Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Last Week Before...

This is the last week of school.

Summer begins in two days.

Are you understanding what I am saying right now? I am saying that the semester is over!

Today and tomorrow I have a few straggling class meetings, Thursday I have to grade and officially submit the rest of my grades, and then Friday--beautiful Friday--summer vacation officially begins!

Friday is named Day 1 of the next 100 Days adventure which I will be happily pursuing this lovely summer. I have so many plans, and in some cases, the lack of plans is as appealing as the plans themselves! At any rate, here are my summer plans:

-- Write EVERY DAY and produce a complete screenplay before the summer is over (at least)
-- Go on adventures daily
-- Remodel Treasured Details
-- Go to Tennessee
-- Go to Kansas
-- Go to Montana
-- Go to California
-- Go to some concerts for some bands I love! (I have my eye on Bon Iver and Josh Groban in July--separately, by the way)
-- Spend quality time with friends and family
-- Be stress free!
-- Find a job

Old People: My Future

While being a student taught me what I needed to know about personal responsibility, learning, using common sense, and making contacts, being a teacher has taught me something quite different. The lessons learned have been a direct result of these different perspectives on education and academia, I feel, and although some of the lessons have been painfully deceiving and then in turn painfully revealing, they've been useful.

Four years in academia--five, if you count the year I spent as a supplemental instructor--has shown me a lot about the inner workings of that mysterious class of people I once regarded as celebrities: professors. I love my professors, still love them! Don't mistake what I am saying for an attempt to slander them backhandedly. In some ways, I still think of my professors as something of celebrity status because of the way they carefully and deliberately revealed to us the deepest secrets of the writers and texts that we loved. Because they were a part of the grand scheme that included our beloved literature, they were classed with that literature as infamous. Maybe that was where we went wrong then, I don't know. At any rate, it didn't take me long in the academic circle to realize that I had misunderstood most of what I was seeing from my undergraduate desk, and later, I realized, even more of what had been misrepresented by myself over my own undergraduates' desks.

The longer I spend my time mingling with members of university faculty--full professors or otherwise--the more I am surprised by what I learn. Granted, I am much less surprised now than I once was, when I first made my transition from one to the other side of the one-way mirror of academia.

Over the past five years, I have heard more professors than I want to admit say how much they wish they had done something else with their lives. In part, I dare not criticize them. After all, teaching never was my particular goal in life either. I've heard professors say grimly that we were all there because we loved to read, or that they wished they would have followed this dream or that dream, become independent novelists, whatever. It makes me sad to think of someone living this kind of drudgery (believe me, five years is enough to show me the career for what it is!) and all that time wishing they had done something else. It makes me wonder, why didn't they do something else then...really?

I think a lot of people fail to follow their dreams for one reason or another, but the point is that it is up to each person individually to decide if they can come to terms with giving up their dreams. There has to be a point in life when one looks at the dreams, faded and dust-covered, lying out on the table and admits that it's too late for some of them. As I grow older, I can imagine the sense of tiredness that enables the acceptance, but the younger part of me, the part that fights really hard against difficulties, tells me not to accept acceptance, not without raging epic war.

There are two dreams I don't want to part with, and these dreams used to not play very nicely together, but they're learning to get along. The first places me as a successful screenwriter learning to direct and produce my own films. The second is much more commonplace and yet as appealing. It places me into a small country house, as a wife and a mother (of one, perhaps two), doing mission work, living a happy and simple life. And oddly enough, that dream still gives me a room of my own where I write on the side. Apparently the dreams I have lead unquestionably toward a path of writing, and both lead me likewise to a path away from academia. I believe that my real dream is to support myself on my writing and my own creative work. I see too many people slaving away, unhappily, for a paycheck that is really little more than what they could earn working much more happily on their own.

So, that's what I want. Observation has spoken to me. The examples I've seen have helped me to see my future self, far down this same path, and I don't like her. She really can't play nicely with the other two dreams.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Photography Day

With the knowledge that school is only days away from completely over and summer vacation is beginning very soon, there is such a load lifted off of me. I have big plans for the next 100 days that will be my summer vacation, and yet right now, with the end only at hand, I can't seem to do much that is productive. All I want to do is relax and enjoy a little bit of free time for a change.

These are some of the things that have characterized my day so far.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Frustration (to the Third Power)

The end of the semester is usually supposed to be a time of rejoicing and excitement over approaching summer, but this is always the week when the seriousness of my stress begins to trump all optimism. I am nervous for my students, but also nervous for me because my handiwork--how well I taught my students and how well they are able to produce writing, in turn--is going to be showcased for the rest of the department to see. Slightly nerve-wracking. I always know how everything becomes such a complicated and tangled mess right before the semester ends, but generally it all seems to get somewhat untangled enough for me to emerge mostly alive. I used to think it was chaos when I was a student trying to get out of the mess, but it's actually much more difficult as a teacher (to the third power, at least!) Instead of having one person to keep track of, I have a lesser degree of responsibility for about 100 people, give or take depending on attendance records and the like. Regardless, as I grade 5 classes worth of final portfolios in the next week (going into hiding, as you can imagine) I am certain to be more than ready for the start of summer vacation at the end...