This is my last full-time semester at GCC. In the fall, I’ll be teaching part-time for GCC and strictly online while pursuing a PhD program in Australia. The Australian government has granted me a scholarship with a stipend, and I won’t have to teach as part of my graduate work.
Needless to say, this semester has been different for me from prior semesters. This coming fall will be the first time since the fall of 1999 that I won’t be teaching English classes full-time face-to-face at the college level. For whatever reason, this knowledge of an ending coming has made me more cognizant of a few changes in myself as a teacher as this final full-time gallops away.
1) I am grading faster. I don’t know why. I’m a slow reader and have always been a slow grader. Perhaps knowing that the end is (sort of) nigh in the grading realm, I am motivated more than ever to reach it.
2) I am more patient with students. In the past, when a class hasn’t performed well overall on a given assignment, I’ve pretty much taken it personally and secretly brooded for days. This semester, I finally said, “Okay, that didn’t work.” And then we covered more material and techniques and I found and offered more examples, and then students revised and resubmitted their work.
3) I am less patient with students. I’m having a harder time than usual hearing the hard stories — the ones that cause our students illness and angst and oftentimes prevent their successes. I had one student who was sick with the flu for ten days and every class he missed resulted in an email from him with the blow-by-blow of his bodily suffering. Really, I would have been convinced had he just told me he wasn’t well. In this way, I feel helpless to help my students this semester in a way I haven’t before. I think this might be because I can no longer imagine the big picture and how we all fit into it.
4) I am more patient with myself. I have made some big decisions here in the past few months. What if I’m wrong? What if it’s not at all a good idea to leave my tenured position in order to pursue a PhD mid-life in a country I’ve never even visited before? What if? I have to trust myself. If I don’t, what good have the mistakes and successes of the first half of my life been for? Hard as it is, I’m learning to trust myself and to ignore all of the other worrying voices that suggest to me somehow that I can’t. I shouldn’t. I’m crazy if I do.
5) And now 1-3 make sense to me. Because I have changed my relationship to myself, all other relationships shift, including the working relationships I have with my students. Though if I had known that moving to Australia would help me grade faster, I might have tried doing it sooner. 🙂
6) I am noticing everything — the birds on campus, the later sunsets, the shift in temperature by ten degrees walking the dog at 6:30 in the morning. It used to be that when it was time to move on, I simply closed my eyes and jumped. But I don’t want to leave Arizona without having really seen it. I don’t want to leave Arizona without having really lived here. I want to move along as mindfully as I can and that means taking my time while I’m still here.