professor

The End of the Hunt: Part 2

I was mentally shopping for a new wardrobe, specifically some fabulous shoes, when I called HR. I called because I’m terribly impatient, and I wanted to know what the deal was. Where was my contract? What was I going to get paid? When was orientation?

I should mention I don’t have a teaching license. For the past three-four years I’ve been putting off getting my license. It’s probably because I want to be a tenure-track professor, but I’m not. I was a lowly adjunct. Getting a license has been a very low on my list of priorities, writing and getting full-time work has been a first (and I guess the wedding planning). However, I am pretty specialized in the subject of writing and literature, more so than necessary to teach high school. Right?

Wrong.

For a week I was jerked around by HR. I couldn’t get them on the phone and when I did no one could answer my questions. The thing is, I don’t give up that easily. I finally got my recruiter on the phone after three emails, two voicemails, and at least three messages with secretaries. I told you, I’m a bit of a psycho.

“Hi, this is One Mean MFA, I emailed about my hiring and lateral entry status.”

“Oh, yes, hi.”

“Hi, I’m really sorry. I’m sure all my calls and emails are driving you crazy.”

“Well….” this was followed by an awkward laugh.

“I did email you back.”

“You did? I never got it?”

“Yep, my sent messages confirms it.” Well, my freakin’ inbox is empty, so you’re a liar.

“Hmmm, I don’t see anything here.”

“Well after looking at your transcripts, it’s clear you’re not eligible for lateral entry.”

“Excuse me.”

“You’re GPA is too low.”

“How is that possible?”

What the hell?

Turns out I had accidentally sent transcripts from undergrad, forgetting I’d taken a chemistry class that I’d failed during undergrad that I had intended on transferring. Ah how quickly I had repressed my pre-med adventures and failures. Pre-med. What the hell was I thinking. Anyway, the transcript didn’t have anything from my master’s degree.

So, I dropped 40 bucks and had  my transcripts from grad school sent to me instead of HR as instructed. I had them sent to me so I could have them scanned at Staples to then email them to HR. What a  clusterf*#&.

Two days later I actually received a call from HR.

“One Mean MFA?”

“Yes, this is she.”

“I have [insert generic name of HR staff person here] on the line. I’m going to transfer you so she can explain your lateral entry status.”

Immediately I knew something was wrong. Had everything been okay, I would have simply been told that I was good to go and been given further instruction. Instead, I was being transferred to some lady who was about to tell me I didn’t have a Goddamn job.

“One Mean MFA?”

“Yes?”

“Unfortunately you’re not approved for lateral entry.”

“What?” I remember standing in my kitchen in my workout clothes. I had just come back from a run.

“You’re missing classes and aren’t qualified to teach high school English.”

“How is that possible? I have a master’s degree.” I couldn’t breathe and started shaking.

“The state requirements changed July 1st, lateral entry applicants teaching English are required to have six credit hours of grammar, six credit hours of linguistics, six credit hours of British Lit, six credit hours of American Lit, six credit hours of journalism….” she just kept listing all these classes: adolescent lit, child developement, and on and on. Seriously, who takes six hours of flippin’ grammar.

“But…” I held onto the kitchen counter, “this is so upsetting.”

She kept talking but all I kept saying was, “This is just so upsetting. I can’t believe it.”

The HR rep on the phone was cold and didn’t even say sorry for the misunderstanding. I even went on about how the state and county’s website had not listed those changes even though almost a month had passed.

“Well, what are you going to do? That’s life.” It was the only words that I could think of to end the phone call.

The phone call ended, and I dropped to the ground shaking.

 

The End of the Hunt: The Conclusion will be up soon. Thanks for hanging on and reading on.

 

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The String Theory and Preventing Depression

Back in the day, when I was a science nerd I did a ton of research on time travel. Okay, it wasn’t that much and it was for this project my AP Physics teacher offered for extra credit. Extra Credit + AP Student = Inevitable. The project was called “Teacher for a Day.” We were asked to pick a top in physics that interested us and had to give a 50 minute lesson. I’m realizing now that my physics teacher was a genius and got out of teaching about 10 classes. The spots for Teacher for a Day were limited and, of course, I was a hardcore AP student so I snagged one (I took 6 AP classes in one year, ridiculous. I was also in every club, hardcore band and drama geek– I would have Rachel Berry look like a cool kid).

Well, what I learned from my high school level research in time travel was that there are many different theories and the one that made the most sense to me was the String Theory.

