Archive for August, 2007

Concise dictionary of twenty-three languages

Time to learn another language!  While I was at conference #2, I picked up two comp. classes at the community college closest to my house (about 6 miles away, also easily accessible by bus), and yesterday I went there to make face-to-face contact with the department chair and to attend an adjunct orientation.  The pay, I was happy to learn, is near the top of adjunct pay in the state (about 30% higher than 2YC).  And health insurance is obtainable by part-timers after x terms of teaching.  I liked the dept chair and the dept secretary, who, as they explained to me that I must never let anyone into the class who is not on the roster without the printed slip that affirms that they have tested into this level of comp., performed something like a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song:

“I was head of the yearbook in high school.”  “And editor of the newspaper.”  “The principal used to ask me to proofread his letters.”  “And my English teacher said I was the best she’d ever seen.” “But see, we had this party the night before the placement test.” “And I guess I stayed up too late and also I forgot my pencil.” “I don’t know why I placed so low.” “I was having a bad day.” “I was hung over.” “And my car wouldn’t start.” “And I couldn’t find the room.”  “I know I should be in this class.” “The class I’m in is full of idiots.” “I’ve always gotten A’s in English.” “Please, please, please, please, please.”  And in unison: “I have to be in this class!”

Seriously, they were a riot.

So we’ll see how it goes.  The question is how much work to take on at 2YC in the fall, and how to sort it all out into a schedule that will not make me or my family miserable, while still leaving some blocks of time to work on my diss.  (I also have an evening class one night a week at BAC.)  Stubb should know more about his work schedule shortly, and then I can let 2YC know what classes I need to drop.  (If this sounds cavalier, rest assured it is standard practice at 2YC.  There are other people who would like to add classes, and the fall term there doesn’t start until October, so there’s time to sort it all out.)

Meanwhile, 2YC’s summer term continues.  The new CC (perhaps I should call it Nearby CC, or NCC) is on semesters and starts next week. 

NCC will be the fourth school I’ve taught at in this large metropolitan area: the others are Graduate University, 2YC, and BAC, and of course in January I start at the other RU, which will be number five.  I’ve also taught at another RU, another CC, and a SLAC.  Does this make me look versatile, or just flaky?  And will I ever have just one job that provides all my income and decent benefits?  Stay tuned.

The greyhound in the leash

Greetings from conference #2, which is enormously stimulating, interesting, and fun, and where I’m enjoying the distance from all the frustrations caused by my weird work life.  I’m not sleeping that well–all the stimulation–and in my conversations about this with the women on my hallway, I’m beginning to perceive that half the American creative class is on Ambien.  Since most of the doors don’t lock, let’s just hope that none of them wake up in the night and come in to strangle me.  Or, for that matter, wake up in the night, stagger down to the kitchen and eat all the muffins for next morning’s breakfast.

Today’s title comes from a book that is on the shelf near where I am sitting writing this.  I’ve no idea what the book is about; it’s by someone called Joyce Horner.  Instead of reaching slightly more than an arm’s length away and taking the book off the shelf, and in a moment that pretty much defines what reading in the 21st century is about, I’ve Googled the author and title and learned that Joyce Horner was an English-born writer who taught at Mt. Holyoke College from 1944 until 1969.  This was one of her two novels.  I have not learned why the greyhound is in rather than on the leash, and I’m not going to, because I’m going to the nearby college town for lunch with two of my favorite people in the world.  Ta.

Ordinary love and good will

I’m slowly making my way through Dean Dad’s archives.  That blog, which is cogent, well-written, funny and full of good information, has really been poking me to wake up and smell the coffee about the situation at 2YC.  (I described that situation here; all that changes in the fall is that I stop teaching at GU, jack up the number of courses at 2YC, and look forward to starting the M.A. course I’ll teach at another RU in the spring.)  Recently Dean Dad told a correspondent, “Adjunct gigs were never designed to be lived on. Some people try it, but it’s incredibly hard, and it was never meant to be done in the first place.”  Well, yeah, I guess.  Or, as one of my 2YC colleagues says, “This place is a great part-time job.”  Thing is, most of us–and you wouldn’t believe how good, serious, and hardworking most of the faculty are–almost all of us are doing it as a full-time job, just taking on more and more classes, and maybe a class or two elsewhere, at a public CC or another local college. 

