Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Recently, I accidentally e-mailed all of my current students with my online screenname instead of my real name. The reason is because I had tried to sign up for Google Plus with my screenname, except it kept my screenname in my account once I e-mailed my students. Once I realized what I'd done, I screamed so loudly that the mirrors in my apartment almost cracked.

Most people in my "offline" life do not know that I have a blog or a Twitter page, even though I've been blogging and Tweeting for years. Most people don't even know that I want to be a writer. They think I'm just this over-caffeinated English teacher who freaks out over grammatical errors and students who think it's okay to show up to class forty-five minutes late and still expect to be counted as present (insert head exploding here).

Some teachers blog about the misbehavior of their students, like students who don't turn in their work on time or the ones who keep their headphones on during class. Then the parents who raised the "everybody gets a trophy" generation come out in full force to bring the teacher down, because God forbid anyone should point out that their kids have EVER done anything wrong.

I'm lucky to have a full-time teaching job, even though it's in a small town where country music is played everywhere, to the point that I want to find a banjo and smash it over the loudspeakers. But I'm not a tenured professor, so my job security is far from certain. I've been hired on a year-to-year contract, which means that I'm still not sure whether they'll renew my contract for next year and I won't find out for months (that's why I'm applying to other schools in the meantime).

Since I'm still applying for other jobs, I know that search committees may Google me, though several of them will never admit to this. They won't necessarily find anything bad, like pictures of me getting drunk, since if anyone tried to make me drink alcohol I'd immediately spit it out. They might find reviews of my teaching on one of those awful Rate Your Professor sites, where there are positive reviews of me but also negative ones that say stuff like, "She's so unfair. She makes us show up to class every day."

If I put my real name or pictures of my face on my blog, those search committees (as well as the school that currently employs me) might not appreciate my posts about teaching. I never named any of the schools that employed me, and I never named any of the students either. But I did describe some of their bad behavior, like the volatile student who screamed at me for twenty minutes because I dared to give him a B, or the disrespectful student who almost drove me to tears in front of my class several years ago.

When I realized that I'd sent my screenname to my students, I was worried that they might Google it out of curiosity, since it is an unusual name. Then they would find my blog and my Twitter page. They'd read what I wrote about them, and they'd read about my personal life. It was one of my biggest nightmares. All it takes is one disgruntled student upset about his or her grade to find my blog or my Twitter page and send it to my bosses.

I debated deleting both accounts altogether. I also e-mailed several of you in a panic, asking for advice. You were all kind enough to respond promptly, and I appreciate your feedback. Ultimately, I decided to make both of my accounts private and (mostly) stay offline for a couple of weeks. That's why I haven't been blogging lately, and that's why you may not have been able to find my blog the last couple of weeks. I wanted to play it safe.

I couldn't bring myself to delete my blog. That's five years worth of writing, and I couldn't give it up. I gave up or lost almost everything else because of teaching: almost all my friends, romantic relationships, my twenties, and the city I loved. I couldn't deal with the idea of giving up my writing too.

So for now, I'll keep the blog and the Twitter page up. I'll still write about teaching, but I'll be more cautious now. Fortunately, none of my students said anything about my screenname. Hopefully, no one ever says anything.

What about you? Do you keep your blog or Twitter page a secret? Would you have deleted your accounts, if you were in my situation?

P.S. I might be taking a risk by stating this on my blog, but I couldn't e-mail everyone this since not everyone has their e-mail address listed. I'm going to change my URL to weirdworkaholic.blogspot.com starting next week. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What I'd Like to Say to My Students

I don't like waking up this early either. But if I can't go back to sleep during class, then neither can YOU.

You don't become invisible when you take a nap during class. I CAN SEE YOU, so WAKE UP.

Your followers on Instagram and Twitter will understand if you don't post anything for a whole hour. In fact, I'm willing to bet THEY WON'T CARE, so put your phone away.

It is not my job to give you an A. It is your job to earn one.

If you want to be treated like an adult, then don't let your parents e-mail me to complain about your grades.

You do realize that your fancy cell phones come with clocks, right? So why do you keep showing up to class a half hour late?

I think it's great that you enjoy your friends' company. I don't think it's great that you feel the need to text them seventy-five times an hour.

If you want to see my head explode, then say, "I know I missed a month of class, but I think I should have gotten at least a B."

Sometimes it seems like what I tell you doesn't even go in one ear and out the other, because you refuse to take out your headphones.

I know that you're shy and afraid of sounding foolish in front of your classmates and me. But it's better to say the wrong thing than to sit there for the entire class every day and never say anything. At least the people who speak up are trying.

If you're going to claim that you have a "family emergency" and can't come to class, then don't stick around on campus afterwards, where I can easily see you hanging out with your friends.

You complain that authors like Mary Shelley, Maxine Hong Kingston, and William Shakespeare are boring, but I really don't see how your friends' Instagram posts about what they had for lunch are much more interesting.

If you're not going to do the reading, pay attention in class, answer any of my questions, turn in the work on time (or at all), or show up on time (or at all), then why are you in this class?

Threatening to get me fired, e-mailing complaints to the chair of my department, screaming at me in my office, or stomping out during the middle of class are NOT going to get me to change your grades (and yes, all of these things have happened).

When your writing improves, when you talk about the characters in the stories that we're studying as if they're real people, or when you tell me that you read other works by the authors just because you liked them so much, you make my day.

Last year, when I declined a teaching job and took out a student loan in order to finish my dissertation, I didn't miss teaching. I enjoyed being free from eight A.M. classes, grade complaints from students (and their parents), and e-mails from students who wrote stuff like, "Sorry I missed the last eight classes. Can you just e-mail me what I missed?"

I still love teaching, but there are still parts of it that drive me up the wall. I can't help thinking that I wouldn't be such a neurotic workaholic if I had chosen another career. But I've been so focused on getting my Ph.D. and becoming a college professor that I've lost sight of almost everything else. I can't even imagine what else I'd do (other than write, though I'd still need a day job), and I'm still not willing to give up everything I've worked for.

At the same time, I REALLY wish I could put this post on my syllabus, because the more frustrated I feel, the more nostalgic I get for the one year when I didn't have to teach.

What about you? Do you ever feel burned out or frustrated at your job? Have you ever had second thoughts about your chosen career? If you could say something to college students from this generation, what would you say?