Thursday, January 22, 2015

Elvis has left the building

How do I begin a post for this blog when my brain is scattered to the farthest thin edges of my perceptual reality of existence?  If there were such thing as a cosmic vacuum extractor, I could use it to suck back enough gray matter to think clearly with, perhaps.  Sadly, the only alternative is to will myself to stand up to my natural tendency to evaporate, and carry on as any normal human being would.  Yes, on the outside, I am a normal human.  On the inside…let’s just say Elvis has left the building. 

Our house has fallen beyond its usual state of ruin.  Christmas decorations are still waiting for me to pack up and put away.  The process is started – we’ve had boxes stacked in the hallway for weeks.  Last weekend, deChristmasfication was on my task list to get done.  I dragged up more empty boxes up from the basement last Friday evening after work.  End of story.  No follow through, or perhaps it’s a matter of extended procrastination.  That’s how I roll.  The Christmas tree, the boxes, and me…all collecting dust.

The start of the semester was hard last time; it’s even harder this time with two classes.  I expected the online students to struggle with getting started, but the face-to-face people really have no excuse, and they are struggling almost as much.  We have met three times.  They’ve had three opportunities to get my full attention to help with their issues.  I get to class early and I stay after for anyone who wants help.  Few want help.  My students had a deadline for two assignments at midnight last night.  These things were assigned a week ago, and I’ve made two explicit announcements about the due date.  Last night around 7PM, I had 10 or so emails from students wanting help.  At 10PM, around 30 more emails came in.  At 11:30PM, I just signed off and went to bed.  Obviously they need some serious hand-holding. 

Some of the students in my class should never have been allowed to enroll.  They are supposed to be up-to-speed on basic computer literacy and ability to use simple features of Microsoft Office.  I have students who don’t know how to upload/download files, how to rename files, or how to find files on their computers.  They don’t understand that Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer are two different things.  That makes a course like mine too much for them, especially for an online student.  One student doesn’t even understand what a table is.  We are just learning Word right now….can you imagine how much trouble she will have when we get to pivot tables in Excel?  Or for that matter, anything in Excel and Access?  I don’t see success in her future with this class.
For now I’m writing instructive emails with screenshots to help my students.  It’s taking too long with so many students.  I just bought Camtasia so I can make short narrated videos to show them what to do.  It’s on my task list to learn to use it, along with undecorating for Christmas, and cleaning bathrooms, decluttering the basement, and …
A month ago, I asked my supervisor if working part-time is an option for me.  If this were an option for me, it would make building a portfolio of adjunct teaching jobs easier to do.  I could shrink my hours at my real job as I grow my teaching load.  He said he’d get back to me with an answer.  This week, he gave me his answer.  He said to ask if I can work part-time when I’m ready to work part-time.  His answer was, in fact, exactly what I expected…no answer.  So, it’s time for me to launch a job search.  When I have a good offer on the table, I’ll see if I can continue on part-time at my real job (where I can make way more money than I’ll ever make teaching).  If they say yes (I believe they will), it’s going to cost them much more to keep me than if they’d made a decision up front.  They can afford to pay for causing me inconvenience, and they’ll be feeling the pressure when they get two weeks’ notice from me.

An editor of a small, local newspaper contacted me earlier this week.  He wants to write a story about me for his paper.  I agreed to answer his questionnaire because really, there are several universities in this immediate area.  Just maybe, the right person will see that I’m trying to make a career change.  On a more personal level though, I don’t really like exposing myself to the world…but OK, it’s probably no more than the county, but still…I wrote answers to his questions, and who knows what the item will say about me after he’s done with all his editing.  It’s not that I have something to hide, but more that I like invisibility.

But yes, it must be that now is not the time to embrace anonymity.  I must project a competent, go-getter persona so as to line up some teaching I can tell my employer (if need be) to take this job and shove it.  It's up the ante or up yours, fellas, which will it be?   

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