The State of my Sickly career

Two solid weeks of depression, caused first by the news that I'm not good enough at my job and the people in charge know it, second from the news about kitty, kept me from doing my grading. It's shameful. I also ran out of ritalin on Monday and wasn't able to fill the scrip until Saturday evening. A brilliant gafaw on my part. Can you imagine trying to grade 75 essay-type exams sans the usual 100 mg of Ritty? I couldn't, so I didn't even try.

Grading involves: first deciphering the hand-writing, 2. deciphering bad English 3. Figuring out which questions they are attempting to answer 4. looking for ways to give them points when most exams are F-worthy, 5. Attempt to not get too depressed or angry at the horrible answers demonstrating most of them didn't read/listen/study AT ALL. 6. Hold back on the swearing and yelling--remember these are blue books and they can't hear me 7. Reading the same bad answers 70x in a row 8. keeping track of my point scale, 9. Adding up the points....double checking for number errors or grading errors.... These are not tasks that the seriously attentionally challenged can do without extreme effort and fortitude. Throw in depression without meds and there was no point in even attempting it. They're due on Tuesday.
I'm glad to be done with this semester. Most of my students were lovely people. It's terrible what a few bad attitudes can do. I should have better controlled the class and prevented the attitudinal badness. But I don't know how, the things I tried didn't work. So, I've accepted that I have limits. I can't teach in hostile environments. I don't have the personality or skills required to squelch the disrespect. I didn'tt even notice the disrespect until it got so bad that a student yelled at me for not accepting his late work--a policy I explained in the syllabus.

Though I do take issue with my boss's warning that the word 'boring' needs to stop coming up in my observation reports (2 out of 5). He told me to practice bad jokes for my lectures because we are entertainers as much as we are educators. Like I'm not already enough of a clown for devoting my life to this mess, and spending 10+ years in college racking up loans I'll never be able to pay? No, I have to pander to the students. Nevermind that the observer said my presentation of the material was very clear, well done and engaging, or that I was professional, organized and prepared. That doesn't matter as much as the fact that I don't have a good report with the students. [Except I did have a good report with my later section. I thought.] Sigh. One more semester of the teaching fellowship, then, hopefully, I can go elsewhere.

This episode devastated me. It sent me into 3 days of crying alone in the dark. It affected me so much because, even though I haven't written a paper in two years, I could still be ok since I devoted all my time to teaching and thought I was good. Student evaluations said things like: I was the best teacher they had at this school, I changed their minds about the subject, etc... But I let my mood disorders disrupt my performance.

I just discovered that being professional means that you don't let your problems affect your work. D'oh! Why hadn't I known that? Well--I did spend ages 14-22 fighting daily suicidal ideations and the years since keeping myself out of the deep dark bad place--the place where one is too depressed for suicide and one believes she deserves to suffer by staying alive. That, and working on this graduate degree stuff while holding various jobs. Even so, when I learn obvious things like this, I realize how much I didn't get from my parents. And how much growing up I have missed out on by having to fight the insanity. But it scares me. I'm 29 and only learning this now? What else am I missing?

I wonder if I should begin to look at a different career path. What? I don't know. There's a dignity in knowing when to quit, right? But I don't quit. I decided in the fall, when I seriously considered dropping this whole PhD nightmare, that I'd come too far and invested too much to stop. I resolved to finish it. So I will. Afterwards, I may end up going back to administrative assistant work--I'm sure I wouldn't be the only humanities PhD doing it.

I did ask for it
All of this happened after discovering I have a rather large arrogance problem. I came to this realization while trying to analyze the causes of my student-relations issues. This disgusts me. Instead of building self-confidence as I had wanted, I gerrymandered the pretense of confidence with a shabby facade of arrogance. How does one undo such a fault? I prayed for help. I trepidly asked for humility--knowing it was dangerous; that serving a dose of humility to the proud is an ugly business. I want so much to change that I asked for it anyway. Pride cometh before the fall? Then, bring on the ugly so I can get the ugly out of my soul. Ha! The day after I said that prayer, I got the lecture from my boss. It reduced me to nothing. I got what I needed.

Next up: Tales from the Reconstruction