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Monday, May 1, 2017

I'd hoped for more...

I got to the office after my stint in Advisement filled with can-do spirit: I was planning to knock off several important tasks, specifically writing up the two adjunct observations, reviewing the year-end evaluations I've collected, and maybe starting on the summer adjunct scheduling. (I had determined to shove marking homework for the Nature in Lit students to tomorrow.) But a student came in to talk--a good thing--and then Paul arrived--also a good thing (though the discussion was depressing as hell)--and ultimately, I got the observations written up. Period.

The student is one I met with about two weeks ago. He has the potential to be a good, solid C student, but he's missed a lot of classes--and the readings pretty much baffle him. He mostly wanted some help with the novella, and he told me that he'd done some looking online to get a few toe-holds on the thing--and in the process, he found me being cited. I just looked: yep. The Wikipedia page on the novella cites me several times. (Makes sense: I am one of two people, to the best of my knowledge, to publish a critical essay on the novella. The other person is cited by Wikipedia as well. My minor claim to fame, y'all.) Anyway, he was impressed to see his professor cited on the web, asked me about what ecocriticism is (he clicked the hyperlink on the Wikipedia page, but he didn't get it entirely), and he asked a couple of other questions not about the novel but about what I do as a scholar more widely. Kinda fun. But mostly I'm glad that he seems to be understanding the novella better having read the Wikipedia page and having talked to me. I don't generally like it when students immediately look a difficult text up online, as it keeps the training wheels on when they should take 'em off, but in this case, OK. I don't think this student will get better than a D in the class--mostly because he entirely missed the second essay (ouch)--but I will make sure he gets at least that D. He's set to go from here to the police academy, so all he needs is the associate's degree in hand, and he doesn't need to do more than pass my class to get there.

The discussion with Paul was, unhappily, more of the same. The bullies are winning every round, and in the process, they're taking what seems to be savage delight in grinding the members of  ASEC (or anyone else who tries to stand up to them) into the ground. The rosiest scenario Paul offered is that we might lose our accreditation and be shuttered--only to reopen as an additional campus of Suffolk CC (which might then style itself Long Island CC or some such, as we're in a different county). If that's the case, and if their contract simply gets extended to us, we'd take a pay hit, but we'd essentially have things exactly as we have them now: same course load (or so Paul thinks), same student body (though with no placement testing, I believe, which would lead to more failures in the comp classes), same class sizes. I could absolutely live with that--and might, in fact, be able to live with that until I reach real retirement age.

My conversation on Friday with my financial planner reminded me yet again that I really cannot afford to retire as early as I'd like--not without taking a pretty significant hit to my standard of living, which I don't want to do, if I can help it. So the challenge for both Paul and me is to figure out how to do what we can to keep ourselves not just sane but content, no matter what the admin does to the college. Much of what is going on is utterly out of our control: all we can control is who we are in the classroom and what we do with whatever material we have to teach (since eventually we may not be able to teach the material we want but will all have to use a common text). I can jump through hoops as well as any trained poodle (with or without the frilly skirt and little bow in the top-knot), so it's really a matter of figuring out, moment by moment, how to manage my approach to what I have to do. If things deteriorate far enough, I will withdraw from all committees--despite the pressure I will be under (from myself, mostly, but also from colleagues) to be one of the handful of people doing all the work; I will do my mandated professional development activities, and I will otherwise be one of the department's stealth professors: invisible to any detection, gliding in, teaching my classes, gliding out.

And I need above all to bear in mind that we have absolutely no idea what the future has in store. None. Sometimes the universe hands us something unexpected and gut-wrenchingly awful; sometimes the universe hands us something unexpected and better than anything we could possibly have imagined. And being ready for the second to occur helps in the times when the first has occurred.

Well, that's enough waxing philosophical for now. I am tired, and I would like to be home before dark for a change, now that it's staying light later. Tomorrow, Advisement, class, P&B, scramble in the office, class, blog. Two more Mondays after today. Two more everything. Then final grades, adjunct scheduling--and then FREEDOM (for a little bit, anyway).

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