Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to School

When I was a kid and saw the back-to-school commercials, I looked forward to buying new notebooks and pens.

Now that I'm an adult and a teacher, when I see those commercials, I buy antacids and aspirin.

I also buy coffee, because I know I won't get much sleep until Thanksgiving break.

For the first time in years, I actually let myself relax during these past couple summer months. I still had to do work for my website job, but it was a relief to be free from grading papers, teaching, and e-mails from students that said stuff like, "Is there a movie version of the book? I was just wondering."

Since I had a car, I was able to leave Small Town for the first time in months (I hadn't left the town at all since January, except for a brief trip to Chicago during spring break, because I was so busy with my full-time job and part-time job.). I drove to some of the big cities nearby to go sight-seeing, try new restaurants, and browse in independent boutiques that I hadn't been to. It felt good to have days that were truly mine, without worrying about a stack of work waiting for me at home.

I've been dreading the first day of school. It's not that I'm unwilling to work. I am a workaholic after all, and if I go too long without working I start getting antsy and trying to climb the walls, shrieking, "I just can't LIVE like this!"

But last year was incredibly stressful, and there were times when I didn't even like teaching anymore. No teacher that I know loves teaching all the time, but it got to the point where I felt so frustrated that I actually contemplated giving up the career I'd devoted my life to for so many years and trying something less stressful, like bullfighting.

The school where I currently teach is a good school, and I've grown fond of many of the students. The faculty has been very kind and welcoming to me, for the most part. But there are several things about the department's rules and methods that I don't agree with, though that would've been true of any department. Although I'm a full-time faculty member, I'm also untenured, so I have no voting power in the decisions that are made, which is why I haven't expressed my true feelings about how things are done here.

It's also frustrating to have to keep saying over and over, "It's not okay to miss so many classes," or "No, you can't turn in your work several weeks after the deadline," or "For the love of God, PUT DOWN that cell phone!"

I've had to say those things at other schools where I've taught, but last year it just got to the point where I'd look in the mirror and see that my hair was turning white again; my face looked tired, sad, and exasperated.

There's also the fact that after spending all those years in a big city, small town life has been difficult to adjust to. I've made some good friends here, and I socialize with them regularly. But I'd like to be able to live somewhere that doesn't require me to spend hours driving just to shop somewhere OTHER than Walmart or a place where most businesses and restaurants in town don't close by 9 P.M. or earlier. I'd also like to be able to walk into a place that doesn't make me want to wring my hands and shriek, "Can we listen to something other than banjo music, PLEASE? The HUMANITY of it all!"

That's why this year I will work harder on my academic research, because I'll never be able to find a better job if I don't publish more articles that hardly anyone but other professors and scholars read (but I digress). I'll also actively pursue job leads at other schools, and hopefully by the end of the school year, I'll find a place that is a better fit for me.

What about you? How has your summer been? Have you ever felt burned out or frustrated with your job or living situation?