Deadline

Never Ending Stack of Papers

My girlfriend and I are going to be exchanging our writing at the end of next week and I haven’t had a minute to write a word because of all the paper grading. It’s mildly depressing to think that the only thing that will get me a professor job is publications and while I’m adjuncting I only have time to grade papers. It is the most vicious circle.

I’m getting a new stack on Monday–booooo.

I have even considered skipping my work outs to give myself an extra hour of grading. This morning, however, I woke up with my first panic attack in four years and am glad that I didn’t give up exercise. I’ve been struggling to catch my breath all morning.

The job application burden is also making it very difficult to breathe. Perhaps I need to pull an all nighter and get this shit done so I can stop worrying. Once the paper grading and job applications are out I’ll be able to breathe. I can definitely see an all nighter my future. Well, maybe not an all nighter maybe a stay up until 1ish and not have dinner with the boyfriend.

Blah.

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Why Adjuncts Struggle to Break Free

I’ve been part-time teaching at two schools this semester and have been trying to figure out why my grad school professors warned us not be adjuncts. Well, today as I started grading a stack of papers that has recently dwindled from 110 to 90 papers, I now understand my professors’ advice.

In order to live comfortably as an adjunct you must teach at least four to five sections. These sections usually include at least 20 students which means come paper time you’ve got at least 100 papers to grade and comment on. While you’re grading papers and teaching 5 sections, full-time professors are teaching 3 sections, not worrying about money, and working on publications. That’s right, they are writing and focused on their careers, while the only writing you’re doing is the writing on student papers.

Recently a girlfriend of mine, who also has her MFA and was an adjunct for a while and is now a full-time instructor, called me. We spoke at length about focusing on our writing versus our students. She and I are tired of being super teacher. Being super teachers is not going to get us a tenure track jobs. This has always been my goal, and has recently become hers as well.

So, what have we decided to do to brighten our futures? The fifth of every month we will be emailing each other our writing. I’m working on perfecting my novel by adding some sections and lengthening the sections I have, and she wants to pump out some short stories. We attempted to establish some kind of consequence for not doing the writing, but decided that we weren’t afraid of each other so we established a reward instead. When we send each other our work, we will also send each other a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

Our first exchange will occur on the 5th of November, and I’m eager to have a deadline and someone I trust to give me feedback. I’m hoping that this exchange will enable us both to see our work published and lead us towards being tenured professors.

In the end, what it all boils down to is worrying about yourself. In this competitive society, it is necessary to focus on you. It sounds narcissistic and selfish but I don’t really care, I’m in it to win it and if you’re an adjunct who is a super teacher, you should consider focusing on yourself even if it is brief. We must stop feeling guilty if we don’t our students their papers back immediately. Those things can wait–your career can’t.

Are there any super-teachers out there that agree with me? What about those of you who don’t? Why not focus on my own writing versus the writing of my students? Am I horrible person for thinking this way?

In It to Win It

Well, we’re slowly moving towards the middle of the semester.  My students have turned in their first papers and we are trucking through to the next. It is all happening so fast.

As you faithful readers know, I suck at making a schedule for myself. Well, nothing has changed so far. The only schedule I have been sticking to is my workout schedule. While I feel like this is a good start, I still need to get my teaching stuff in order–not having an office at work really blows–and desperately need a writing schedule.

I am thinking because I don’t have to be at work so early on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that I will get my writing done in the mornings. This will enable me to start my day off completely focused on my career.

For those of you future MFA graduates, the time has come to start applying for professor jobs. As much as I hate job hunting it is so important that the cover letters and all that business gets done soon. I only have to update my CV and write a bunch of cover letters, but I’m ready. Nothing, besides myself, can stop me from getting a kick ass professor job for next fall. I’m so ready.

I think all the yoga I’ve been doing has really gotten me focused and has cleared my head of all the BS.

Well, I hope all of you out there are writing your little hearts out. Between this blog, my blogging project, and my own fiction, nonfiction and novel work I know I’m about saturated.

During the past two weeks…

I have gotten a job as a receptionist at a hair salon, had an interview at a college, and been chased by a dog. To put it simply, it’s been crazy.

So first things first the receptionist job:

I need to pay my rent and I was hired the same day I interviewed, I conveniently left off the fact that I have freakin’ Masters degree. When I started about two weeks ago, every one of the stylists kept telling me how I was such a fast learner.  While that is so sweet of them to notice that I’m pretty good at answering the phone and counting cash, all day I sit at the front desk and read and at night when I wait for the salon to close I paint my finger nails. I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I switch out the polish. I would do writing at the front desk but I’m constantly being distracted by customers…How dare they!

