I dream of the day when I can comfortably retire from education without needing the income. That’s the most lurid fantasy I have, and I imagine it almost daily. As I look at this mountain of grading before me, I envision the day when I’m sitting in HR and filling out the paperwork. In the wildest version of this fantasy, it happens soon because of a huge royalty check or grotesque advance for movie rights, and I courageously choose to walk away from teaching to throw myself into writing and promoting full-time. Some days, I can smell the freedom.
In reality, I recognize that I’m stuck at this for a little while longer. My child support isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and while Seventh Star is doing an excellent job with the series so far, it’s improbable to expect a six figure royalty check any time soon. Realistically, that’s what I would need to feel safe leaving behind the income and benefits. Not that I earn six figures now, but by my estimation, a royalty check like that would give me a 2-3 year cushion to live on. Since that’s unlikely to occur in the next couple of years, I comfort myself with the fantasy.
I hate feeling this way about the job because there was a time when I truly loved teaching, but the system is geared to use us up and burn us out well before our prime. The course load and student ratio are set too high for composition teachers, so the constant grind of grading is nearly unbearable. Then, to compound the issue, from All Children Left Behind and the Race to a Stop, the students get less and less capable each semester, which means we have to work harder just to cover the basics. When we grumble among ourselves, most of us express at least some desire to escape the profession. Some are hanging on to reach the last level of vesting, others for another opportunity to open up, and some like me for their other career to become self-sustaining. I know very few teachers today who openly claim to be in it for the long-term.
The sad part is, the ones who are the most burned out are the most capable teachers because it’s doing the job properly that causes the over-exertion. The crappy teachers who don’t follow due diligence with their lectures and grading never feel the burn because they aren’t putting forth the same level of effort. They just coast along, doing just enough to fly under the radar but not really providing the students with a quality education. Even last semester, when I was so sick I could barely walk from my office to the classroom, I still delivered dozens of pages of notes and drilled my students on the fundamentals of good writing because I believe in the importance of writing, not just for the individual students, but for our society as a whole.
Despite this level of dedication on my part, I promise that if I received a six figure royalty or advance tomorrow, the college would be running an ad for my position this summer. I would finish out my contract, but that would be all, and I would only finish it because of the respect I have for my dean and colleagues. That’s why I’ve purposefully stayed on a year-to-year basis, so that I can walk away on relatively short notice without burning a bridge. But until the day arrives when I can leave, I’ll have to sate myself with the fantasy. As for now, it’s time to get back to grading.
10 thoughts on “Monday Afternoon Ramblings”
😦 If it’s that bad in English, I hate to think what I’d take on if I go into teaching chemistry or medicinal chemistry. UGH! Here’s to the improbable!
With composition classes, the problem is the volume of grading. It takes a minimum of ten minutes of grade one essay. I have on average at least 100 students each semester, usually more like 125, and we are required to cover five essays. It’s the time involved that’s brutal.
Hang in there, Alex, and maybe lower your standards a tad on the grading. Just remember what your true long-term focus should be.
And in a sick way, embrace this crap your going through. It will bless you to no end when you make it and think of slacking off.
The hell nobodies like me and you must endure becomes the blistering hot forge that breaks us down and hardens our bodies and souls to literary warriors.
Your health is coming back, you’ve got a ten-mile jump on me, and I’m going to for damn-sure make it to the top. We’ll share a drink when we get there, but not rest too long. We’ll never forget how easily our lives can go back…
I freaking love your attitude, Stan.
Hah! I’m nuts man, but don’t you have to be to get in the writing biz?!
Wow! Stan! Love the passion, man!
You’ll make it Alex. Teaching is a dream of mine. Both parents retired from teaching. One thing that does seem attractive is the retirement. In my industry, the only retirement is saving up enough money to ensure your days and dollars run out at the same time, unless we rely on government benefits, but I can’t rely on social security being around.
Here’s my advice (for what it’s worth), keep on writing. I think the more inventory you have out there, then the more sales you will see. As you see more sales, then the likelihood of the movie deal or the New York publishing advance goes up. At least that’s my thinking.
Worst case, you end up a retired educator with an impressive career in writing as well.
Dang you and your solid logic. Now, my fantasy is all spoiled, LOL
Granted the number is probably small, but you are bound to be positively influencing some students. Even if it is just one–you’ve changed a life for the better.
Back in grad school I TA’d for a professor that had 380 students one semester. Three classes of 100 and one of 80. Thank goodness she was fond of the scantron or I probably would have never gotten all the grading done!
We joke about wishing we could ScanTron essays. And actually, one of my colleagues is piloting a program that does auto-grade. If that thing pans out, I might stick around.