Matthew and his family stopped by, and we loved having them visit. We were able to squeeze in a visit to Chad and his family, where Chad and Kristen hosted us at a pool party at their home, Peter and Megan came up from their home, and Dave got a nice Father's Day gift from Peter and Chad: a tune-up on his bike. Here are the photos:
(I tried to get Brooke to give me her mermaid, but she took it home.)
On my last day of teaching, I received this email:
I have received mail with your name on it and our record shows you don’t have a mailbox here at CHC. You are able to pick up your mail from me; I’m available Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm in LADM 167 Facilities Use Office. If you are unable to pick up your mail and would like it mailed to you, please pervert a mail address.
I received this after I'd given my final, met with each student and gave them back their final research paper (worth 25% of their grade and even at that hefty percentage only one student failed completely), when I was sitting in my car trying to decide how to feel about the end of this semester.
Unfortunately, I couldn't "pervert" her a mail address right then because the office was closed, but called this morning and we straightened things out (seems they given my mailbox to another person, ignoring the fact of the original assignment and the label with my name on it, or that an actual person already HAD that mailbox).
Before that, I stood at the top of what is known at the Aztec Stairs, a long flight of stairs that leads to the Admin Building, where I teach. The VP of Students, who I have met several times, was coming up the stairs; I waited to say good-bye and we chatted. Even though I had introduced myself to him yet again as recently as two weeks ago, I realized he had no idea who I was, nor did he ask once. I decided not to make excuses for him this time.
Before that, when I was addressing my class, I thanked them for their work and in our chit-chatting, asked if there was anything that they could point to as a take-away from this class. They fell silent. I know they were trying to think of something, but they were in Finals Week, they were tired, it was the last day, blah blah blah, but still. Silence.
And before all that, I'd written to my sister that morning, in response to an article she sent me an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, where an adjunct professor detailed the reasons why he was leaving off teaching in a classroom (he's still doing online teaching). I'm thinking about not coming back myself, and although this decision feels a bit squishy at this point, I enumerated the reasons to her for leaving, acknowledging first that the incredibly low rate of pay can be a factor:
"But for me, it was also the complete "invisibility" to Admin, to my chair (although he's always very nice when I do see him), and the constant reminder of my non-person status given the number of "staff" luncheons, raffles, potlucks given each year at my institution, for which I have been asked to bring food, contribute to prizes, etc. A token event was held at the beginning of the year on a Wednesday night at 6:30 for free pizza for the Adjuncts at a local place, a complete turn-off since most adjuncts commute in and leave as soon as they finish on campus. I think I would have preferred the Chronicle writer's gift of a duffle bag from his chair, instead.
"In addition to the pay and the invisibility, it is the students. Adjuncts typically teach the lower and lower-than-low division classes as the faculty retain the better classes for themselves (I don't blame them in the least). And since we get those students right out of high school who typically are working at a 10th grade level, it becomes extremely challenging to maintain morale when the expectations are for "entertainment" like they received in high school. I joked to my colleague last week that if the pretend percentages are that the students bring 100% and I bring 100%, I felt this semester as if I were bringing 150% to their 50%, yet they probably aren't aware of that ratio.
"I have had one amazing upper-division English class in my ten years here. The students were engaged, interesting, generally well-prepared and our class discussions were interesting, thoughtful and fruitful. I think after teaching that class, I realized what I had been asked to do generally, denigrates my ability and my contribution to the teaching profession. I've had other bad classes, and that's no reason to throw in the towel, I realize. But after that great class, something shifted in me and I just didn't want to go through the hoops anymore. And the fact that only once in ten years have I had a good class is telling.
"I also firmly believe that until full-time faculty won't put up with the hiring of adjuncts and make their voices heard on this issue, nothing will change. And I don't foresee that happening. Ever."
Since I'm not published (you can call that one of my failures if you want) or in a full-time position (add that to the failure list, although I have tried), I can't expect any more of Higher Ed, right? It's easy to delegate adjuncts to a position of the great unwashed of the Big U, greedily grabbing those courses thrown to us by kind and well-meaning Admins. We are not invited to faculty meetings, asked for our opinions. When they announced the "Part-Timer of the Year," no mention was made of why they were chosen. Just a name, an invisible person, delivered in a deluge of end-of-year emails.
