Friday, August 29, 2014

The Exhausted Academic: Week 2

I feel whiny, and I shouldn't, because as tired as I am, I know that Dear Husband and dear in-laws are much, much more tired than I am as they finish up the house and get on the road to Corpus Christi today.  But as I told DH today, when they get here tomorrow, we will put the beds and the couch in the house.  Everything else can go in the garage and get dealt with later.  I am going to take Youngest Brother and Buttermilk (his wife) to the beach, either tomorrow afternoon or Sunday, depending on when they get here.  And unpacking can go as it needs to.  YB and Buttermilk leave Monday morning and Father-in-Law leaves Tuesday morning.  I'm off Monday, and we can take things at a leisurely pace.

At the moment, I'm sitting in my office.  We don't really have classes on Friday, and I think I might be the only one holding office hours on Friday morning, to be honest, but it's a good time to come in and work.  I've done a little bit of grading this morning and gotten my paper gradebook set up, as I keep both a paper and digital copy.  (Backup.  Always have a backup.)  It's been raining this morning for the first time since I got here, rain that's badly needed.

Part of being tired, I think, has been the sudden adjustment to teaching five classes.  Part of that, I'm sure, has been because I've had the last year as a dissertation fellow, and I've not been teaching, but before that, the most I'd ever had in one semester was three classes, so I begin to understand why during the interview process, there was always concern in the voices of the committee when they asked how many classes I'd ever taught at one time.  I'd been confused before, but I'm starting to understand why it's a legitimate concern, and I'm definitely starting to appreciate all of the full-time temporary faculty at MTSU who also teach 5/5 course loads a little more.  I only have 3 course preps, but it is going to be a lot of grading.  (I've managed to space it out so the only time all five classes will have something due at the same time is going to be at midterms and finals.  I have no idea how I've managed that.  Pure dumb luck, I think.)

A friend of mine posted an article on working 40 hours a week in academia, and I'm trying to keep that in mind.  As much grading and planning as I can do in my office, I will.  I want my home time to be home time and to separate work and home as much as possible.  I know that's not always going to be possible, particularly around midterms and finals, but I think it's a delineation that needs to be made and it's important.  (And for those who like to snip at academics and say "Well, you only work nine months out of the year."  One, that's not entirely true, and two, I only get paid for working those nine months.  If I teach during the summer, I get paid for working in the summer.)  At the same time, I tell my students that I will try to have all of their assignments back within a week of receiving them.  This is my first semester teaching five classes.  We'll find out if that's feasible, but Del Mar uses a program called Canvas for online learning, rather than Blackboard or Desire2Learn (and oh my gosh, guys, this program is amazing.   All the capabilities we wished Blackboard or D2L had?  Canvas has.).  Canvas has a feature called SpeedGrader, so I've been able to upload my rubric online to the assignment sheets.  I haven't tried it out yet, but I will in a couple of weeks when my 1301 class (Composition I) turns in their resumes and cover letters.  Canvas even keeps track of your attendance, lets you calculate how much of an absence a tardy is worth, etc.!

I think another part of being tired has been that I'm homesick.  Not for Tennessee, but for Kentucky.  I was never really homesick when I moved to Tennessee, but I think that's because it wasn't far to get home, and I was always able to just pop home for the weekend.  That's really no longer an option, and Christmas will be the next time we get home.  Mom got some reasonably disturbing news from the doctor this week, and I can't go home and look at her face, as my Gran would say.  But I think when DH gets here, that will get better too.

And I am enjoying Corpus Christi quite a bit.  There are always little discoveries to be made, I think, when you move someplace.  I live near the Naval Air Station, so on my way to work in the morning, I've been seeing fighter jets flying back and forth, low over the city.  It's no wonder people used to think that they were UFOs.  There's something oddly eerie about the way they fly in such a perfectly straight line across the sky.  I also saw a plane with a radar on it that I think may have come from the National Weather Service station, since it was very low over the city and seemed to come from the direction of the airport, rather than the naval station.  On my way home, I've been seeing people kite-sailing in the laguna, which is an entirely new concept to me, and really neat to watch.  I went out to the beach this weekend and watched ghost crabs dig their holes in the sand, which entertained me most of the morning.

By this time next week, DH should be here.  I will have my things about me.  The semester should be in full swing, and ML, the member of the janitorial staff assigned to our building, will hopefully not have to greet me every morning with "Today is ------, Miss Emily," because I've forgotten what day it is again!  And Bergie, I really hope, will actually stop hiding most of the time.  And by then, I'm sure I'll have some more new insights on being a full-time faculty member for the first time.  Until then.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Paging Dr. Stewart, Paging Dr. Stewart: Week 1

I'm at the end of my first week in Corpus Christi and at the end of my first week as an assistant professor of English.  This first week has primarily been orientation, professional development, and meetings--in-service type things, but it's given me an opportunity to get to know campus and my colleagues.

I love it.

I told Dear Husband several months ago that I felt like God had given us work to do in Murfreesboro, but that it was drawing to an end.  When I visited Del Mar, I came home and told him that I felt like God had work for us to do here.  The more I discover about the community here, the more I feel like that's true.  Corpus Christi has a population of approximately 300,000 people and a poverty rate of around 50%.  While I'd been offered a position at a 4-year college, with every day I spend here, I become more convinced that this was the right decision, and while there have been a few small bumps, the smoothness with which this has all come together has only served to underscore this feeling.

We have a delightful provost who is excited about the community and encouraging about new ideas.  He's trying out a new idea with those of us who were just hired--a first-year faculty experience, much like what freshmen would have, but for us to come together and bring new ideas to the table as fresh eyes who are looking at Del Mar for the first time.  There may not be a lot of money, but he's ready to try new ideas and figure out how to make them work.  That's so encouraging as a faculty member to hear.  The president of the college attended Del Mar himself, was raised a mile down the road, and his father's shop is still only a few miles from the college.  There are deep ties to the community in the administration of the college.  And there doesn't seem to be the burgeoning administrative bureaucracy that I've seen at so many other places.  Del Mar is a college with deep roots in the community, and as such is very respected by the community.

More than that, I think this place in general is going to be good for us.  We have a beautiful house that we're renting that's just been remodeled--we have a Texas red grapefruit tree in the backyard!  We're two minutes from the intracoastal waterway, so you can smell saltwater from our house, and about fifteen miles from Padre Island National Seashore, which is where I went this morning.  There's something soothing and healing about the ocean, I think.

Note: I will not, under any circumstances become an Astros or Rangers fan.


I truly am going to try to keep this blog updated more often.  I'll be quite honest, I'd been put off keeping it updated last year after some rather unhappy people read my post on The Care and Feeding of Your Depressive and said some very nasty things, including saying that DH should leave me, that I should pick my own self up and go because modern psychiatry does nothing, I shouldn't depend on depression medication, that I was fat and therefore ugly, I had no discipline, I would never finish my dissertation, etc.

So I am happy to say that I finished my dissertation, graduated with my Ph.D., secured a tenure-track job as an assistant professor, have been diagnosed correctly with the help of my nurse practitioner and am on new medication which has effectively returned me to normal, I've lost thirty pounds, and my marriage is stronger than ever.

Therefore, American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country music radio for your support. 

See you guys next week.