'm angry because there's no purpose to this.

There's nothing here I can work with. Is it two students? One student who posted twice? I have a hard time believing that two students posted verbatim comments.
But there's nothing here I can change. I can't improve this.
If they had said they didn't understand the lectures, or that they needed more prep in writing drafts, or understanding the readings, or navigating the technology we use- all that I can work with. I can fix that. I can improve the experience. Because I do take these seriously, and I do use them to make improvements.

But there's nothing I can do about this. And that upsets me. It upsets me because I can't tell if this is just a student who doesn't like me for whatever reason or if they really need help in the course. It upsets me because it's not true. It upsets me because my teaching does mean so much to me.

So I won't be grading today.
I pride myself on getting papers back by the next class, as I think timely feedback is the only feedback that matters. But I'm going to give myself a pass on that this time. My students may not understand, but I know it's in their best interest.
Perhaps tomorrow I'll feel better.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Being a grown up sucks

So I've been on Spring Break this week. It's been a busy, but pretty productive week: I went to the zoo, I revised my Freddy Krueger article for publication this spring, wrote my critical annotated bibliography for my Global Renaissance class, wrote my presentation for my Middle English class, and today writing my article for my American Gothic class is on the docket.
I've been able to sit in the sun and read, take plenty of walks with Nehi, eaten junk food. Good times.

I've tried the last three months NOT to worry about things going on in NC, because there's nothing I can do about it. But checking my email today made me realize that I'm tired of being a grown up. Chase emailed me to tell me that there was an escrow deficit in my account, and because of this my monthly mortgage payment on the house in NC is going to go up over $100 a month.

Meaning that I am now going to pay $1500 every month. $1500 every month that comes out of  my savings, and doesn't get replaced. $1500 less every month from the savings that is supposed to support my job hunt in two years, move me to said job, and just savings in general.

The house in NC was showing a lot the first couple of months, but nothing recently. And not a single offer, despite my realtor telling me our price is spot on, if not a little below expectations. So every month that goes by my savings gets lower and lower, and there's only so much money in savings. At some point, there's not going to be any more money. The gamble is hoping that the house DOES sell and that I can recoup the money that seem to be speeding out of my savings. And have money to move Dad, and put money down on an apartment for him. We tried getting a new mortgage for him, for just a small condo, but Wells Fargo offered us a mortgage that was almost what we paid now- with a $36,000 lower purchase price than what I bought the current house for, and putting money down (which I didn't with this place) so someone please explain that to me. So, no mortgage. So Dad has been looking for an apartment the past month, to no avail, as no one wants cats. Even with paying extra.
Like I said, I've been trying not to worry about it, because there's nothing I can do about it. Out of my control.
But today, that email about the mortgage payment going up...just makes me want to give up. With the mess last fall of the renter turning out to be a douche- not paying rent, breaking the lease, having to pay for a lawyer to evict, having to clean house up to put it on the marker...I'm tired. I'm a grad student working on my PhD, which by the way, is a full time job all on its own. Reading and writing for classes, teaching classes, on top of participating at conferences, trying to get published, having an active social media profile to get my name and work out there. It's a lot. And most of the time, it's fine. But today just feels like the straw that broke the camel's back.

I know there's nothing I can do to make any of this any different than it is now. But I could seriously use a break here. Just something. I really need to just be able to focus on what I'm trying to get done here in New Mexico. I just need something to break my way.
So today, I don't want to be a grown up. I don't want to have to worry about how I'm going to pay bills, get the house sold, where the money for the mortgage payment is going to come from.
I just don't want to.

I want someone else to do it. Someone else to carry the burden, just for a little while. Just once.