I’m not going to go into a a big detailed explanation about the String Theory. Simply click on the Wikipediea article I’ve linked to above and  then come back and finish reading this. I’m an English teacher not a science teacher. I couldn’t explain my way around Mitochondria, inertia, or stoichiomtery (bleh chemistry blows). Basically with the String Theory (if I’m remember it correctly) there are many options for how your life can go (hence the strings) and when you time travel with the String Theory you can see the different “strings.” Also, one action in one string can impact another or all of the other strings–i.e.having a child.  I’m a little worried that if any physics people read this they might rip me a new one for how inaccurate this is. Whatever. I’m a writer, not a scienctist. There are plenty of reasons why medical school never panned out for me (cough cough:: 2.5 Cumulative GPA in undergrad) among other things (my inability to comprehend chemistry).

So why I am talking about this?

Today, as I applied for jobs that paid under ten dollars an hour and was spoken to like a moron at one of the retail outlets where I dropped off an application, I thought about the other directions my life could have taken. I look at my friends from college who live in New York, L.A., D.C.. and I think where the eff did I go wrong? Granted I have a wonder future FH and if life on another string didn’t include him, I’m honestly not interested. Still I wonder what my life is like had I pursued my dream to live life in New York City (oh no I’ve said too much) for awhile. Tough it out. Try the whole “life in publishing” thing. I never visualized myself wondering if I was going to be able to pay next month’s bills.

Well, who does?

It’s easy to tell people that they have to sacrifice and suffer before things get good, but I guess with facebook and things like that we don’t see our successful friends suffering. We only see them succeeding. God knows I don’t really like to post about how I cried my eyes out applying to be a freakin’ bank teller or a nanny or a–gulp–waitress. When I’m working full time, I’ll happily post a status that says, “I’ve got a full time job at Blank University” or wherever.

In the meantime, every time I apply for some crappy job –tomorrow I’m very likely to get a job as a waitress or hostess. Whatever. I can’t even buy gas or groceries–I get a little more depressed and wonder what if I’d become a band teacher, or what if I’d moved to New York, or whatever. It’s a very destructive way of thinking and frankly I blame my physics teacher for implanting the idea that the String Theory is actually possible and that wormholes are the key to time travel. Gosh darn it.

Seriously though, you can’t tell me that you haven’t ever wondered. Haven’t you?

I know there is no point in this wondering. I can’t go back and even if I could the grass is always greener…

Stupid cliches and how they are always right.

I guess, this suffering is good. Maybe it will make me a stronger writer. What do you think? Am I improving? Probably just more of a complainer.

As I think about how I feel like a crazy wanderer I’m going to end on a quote (something I vehemently tell my students NOT to do).

“Not all who wander are lost.” –Tolkien

God, I wish I could feel that way.

Yeah, I couldn’t end on quote. It would have killed me.

 

 

Do You Have a Workshop Style?

During the Spring semester I organized a three session community workshop for the summer. It’s been a small group (three to four people), but it’s been fun. I have always loved workshops. Yes, even when I bitched about workshops here, I still enjoyed them more than I hated them. That is of course, with the exception of hating the one and only poetry workshop I took during grad school. Poets and prose writers are so different, and frankly, I don’t really understand how poets, who have the reputation of being so sensitive, can be so effing mean. Anyway, I digress. The community workshop has been such a pleasure.

When I emailed TC about it, TC was very supportive and said something about how it was great how I had created an opportunity to teach something I like. This has been my teaching challenge, feeling nourished. The workshop has been quite fulfilling. I’m totally enjoying it.

Of the four participants, two of them have never been workshopped. Of those two only one of them has been writing regularly, the other submitted this mishmash of a story that wasn’t actually a story and turned out to be chunks of a bigger piece. The other two participants have been in workshops before, and I get the impression that they were the top of the class, but in a group where the writing was rough. They are also good friends, and one is clearly more talented than the other.

When teaching a workshop, I am generally pretty free spirited. This is actually my teaching M.O. I don’t like to dictate topics, or length–really anything. This is so unlike how I am in my life. I’m not really free spirited, although on occasion I am spontaneous. When I am being workshopped, I’m quiet and like to listen and take notes. I’ve noticed that my two veterans don’t take notes when they are being workshopped. How do they remember what people said, and how do the mark the moments that need to be fixed? They also talk a lot after they have been workshopped. They don’t ask questions, they instead explain and give excuses for why their piece wasn’t working, or why the group is wrong.  Personally, I don’t like to talk after I’ve been critiqued, unless I have a question, but that is just me. What is your workshopping/being workshopped style?