While I’m not stoked about working at a job a high schooler– nay a monkey–could handle, it’s a job and having one is better than not having one and I love all things involving beauty so I’ll do this until a salaried job comes along. I learned early on that I am also meeting a plethora of characters that will be the stars of my next few short stories. I will of course tell you all about them in posts to follow. I feel like with this receptionist job I am like many educated Americans, over qualified but needing to pay the bills. I pray to St. Joseph regularly to guide me to find a job that I can be proud of; a job that is stimulating and rewarding. I’ll wait as long as I have to to get it.

Okay so the interview:

I received an e-mail about a week and a half ago that read something along the lines of “I’d like to meet with you about teaching opportunities at Blahbadiblahblah College.” I literally ran around my couch screaming, jumped on a kitchen chair still screaming, raised my hands in the air, put on “I’m So Excited” and danced around in my ugly pjs. After that, while out of breath I called my mother, who also started screaming with excitement.

I arrived totally dressed up, heals and all. I even wore this great dress–I looked good. The department chair had on a cheesy Hawaiian shirt and a ridiculous beard. He didn’t ask me interview questions–you know the “tell me a little bit about yourself.” Instead he told me about the classes that I would be teaching and that he was waiting for a section to open up so I could have it. He then handed me a packet of papers that I needed to bring to HR and sent me on my merry way. He didn’t promise me any sections, just told me if and when one opened up he’d let me know because it was mine.

Well while I was writing this I received that email. I have a meeting on Thursday about it and can’t wait! I will be so happy to be back in the classroom. While I’m so aware that adjuncting is not ideal it’s better than nothing. It’s also better than high school, even though the pay isn’t as good as high school.

My grad school professors will be disappointed that I am adjuncting since it is at the bottom of the world of academia totem pole, but hey the rent isn’t going to pay itself. I’m hoping to get enough sections at schools all over the place so I can live a relatively normal life and buy some new clothes and maybe take a trip somewhere in November.

So the dog…

I am training for a race. It’s on Saturday. It’s my first race. It’s also four miles.

Yesterday when I went running–there were no dogs thank God– it hit me that I’m going to do so badly and will be lucky to finish. I will sign up for another race as having a deadline/goal is the only way that can function.

Training for this race has been nothing but a bunch of signs from the higher powers that be warning me that this Saturday is going to miserable. First, I needed new sneakers. The first few runs that I was training I would go home with shin splints and want to die. Then I bought new sneakers and twisted my freakin’ ankle–again! Then there was the dog.

I was running behind my apartment complex. There is a nature trail that is maintained by the city I live in and there are about twelve miles of trail that you can explore. It’s lovely and there are butterflies everywhere, oh and a creek! It’s great. Okay, so I was getting into the grove, my iPod was jamming and I saw him. The dog was just resting. At first I couldn’t tell if he had a collar, but my instinct told me it wasn’t good that there was no human in sight. I kept jogging and as I approached him he started running towards me. He tried to jump up at me but I pushed him away.

“Sit!”

Nothing happened. He kept jumping. He wasn’t being aggressive, but he was white and there was redness around his eyes, nose, and mouth that made me nervous. He kept jumping.

“Please sit.”

I was getting scared. He ran back to the spot where he originally was and I tried to run past him, but he wouldn’t let me past so I turned around. He started to chase me, so I slowed down. I was crying like a child abandoned at Six Flags. I started walked towards where I came, a cyclist pasted the dog and I and I hoped he would follow him, instead he walked next me. Like I owned him or something.

“What if this dog follows me to my apartment?” I thought, “What do I do?”

I was crying, tears streaming down my already sweaty sticky face. I tried to breathe to calm down, worried that if I got to riled up the dog might attack. I imagined myself trying to get into my apartment with this dog at my side. I pictured myself trying to open the door and angle my body in such a way that he couldn’t get in and I would avoid being malled. I also figured that once I got in my apartment and out of harms way this dog would scratch at my door, howling and then I’d never be able to leave and I’d be forced to live on frozen strawberries.

I kept walking and noticed another runner. A girl, she didn’t have headphones on. By then the dog had plopped down in the grass, but was eyeing me.

“Hey be careful there is a big dog back behind me.”

“Oh, that’s my boyfriend’s dog.”

I just shook. What the hell kind of asshole doesn’t keep their damn rottweiler on a leash?

I kept walking. I noticed that the girl was petting the dog.

The boyfriend saw me and asked me if I was walking his dog.

“No, but he gave me scare.” I burst into the tears shaking my arms.

“Oh, he’s in big trouble,” the boyfriend said laughing.

“You know you should keep your dog on leash. I thought he was going to attack me.”

The boyfriend said nothing. I then heard him call the dog’s name.

Dick.

So that’s been my week. I was telling my mom about this stuff, and she says, “You know, even though you’d think your life would be boring because you’re not in the classroom, you sure know how to find adventure.”

Boy, you don’t have to tell me twice.

Goals Goals GOOOOOOOALLLLLLS!

