Yoga, anyone?

Since I’ve been feeling okayish lately, I allowed Holden to convince me to do some yoga in our family room the other morning.  I practiced yoga weekly when I was pregnant with Holden, starting at some point in the 2nd trimester.  I really felt that it helped me to relax, in addition to keeping my muscles and joints in good shape.  Well, the other morning I got about 15 minutes into my little yoga routine, and I became so winded and lightheaded that I had to stop or else I would have thrown up.  It’s crazy to me how much stamina I’ve lost since August when my exercise came to an abrupt halt due to all-day/all-night nausea.  I tried yoga again yesterday (at Holden’s insistence), and I got in 40 minutes of a pretty decent routine.  I was only mildly nauseous at certain points, but afterward I felt pretty good, and this feeling continued for the rest of the day.  I’m going to keep at it a few times each week, and one of these days I’ll actually start cashing in my passes for weekly prenatal yoga classes (it seems that so far, there is some sort of scheduling conflict every single week that prevents me from going).  All in good time, right?

Other than that—I’m just checking off the days till the end of the semester.  I only teach 5 more classes, then we have our final.  I grade almost every single day of the week just to stay on top of things, even on days when it’s just me and H.  I will grade for 15 or 20 minutes with H in my midst, just to get the pile down to a more reasonable level.  The class I am currently teaching is a brand-new prep for me (I’ve taught EIGHT different preps since 2006, if you can believe that).  Considering that it’s a new prep and it’s a class I’ve never even taken before, I feel like I am staying on top of the workload fairly well.   That said, the class isn’t especially interesting to me (it’s more squishy psychology than actual science), and a very large portion of my class was failing at midterm (about 1/3).  How could so many students fail?  Do I expect too much of them?  Well, the truth is that the failing students either never come to class and/or never turn in any assignments.  Their failure reflects a complete lack of effort on their part, rather than me being an unreasonable hardass.

My feelings about teaching have become increasingly negative over the last few years.  I never wanted to be a teacher.  I wanted to be a scientist.  But somehow, here I am, doing something that I never intended to do.  I liked teaching in the beginning.  I was excited about sharing interesting things with students.  I was excited about helping them learn all sorts of important skills.  I was excited to learn a few things along the way as well (in terms of both course content, as well as pedagogy).  But now….I’m greeted by such apathy each time I walk in the classroom.  My students don’t seem to care what they learn (or even, if they learn at all).  I try to get them to read.  They don’t.  I firmly demand they get off Facebook during class.  They do—but only for a few minutes.  I ask them to reflect on what they have read.  They ask “Can you give us a rubric?”

Gah.  My most recent Supremely Irritating Moment was following one of my classes earlier this semester.  I had passed along job information to my students, as I do from time to time, as a courtesy to them.  I think it’s important to help connect students to resources and potential contacts in the field, so they aren’t out at sea following graduation.  The job information I sent to them was from a local organization that connects workers (usually students) with families who need personalized assistance for their autistic child.  The contact from the organization was familiar to me, as I had arranged for her to come give a talk at our institution last year, when I was serving as the department chair.  A couple of my students pursued the job opportunity (yay!), and set up interviews directly with the families with whom they might potentially work.  Sounds good, right?  Well, of course, there was an issue with one of my students.  Or, I should say, there was an issue with the mother of one of my students.  When the mother found out that her daughter would be working with an autistic person, she FLIPPED OUT, and contacted the freaking college president, demanding that he intervene and save her daughter from what was certainly an unsafe and unsavory job.  What followed from that was a complete overreaction on the part of the college.  The Director of Counseling Services, Residence Life, etc., convened at my student’s dorm room at 7AM to tell her not to go into work because they agreed it seemed sketchy, and they wanted to make sure it was safe.  So of course, my student feels panicked and probably feels like she can’t trust the information I’ve given her.  At this point, the Dean calls me at home, demanding an explanation.  I told her that the position was legitimate, that I had personal contact with the representative of the organization, etc.  I told her I was only trying to help the students.  More phone calls were made, and basically the college determined what I already knew—that the position was safe.  The student’s mother continued to insist that her daughter not work in this position, even though her daughter is 19 and can legally make whatever work-related choices she wants.  In the end, the student gave a big “F U” to her mom, and pursued the job anyway.  I don’t know whether the student got the job.  I don’t really want to broach the subject with her.  I do feel that the officials at the college made some poor assumptions about the kind of work I do with my students, and that they were way out of line to assume that I’d just pass along any kind of job posting to my students, without first vetting it.  I felt like my employer took the mother’s uneducated side, and left me standing there alone, to defend myself.  It made me furious.  And it’s the last job opportunity I will ever send along to my students.  I don’t need this kind of bullshit for $3000/semester.

So this is absolutely, definitely the last time I teach.  I hate it (can’t you see why?) and it’s not getting me to where I ultimately want to be.  I’m not learning anything new, and I don’t even have the satisfaction of watching my students learn (because they aren’t putting in enough effort).  I’m tired of parents and administrators making student progress a problem of the teacher.  The teacher has a role, sure, but it’s not all on me.  No fucking way.  I’ve gotten as good with teaching as I’m ever going to get—I can run a discussion for 3 hours without Powerpoint, videos, or any other crutches.  I can talk about controversial subjects, like the evolutionary basis of rape, issues of race, gender, and class.  I can write learning outcomes that rock.  I can mediate any conflict under the sun that comes up in the classroom (and sometimes outside of it).  There’s nowhere to go from here.  I can’t get better at this.  It’s not that I’m the best teacher ever (I’m not), it’s just that I’ve reached my personal ceiling.

I have so many more thoughts on this—which is why I am up at 6AM pouring my heart out.  I’ve been grieving the loss of research in my life.  I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but grief and loss are the best words for it.  I trained for so long to do something, and I can’t do it because the economy sucks, and no new jobs are being created, and the fucking baby boomer scientists won’t retire, and here I am, teaching the fuck-up children of those baby boomers.  I’ve never been to therapy in my adult life, although I do think I need to go to therapy for this—so I can move on and stop dwelling on the sense of loss I feel.  It’s not an opportune time for therapy, though.  I’m having a baby in 5  months, and I’d rather dwell on how awesome that is.  But I feel like it’s hard to think about the pregnancy right now.  When I was pregnant with Holden, I was overjoyed.  We had wanted to get pregnant for over a year, then I had a miscarriage, then I got pregnant with Holden.  By the time I was pregnant with Holden, I was very used to the idea of being pregnant (we’d been wanting/expecting it for a while, and we were stoked that it finally happened).  During that time, I was happy with my postdoc, and felt like I was getting good advising (I wasn’t).  But that’s besides the point—my perception was that I was in a good place.  During this pregnancy (which completely took us by surprise–more on that later), I feel like my professional life has unraveled in a way that is irreparable.  I know that’s probably not true, but that’s certainly how it feels.  I’m still waiting on hearing back about that second postdoc opportunity that I was informally offered back in August.  I’m starting to feel anxious about it, and I just want to know what the fuck is going to happen.  I’m starting to feel like it might not work out.  What can you do?

There’s nothing I can do.  I have no control over this situation.  And I hate that.  All I *can* do is practice some yoga a few times a week, take some deep breaths,  love my little guy, and pretend that everything will work out.  And if I have a girl, I will refuse to perpetuate the myth that having a career AND motherhood is possible.  Because it’s fucking not.

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