Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Usual End-of-Semester Post

Well, actually, it's not a usual post. And it's not quite the end of the semester, though the end is in sight.

The College of Liberal Arts, the college in which I teach, had it's annual social last night. I honestly thought about ditching it because of the gas prices. I know--if I lived in Europe, I'd have something to complain about. I suppose everything is relative. But, with a budget already strained beyond its limits, high gas prices are the "straw" on my camel's back. I am grateful for distance learning--its my pathetic stab at the hearts of the huge oil companies. For three months or so, I will not drive so much, thereby doing my part to conserve resources. If all of us could work from home at least one day a week, we'd probably conserve quite a bit of gas--as long as we didn't use the day away from the company to run the roads!

Anyway, I bit the gas bullet and attended the social. I had received a couple of anxious "You are going, aren't you?" requests on Thursday before I left for the day. That should have clued me that the game was afoot. But I dismissed any thoughts of what might be coming. I've attended these socials for years. They are fun and great ways to spend time with your colleagues--especially people from other departments who I hardly see.

Every year, the department hands out awards--three to adjuncts (who contribute a great deal to the smooth-running of any department) and three to full-time faculty. The awards to the full-time faculty go for service, scholarship, and teaching. This year, a history colleague received the scholarship award, as he should have; the service award went to a music professor, as it should have; and--hold on to your hats--I received the teaching award.

"Shocked" is the first word that comes to mind, "delighted" is the second, and "humble" is the third. I have the framed certificate sitting on a shelf in my living room. Every once in a while, I glance at it and feel grateful for the opportunity to do what I love. Where else could I have this much fun? I get to talk about writing and literature, commas and semicolons, and anything else that appears to be relevant to whatever course I'm teaching at the moment. I meet great people, make friends, and get to fuss when necessary. And I have a cool work environment--an office with a window and free books from book companies that want us to adopt their texts. Not bad.

I spent thirty years trying NOT to teach. I kept thinking that I could make more money doing something else--computing services, technical support, administrative assistant-type jobs. I almost always ended up teaching something. Desperation drove me back to academia. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me--right up there with being born and having my children.

My life lesson--money isn't everything. Teaching pays decently, but, if we work only for money, then any money we earn is tainted with dissatisfaction. I have to love my work first. Otherwise, it becomes drudgery. One thing I can say for sure is that teaching never gets dull, and, while it does have some tediousness (I don't really like to grade papers all of the time), it's one of the most creative and thought-provoking jobs in the world. I get paid to think; I get paid to have fun and share my love of English. Who could ask for more than that?

I don't know that any of my colleagues read this blog, but, if any of them do, I say "Thank you." Thank you for your support, thank you for your joy, thank you for being willing to share yourselves and your talents.

To my students--past, present, and future--thank you for making what I do so much fun. Thanks for your enthusiam, your struggles, your effort. Just thanks!


Kathryn Usher said...

Congratulations, you deserve it! You even teach through your blog.

My daughter and her fiance are going to LSUS. He misread one set of instructions and was going to miss getting a paper in on time. I told him to go to her and beg for forgiveness because by following your blog I understood that instructors want to work with students during the semester and not have to deal with whiners at the end of the year when they try to slide by.

So thanks for the inspiration and help over here on Dalzell Street and again, good job!

dotsmom said...

Thanks, Kathryn. I didn't know Katie was engaged. Congrats to her!

And, yeah, students should always talk to their professors. It's amazing to me that a student would rather fail an assignment or a class--professors want to help. I spend so many "alone" office hours, and I love for students to visit, even just for a few minutes, even if they don't have a problem to discuss.