Still, it is so fun to be talking about writing with people who are just getting into it. It’s also great to discuss fiction with people who want to be there and are prepared.

Man, I needed this.

A Livable Space, Finally

So, I used to work at two schools. As of right now, I only have sections for the fall at one of the schools (the one I like better). Final exam at the school I hate (let’s call it the College Where We Nurture Our Students Instead of Teach Them –CWWNOSITT–okay that’s too long) was Thursday night. At the end of every semester my boss (who hates my teaching style because apparently I’m not sensitive enough) likes to meet with each of the instructors in the remedial program. At the meeting we discuss the semester, teaching pedagogy, and our growth as instructors. Well this semester I will not be driving an hour to and from this meeting.

I’ve been emailing my boss for about two weeks about summer sections and the only email I’ve received from my boss is about a student complaint. So yeah, I’m going to be a prissy little brat and not go to this meeting. On Thursday, after I had graded all the exams I put all the necessary materials into an interoffice mail envelope and drove out of the parking lot like the apocalypse was coming.

Now, I only have four sections to worry about (that’s right readers I taught six sections this semester). I spent today tidying up my apartment. As you know, I hate working in a mess. I’m pretty sure  my lack of productivity was in part because my apartment looked like a bomb went off all semester. For the first time since I moved in (December), my apartment is neat and clean–except for my workspace (irony much) which I will attend to once I’m done with the paper grading.

As I look around my little one bedroom haven, I’m relieved. I feel like I can now get my work done. I’ll be decorating (a first for me) starting on Friday. I have these beautiful art prints of famous book covers that I’ve been itching to frame and hang. Since my apartment is a big fat library, this decor will be appropriate. I’ll take some photos when I’m all done and show you my awesome space.

While I’m kind of freaking out that I don’t know where my June income is coming, it feels good to finally want to hangout in my apartment. It’s been way too long.

Maybe a party is order. By party I mean book club meeting.

Full Plate

Yeah, so I haven’t been sleeping. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know this isn’t something new. I’ve had trouble sleeping for a long time. I think I remember it beginning to be a problem around my sophomore year of college. I would imagine that if any psychologists have been reading my blog they would probably find enough evidence to suggest that I’m depressed. I mean look up the symptoms: sad mood, ruts, weight gain, loss of interest in activities, and of course, lack of sleep. It’s all there people.

The thing is I don’t think I’m depressed, I just think I have too much on my plate.

My first year out of college I started teaching high school. It was a stressful job because a) I’d never done it before, and b) I taught super honors students who were to be frank, pains in the ass. I also was living at home, which can make any person go insane. I started getting panic attacks. I had to wear one of the heart monitors for a week. You want to know when my heart raced the most? When I was driving home from work. That’s right people, when I was headed away from my job. Now if that doesn’t freak you out…

Anyway.

My panic attacks subsided in grad school. Every once in a while I got a panic attack, where I couldn’t breath or my heart was racing so fast, or both. I usually got panic attacks towards the ends of semesters when I had papers due, and had to grade my student papers as well. The ability to sleep, never returned. On occasion, if I’m wicked tired or have been awake for a long time, or had a great workout I’ll be able to conk out, but this is rare, if ever.

Well this semester the panic attacks are back, and with a vengeance. I’m not having one right now, but I have been getting them more often that I like to admit. When I first started having anxiety it was during the day, lately though, I’ve been having panic attacks in the middle of the night. I wake up from them.

Oftentimes, I’ll have had a nightmare. Two nights ago I dreamt about a serial killing priest–I’ve been reading the Dexter series–a few nights before that I dreamt that my wedding dress came in, but it was the wrong size, and I had to lose like 50 pounds in 2 weeks to fit into it–I’ve been watching a lot of Girl Meets Gown, and Say Yes to the Dress (oh shush, you know I’ve been good about the wedding talk). I wake up because I need air, because my heart feels like it is attached to an explosive.

Last night, I woke up and all I could think about was the papers I needed to grade. It was ridiculous.

My plate is full. I teach an absurd amount of classes. Beckettian even. I have about 120 students all of them turning in an average of 4 papers a semester, not to mention the presentations. I get paid part-time,  but I work overtime. Most instructors (not tenure track professors) teach 4 sections a semester. Four sections is manageable. Six is not.

Oh and did I mention I’m planning a long distance wedding.

Okay, I know that there are a lot you out there who have way more on your plates. Honestly, I’m blessed that I don’t have to worry about a lot of things like paying my bills, my health (knock on wood), the well-being of children,  and other issues that plague others. ( I’m not saying children are a plague–Freudian slip?).