Perhaps this "perverted" mailbox was a sign, in a weird sort of way. Perhaps, after too many strange conversations, too many unprepared students, as well as all the other inconsequential stings and cuts, the message from on high was that it is probably time to go invisible for good.
Not too long ago I was confronted with a new challenge, a good challenge, one that would make me grow and stretch and punch out in new directions--that kind of goal. But I didn't want it. It was time-consuming. No, time-destroying. Many of the easy habits of our empty-nest life would be overrun by this challenge, such as losing the time we've carved out for our early-morning walks. Someone might look at my life and say, "Well. You do have the time." But this is where I confront the slippery core of my dilemma: how do I value my time? As an adjunct professor, I receive very low pay. In fact, most of my students make more than I do when I factor in the time spent in grading and prepping. I also receive no money for things I do in the rest of my life either--no income streams anywhere. So how then, does a person value their life? Value their time? Decide how to "spend" time, that one thing that no one can get more of than another? Do some tasks carry more "weight" than others, for example, preparing a meal versus cleaning it up? Cleaning out the garage, vs. cutting out a new quilt? Maintaining friendships vs. time on the internet?
Enough of these stupid questions, as I always advise students that a good declarative sentence is worth a paragraph of queries. But I have no easy declarative sentence to end with. Maybe I think a task might be valued by what intrinsic value it carries. And this "assigning a value" is something I have spent a lifetime trying to understand, especially when there is no outside determinant of what it is worth (i.e., a monetary valuation).
When I was four years old, my clock was as big as the sky, reaching in all directions, limited only by naps and my bedtime. When I was a teenager, the timepiece was a bit smaller, perhaps room-sized, filled with time to do things like figure out how to cut my hair like the models in Seventeen magazine. Motherhood shrunk that clock again, as did grad school. Too little time for too many outside tasks.
But now I feel like my timepiece is one of those Dali clocks, limpid and wobbly, not keeping time the way it should. Sometimes my clock size is appropriate, crisp and ticking, lots getting done. But other days it languidly drapes itself over the sofa, a bag of chips in one hand while balancing the computer on its lap and says something to the effect of "good luck in getting anything done at all." And when I shake it, trying to get some minutes out of its uncooperative self, I realize my clock is too small to get my hands on, shrunk not only from outside time demands but also from the shrinking horizon of my older life, my ability to power through. So I am careful with those requests. Too many phone calls? Ignore the ring. Too many IMs? Leave the mobile in the purse downstairs where I can't hear it. No, I won't conduct a cooking class for teens at the local youth conference. No, I won't be cleaning out the garage, either. I am choosing what I do in a place in my life where soon I'll be carrying around my ever-shrinking clock in a pill bottle, retrieving it with tweezers to see how minutes are left.
This about sums up my last few weeks. Only I can't say I was as radiantly happy as this young woman was on the down stroke, nor was I as exuberant on the up stroke, knowing that the see-sawing over whether or not I'd be teaching this next semester would continue. Tomorrow schools starts. Today I found out that (as my Dean put it) "Your Class Is A Go" in the subject header of the first email, with nothing else in it. The second email was a touch more verbose, with the advice to "get your stuff prepared." He is the man who hired me lo, these many years ago, and since I know him pretty well I laughed when I read the email. It's nice to get off the see-saw.
But I'm pretty much in denial that my lovely (unpaid) sabbatical is over. I have a list of projects as long as my arm in the quilty arena, plus there's those housekeeping chores that need to be done as I have company coming for the next two weeks. Things are popping, but I have to turn some attention to my class now. I did prep up for the first day and have my copies, the stuff up on the web, but who knows if I'll have any AV equipment in a class which is in the South 40? I've already decided I'm wearing tennis shoes the first day, since there will be a lot of hiking around campus.
All of this happened because of budget numbers, those figures that we in middle-education (past K-12, but not as high as a 4-year school) live and die by. Just before Christmas the numbers were in the tank; now, post New Year's, we can float my half-filled class (having only 12 students in my class has got to be a record). I chose online ebooks, as I knew the books wouldn't be here in time and the style manual from the class that was cancelled just before Christmas can be transferred over to this class.