Sitting next to me is my revised thesis which still needs revising. While I’m sure I will feel it needs perpetual revision, this weekend I found myself unable to get anything writing related done. My final final final draft is due to my committee on the 7th. So I basically have about 10 days to get it done.  This weekend I instead starting making big plans for the up and coming months.

Because of my brilliant planning, I am done teaching any new literature to my high schoolers, and have actually made copies of just about everything I’m going to need for the rest of the year. There are a few things here and there that will need copying, but there is hardly any homework to grade, because most of it will be drafts of their final paper. I’m looking forward to summer, because these past few months of teaching have taken it out of me.

I will say that I think teaching this past semester, at the high school, has forced me to be productive. Last night while watching whatever was on TBS and then later North by Northwest, I reorganized all my previous teaching materials into psychotically organized binders. I still have to do the same with my teaching stuff at work, but once it’s done I’ll be good to go.

Spending this past semester working on my thesis and teaching high school, I have learned a lot about what direction I’d like to take and teaching high school is not it.  It could be that I’ve had  a rough experience, but I do find that I’m too invested in writing and this is why teaching at the secondary level is not for me.

I’ve been so eager to get out of the high school that I decided sometime this past week that I needed to start packing up my classroom.  While it may be premature, because they may ask me back, I have found myself thinking about what papers I’ll be recycling and which papers I will be organizing into binders. Also, some of the old teacher’s things are still in my classroom and frankly I would like to have the whole room packed up and ready to go by the 8th.

My writing goals to be completed by August:

1)  To write another food essay

2) To write two to three short stories (in the first person) my thesis is in the third and I’ve been itching to write in a character’s voice

3) To publish some more work (at least one)

4) To get a job at the college or university level (this will mostly depend on the market but I have faith that my CV is pretty good and will land me a job)

5) To be halfway done with major revisions to my thesis as I work towards having it ready to send to publishers.

Some reading goals:

I’d like to finish reading some books I started and didn’t finish including:

The Time Traveler’s Wife

-The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

-The Road

I’d also like to finally read:

-Jane Eyre ( I know how I have not read it yet)

Love in the Time of Cholera

-Dante’s Inferno

Goals that have nothing to do with writing or reading

1) I’d like to get back into my running routine. My sprained ankle and laziness has gotten me into a running rut.

2) Finally get my apartment decorated–this will require funding and right now the money situation doesn’t look good.

Well, I feel good having written down some goals. It always makes them more official when you know some people will be reading them and you have to live up to them. I’m thinking I’ll update you guys on my progress after my thesis defense.

Holy crap I’m so close.

 

Proofread This

My thesis essay is sitting next to me. All I have to do is proofread it and email it to my chair. Get excited.

I’m stoked about this, although today has got to be the day that tops my worst teaching day ever. Thank God for positives like finishing up grad school stuff.  If today wasn’t Friday I would have had to call a substitute teacher in, because if I had to look into the eyes of those demon children for one more day this week it would not have ended well.

Things to look forward to this weekend:

Working out

Small revisions to my novel

Possible sections to be added to my novel (still haven’t decided)

My tomato plant is starting flower, little baby tomatoes are a great way to end a rough week

Revisions: CHECK!

Well, I’m now one step closer to graduation in August.

This afternoon I finally finished revising my thesis. While I know I’m not completely finished (there are some minor additions and subtractions that I need to do) I’m really close to being done.

When I got to my last ten pages I broke down in tears. I couldn’t breathe, but I was smiling. It’s crazy to be able to see the light at the end of an oh-so-dark tunnel.

I’m super excited to be inching close to a goal that I’ve had for so many years. I’m also stoked because once I’m completely done I can start working on some new projects that have been marinating in my brain. I have a ton of short stories I’d like to write, and I’m cooking up a nonfiction piece that I’m eager to get into.

Even though it’s very exciting I still have a twenty page essay that I need to write and I have to get all the formatting on point. I know I’m really close to getting it done and don’t want to forget about my end goal.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on this essay and working with the graduate college on my formatting. I’ll be defending some time in June and then holy crap I’ll really be One Mean MFA!

God-willing I’ll find a job that doesn’t require parents calling me to tell me I’m too mean. More on the high school teaching later.

For now I think I’ll celebrate with a much-needed workout!

Later tonight, I actually get to have my boyfriend back because the past two weeks we’ve both been so busy that we have barely seen each other. It’s been a lot of phone calls that go something like this…

HIM: Am I coming over for dinner tonight?

ME: Sorry, I’m not quite done with this project.

HIM: No worries.

or

ME: Sorry I was going to make dinner for us but this is taking longer than expected.

HIM: No worries.

or

HIM: I’m not going to be coming over.

ME: Why?

HIM: I don’t want to be a distraction.

ME: Oh, fine….

This has been life for the past two weeks. I’m glad I’ll be able to start cooking for someone other than myself.

REVISIONS CHECK!