In going to conference #2, I’m taking a financial hit because we’re paid per class meeting and I’ll be missing some class meetings (though, of course, not the planning and grading that go with them).  A couple of colleagues are subbing for me, and 2YC will pay them at their own per-class rates (one has a higher rate, because of more seniority; one has a lower rate, because of less seniority and no M.A.).  It works out to a tiny savings on 2YC’s part, which is probably canceled out by the extra time the payroll administrator will spend on adjusting their pay up and mine down. 

In industries other than higher ed, this scenario probably wouldn’t raise eyebrows.  If you want to take time off work to go to a convention of, say, model railroading enthusiasts, why should your employer pay you for working while you’re away?  Of course, in other industries you might be piling up vacation time.  In the years I’ve been involved with writers’ conference #1, I’ve been deeply impressed by how people plan all year to be able to attend; they save up the vacation time, sock away the cash, and make elaborate arrangements for the care of their children and pets.  Every year, at least one highly promising participant’s financial/employment/personal situation crashes and they don’t show.  [Every year, too, we have college and high-school teachers (and M.F.A. candidates, too) whose institutions are chipping in some or all of the cost of their tuition and expenses.]

Since I don’t teach creative writing at 2YC, the institution doesn’t really have as clear a stake in my attending this conference as they might if I were going to CCCC.  (Not that they would give me time off to do that, either, let alone pay my registration fee or plane ticket.)  A reasonable person might also point out that part of the reason I am going to conference #2 is to continue to build toward my goal of leaving 2YC; why would they want to do anything to make that easier?  To which I’d probably reply that if I felt that 2YC had more commitment to my development as an employee, I wouldn’t be so anxious to leave.  I have great colleagues there, and although it’s true that our students are not there to study English, it can be hugely rewarding to help people who loathe and fear writing to figure out strategies for doing it effectively and with less angst.  Some of the students like writing just fine, but have big organizational and grammar problems that I can help to untangle if they’re willing to work at it.  My immediate supervisors are good bosses, and the administrator of the department is a gem.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, the flexibility is an advantage (an advantage which costs the school nothing, and which works to their benefit as well).

And 2YC does, by the way, get some mileage out of the professional activities it does nothing to support.  Since 2YC is a technical/design school, they hire major-subject instructors who are professionally active, and the school website and recruitment materials all boast about the faculty’s professional memberships, activities, publications, art shows, etc.  The general-ed faculty get the same treatment; my publications and professional activities, as well as my degrees, are listed on the 2YC website (and, I’m told, the gen-ed faculty’s degrees and professional activities looked great on the last round of regional accreditation paperwork).  They just don’t want to absorb any of the costs of building a really good faculty.

I suppose what this really means is that I need to stop a) fuming and b) attempting to make a better life for myself at 2YC, and keep my eye on the things that will enable me to move to an institution that’s better suited to what I have to offer, and willing to compensate me more appropriately–not just pay, but things like a bit of research support and the ability to miss a class once in a while for a professional obligation without getting the paycheck docked.  The things that will make that possible are finishing the dissertation, finishing the second book, keeping active professionally (hello, conference #2), continuing to teach well at 2YC and BAC, and doing an absolutely kick-ass job at New RU in the spring.

Well, at least I know what I need to do.

Moominsummer madness

Snork Maiden

Finally came up with a name for my daughter: The Snork Maiden, from the Moomintroll books. 

I have five boys roaming my house right now, along with the Snork Maiden: our twelve-year-old neighbor from across the street, modeling his Darth Vader costume; the Snork Maiden’s cousin, whom I’ll call Snufkin (also a Moomin reference); two five-year-old neighbors; and one four-year-old neighbor.   For the moment, all are getting along well, either playing with Legos or watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(and if you think that might be a little scary for the smaller ones, rest assured that our TV is small and unintimidating). 

In about ten minutes, I have to gather everyone up, make them find their shoes, send the other kids home to their houses, and take the Snork Maiden and Snufkin over to Snufkin’s place, where we’ll babysit Snufkin’s new tiny brother so that his exhausted parents can go out for a quick dinner and fall asleep with their noses in their spaghetti.

One of the great features of this summer, not yet mentioned by me, is the acquisition of a brand-new nephew (five weeks old, Stubb’s brother’s son) and an even more brand-new niece (even more brand-new, my sister’s daughter).  Brand-new niece is in the hospital, lightly toasting under the bili-lights to get rid of a case of jaundice.  I’ll be going over there to check up on them all after Stubb gets home. 