My problem isn’t that I have a lot on my plate (that’s part of it, but not the whole thing). My problem is that I don’t know how to handle the things on my plate.

And so for the first time in almost four years, I’m dealing with panic attacks in the only way I know how. And that means shutting the hell up and getting my crap done.

Sometimes, that’s just good enough.

Here’s to trying.

An Open Letter Rant

Dearest Students who turn their work in late and then want me to rush to grade it,

Sorry, no can do. You’re not special, and I have over 100 students who turned their work in on-time. Maybe when you learn to follow instruction, you too, can get your grades when everyone else does. Frankly, you should feel privileged and lucky to have a professor nice enough to accept your work.

What I’m trying to say is shut it. Got it?

Thanks.

The One and Only,

One Mean Mother-f-ing MFA

I Am Pond Scum

This afternoon my best friend called me . I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and was actually starting to get worried about her, but of course she’s just fine. We’re the type of friends who can go months without speaking and then pick up a conversation right where we left off. She and I are one soul separated into two bodies. She is definitely the more spontaneous one, but I too go through phases of impulse and seclusion the way she does. The reason we’ve been friends for as long as we have is because we’re able to see and understand each other so thoroughly. She can hear things in my voice, and see things in my face that no one else can.  Today she told me I sounded unhappy on the phone which made me even more sad, than apparently I already am.

I do feel like I haven’t been completely satisfied with my life, but I think things could be a lot worse. The economy has played a huge role in my dissatisfaction. The thing is, I feel like I’m lucky. I can still afford to put gas in my car and have cable, internet, and food in my fridge. It could be worse. Still, I’m not happy. Although maybe I’m not “burning the midnight oil” enough. Tonight after I turned off the TV, I thought, “you should stop watching all of this television.” I really should. Although, I don’t think I watch that much TV; I think everyone can watch less.

She told me I sounded unhappy with my work.

My whole life I knew I was going to be a teacher. Yeah, I started college with the idea of becoming a doctor, only because I thought that was what my parents wanted. My undergraduate degree was very expensive, and my parents definitely didn’t encourage me to go into education. They said it was stupid to go to school for teaching and then graduate with students loans. Maybe they were right.

My mother still doesn’t understand why I got an MFA in writing. “You should’ve gotten an MBA, now that’s a useful master’s degree.”

The fact that I could give two shits about the business world is meaningless.

“You know, you could have been a nurse, you had all the credits. Didn’t you finish a minor in science?”

I have minors in chemistry, biology, and sociology. (I’m a nerd. What can I say? There is not a subject offered that I won’t attempt.)

My dissatisfaction is not with teaching. I don’t think. I mean I like teaching, don’t get me wrong. I just think that I’m not happy at the schools that I teach at. I teach too many sections and don’t make enough money. I give my students too much work, and teach courses that don’t give me any pleasure. I feel like I went to school for a useless degree and may end up stuck an adjunct for God knows how long.

I’ve been applying for jobs outside of education. It’s daunting. My cover letter is terrible. I apply for copywriter jobs, editing jobs, and have no journalism experience. My cover letter, I feel, sounds desperate. It essentially suggests that I use the same skills as a teacher, that I would as a copyeditor. Wouldn’t I? In the end, (I told this to my BFF as well), whether I get a full time job as a professor or a copyeditor it will boil down on an employer being willing to take a chance on me.

Take. A. Chance. On. Me. (I hope you’re singing ABBA)

These past two semesters working as a part-time slave, I’ve really been questioning what I want to do. I just don’t know. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. What the hell is my problem?

My department chair told me the other day that he wasn’t sure what the funding was going to look like for the fall. Meaning: you may not get as many sections as you’re hoping for–if any.

Panic.

I guess I should have applied for those Ph.D. programs.

My best friend suggested that maybe I was destined to be a stay at home mother.

What?

And not work?

I always envisioned myself as a career woman who was a mother on the side. I would come home from work in my fabulous heels and a briefcase and then get dinner started…the way my mother did. I always wanted to have a career. Now, here I am, seven years of fucking higher education and I’m no where near a career.

I’m pond scum.

Who knows, maybe I am depressed and I don’t even know it. Maybe that’s what’s making writing so damn hard. Maybe, it’s the depression that’s making the wedding planning so challenging and the job hunt so weary.

Or.

Maybe, I need to stop being a Debbie Downer, or Negative Nancy and fight until I get what I want.

A goddamn tenure track position.