Monday, May 16, 2011

Grades are done! YAY!

Within the next few days, I will post breakdowns in blackboard so students can see how they fared on the final, for participation, etc. Tomorrow I will get to the academic stuff that has been waiting, such as fall enrollment. Also up ahead are my end of semester activity report and the blackboard upgrade for the summer class.

However, if it wasn't raining, before thinking of any of that, I'd be outside cutting the grass and rototilling the garden. As it is, the weather may prompt me to finish it all, long before deadlines loom. Just as well, then I can garden without guilt when the sun finally comes out.

I am definitely going to get back to my Mark Twain book. Also, I have to write the pitch for my nonfiction story. And get working on the two sci-fi stories that have been brewing. All things that can be done when it is raining.

But right now, time for some reflection.

I arrived at college at age 16 in 1978, intending to major in pre-law. After one semester I determined that I liked history better. So I majored in US History. The economy and job market at that time were similar to now. I did not pursue education curricula and had no interest in teaching.

I had a variety of jobs in my twenties, in Oneonta where I went to undergrad (and lingered a little while afterwards, adored that town), in NYC and Westchester after college - some tolerable, some drudgery, some temporary, none very lucrative. Each only lasted a year or two (and often less).

I had a lot of fun, and was not focused on climbing the career ladder. Finally I sort of figured out what I wanted to do (and what I didn't), did figure out where I wanted to live (and where I didn't), and I had a vague idea that I might be ready for grad school at some undetermined point in the not-too-distant future.

I moved to the Capital District, got a clerical temp job at a State agency. My boss taught me how to use a spreadsheet, which wound up being a valuable skill, one that turned me from computer phobe into a computer enthusiast. She became an important mentor for me.

I went back to school for the MPA when I was 28. I thought I wanted to take the human resources concentration, but found I liked data analysis, statistics and policy more. I also thought I wanted to work for a state agency, but instead I found an internship at SUNY System - I took it because it came with a tuition waiver - and eventually that made me gravitate toward education.

They hired me when I graduated, and I stayed there nearly ten years. During that time I was told "you'll never move up if you don't get a doctorate" and although I had promised myself when I pursued the MPA that if I went on to a doctoral program, I would go back to studying my true love: History, I did the expedient thing instead, and applied to the educational administration and policy PhD.

By the time I finished it (an aside, but I almost didn’t - four years in, I decided either the job or the doctoral program had to go because I needed time to pursue other interests such as writing...a year later goodbye job) 22 years after graduating high school - I had been volunteering as a docent at Historic Cherry Hill, and through that experience, discovered that I didn't want to be an administrator - I wanted to teach college! That was in 2000, when I was nearly 39, and I have now been teaching for 11 years.

I'll be 50 this year and will probably work for another 20 years if my health stays good [I have excellent family genes, so keeping my fingers crossed] and also I'm born the first year of the social security age being raised before you can collect or be on medicare so I may have no choice but to not retire.

My track record is to spend about a decade in each setting (exploration in the twenties,  administration in the thirties, teaching in the forties) before I move on. So what's next for me? In twenty years I could fit in two more "careers."

It would be nice if one of the ten years could be full-time freelance fiction writing, which is really what I have always wanted to do. Unfortunately I don’t think I could generate enough income that way, until I am also collecting my pension. I know that’s a cop out, that if I really wanted it I would take a risk and “just do it.” I’m either too risk adverse, or not confident enough.

Appreciating change is a part of why I like teaching; every semester is new, a chance to start over and experiment. I have never had a job I liked as much as teaching, so at this point I am satisfied and this is mostly joking. But I do like new challenges. Not that I spend one moment worrying (I don’t) but I am adjunct, so I am mindful of keeping my options open (one reason for the research and consulting).

I also know that I probably won't be in the classroom for another 20 years. There will come a time when I will be too out of touch to be effective as a college instructor. I'm hoping that doesn't happen too soon but I can't be unrealistic either.

I shared sentiments like this with students in online discussion and one protested:

I don't think that you will be done teaching because you don't think you are effective any more. I think there will be a loss of interest or you just really can't teach anymore; you're satisfied at the time in your career, so it will be ok for you to retire. Being ineffective is a very bold statement, one that can be misinterpreted. As long as you have the effect on your students the way you do now, and you keep them interested with the material you teach (for example, applying it to their lives), then I really don't see how you can't teach for another 20 years- if you want.

Bob would probably say it was only apple polishing, but I say it’s not :-). Spring ‘11 was a good semester.

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