I’d like to blog about the administrative b.s. I’m currently negotiating at 2YC, but the short version is that I probably shouldn’t be teaching at such an essentially exploitative institution in the first place. 

The Wolf and the Crane 

  A wolf who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a Crane, for a
large sum, to put her head into his mouth and draw out the bone.
When the Crane had extracted the bone and demanded the promised
payment, the Wolf, grinning and grinding his teeth, exclaimed:
“Why, you have surely already had a sufficient recompense, in
having been permitted to draw out your head in safety from the
mouth and jaws of a wolf.” 

In serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you
escape injury for your pains. 

(Source: Aesop’sFables.com)

Swamp thing

I picked “Swamp thing” as the title of this post because the last couple of days have been quite a slog, but I now have “Wild Thing” playing in my head AND IT WON’T STOP.  I’m very susceptible to such earworms, and for some reason they seem to peak just as I’m going into the classroom to teach. 

Wild thing. . .

You make my heart sing. . .

You make everything. . .groovy

I’ll find myself humming as I unpack my books and papers, then look up and find the students staring.  It’s always better to resist the urge to tell them what song has taken up residence in my head.

Can I just say, I’m rather proud of myself for making it through the last couple of days.  My job interview was for teaching a class in a master’s program at an RU here in the city where I live (not my own GU), and I was offered the course for the spring of next year.  Yay me.  I met with my diss. director, which was stressful but basically productive.  I taught two classes that actually both went reasonably well.  And all this even though I am still, frankly, effing exhausted.

Still have to finish grading my GU finals, but I do think the roughest part of the week is over.  It may be that anticipating it was worse than actually doing it.

The fermata

This week-and-a-bit is the part I probably won’t remember later on: the part where I hurry to catch up on everything I got behind on while I was away, and hurry to get ahead so that I can go away again.  I realize that you all have plenty of things of your own to do, and may not be entertained by a long recitation of all the things I have to do.  But can I just say: there’s teaching.  And grading–oh, lots of grading.  There’s writing.  There’s a meeting with my dissertation director.  There’s family stuff.  And there’s a job interview.  Okay?  And Stubb is having a heavy week as well–not to mention that he did almost all of the day-to-day kid stuff last week and will do it all while I am away. 

The strain of this week will disappear when it’s done, though.  I won’t really remember it afterwards.  I’ll remember the idea of it, but not how anxious I felt, how frustrated and burdened and overloaded.  I might even look back, during a slower period, and think how lucky I was to have all that going on.  For example, this next event I’m headed to–I’ve applied for that in the past and not gotten in.  I’m going, so I’m feeling stressed about getting ready to go, but if I weren’t going, I would probably be sulking about it. 

Part of my mood is probably just that conference #1 is a very tiring one.  I have lots of responsibilities during it, and have to interact with a lot of people.  It’s very enjoyable, and it all went tremendously well this year.  But it’s normal for me to be tired and out of sorts afterwards, and in years when I am not teaching in the summer, it’s usually a lost week afterwards.  I can’t afford that this week, but there’s clearly going to be some fallout.  And early bedtimes. 

Child of mine

Yesterday morning, I was up early to go to the first event at the conference.  We’re all in one room with two double beds (the owner of the house has two grown sons who visit).  As I stood near where my daughter was sleeping, she turned onto her back, stretched, and sleepily opened her eyes.  When she saw me, she smiled–so simply and spontaneously that my heart turned over,–closed her eyes, and went back to sleep.  What I thought was, “I guess she really does like me.”  Not that I didn’t think she liked me, but you know, children are hardwired to make you attach to them; what they actually feel about you of their own volition is only partially apparent.  Somehow that fleeting, half-conscious smile was more moving to me than, say, her climbing into my lap, throwing her arms around me, and saying, “I love you, Mommy”–although obviously that’s pretty great, too.

I have not seen a lot of Stubb and the kid (who really needs a pseudonym of her own at this point) the last few days.  And about ten days after we get home, I go off again, on my own this time, for a different conference and will be gone for another ten days or so, by far the longest time I’ve been apart from her.  I think she will do fine, and enjoy the time with Stubb, but I’m feeling a bit tense about it in a generic motherly sort of way.  Perhaps that’s part of why the smile moved me so.