I’m bored. The thought came to me as I walked across the cement courtyard to the lovely new building where my office is housed. Less than a year at the job and I’m already bored. What will I feel like in ten years? These were the rather grey thoughts that followed a rather grey class in the late morning hours.
The class covered the principles for successful oral presentations. Useful life skills, no doubt. But then again, how much can I teach? How much do the students need to learn through trial and error?
I returned to my office, sifted through the 90+ reporting letters and progress reports my students have written in the last few weeks. I am desperately behind in marking. I don’t remember ever being this far behind when I taught Children’s Literature. But let’s face it, one can only read so many practice memorandums before feeling like screaming.
My graduate writing courses are different. The students are writing about such a myriad of topics and at such a depth of research that my attention is focused. If it wasn’t for those two courses I think I’d be feeling rather desperate by now.
Who am I fooling? I am feeling desperate. And I’m hopelessly behind in the other work I need to do. I’m editing an article based on the journal’s editors’ comments before it goes to peer review, I’m reviewing another two poetry collections, I’m neglecting my own poetry collections and the short stories that have been started and put on hold. I have two more academic papers to write. In April, in April. I keep telling myself I’m almost finished with the drudgery then I can finish up the work I really want to do.
Part of me is worried that I’m burnt out on teaching. Nine years of teaching at the post-secondary and now I’ve had enough. I’ve always had a short attention span maybe I’m finished. Part of me longs to return to academia. Do another graduate degree or … something.
But another part of me, points out that I never felt this way until I started teaching professional and technical writing two years ago. My research is in the area of academic writing and the development of voice. In my technical writing classes the students are not interested in “voice.” They just want to know the “right way” to compose a business letter. I’ve become a bit more dissatisfied since taking on the graduate level courses. When I talk about voice in those classes, the students’ attention is captured. But one can hardly explore voice in depth when teaching a six-week workshop.
I miss teaching academic writing. I miss watching a student struggle with his or her ideas until a thesis statement is born and then watching that working thesis grow and evolve. And yet I feel as though I’m banging my head against a cement wall in the Okanagan. I’ve applied to teach academic writing at so many levels (from foundational through to upper level courses) since moving here. But I’m always unsuccessful with those applications. The last rejection stung the worse. Despite being assured that it wasn’t a reflection of a lack of ability or skill on my part, I still cried for an hour after receiving the news. It was the first time I’d let myself do that.
My research is focused on academic writing and despite my love of teaching it, the only way I’ve been able to land an academic writing gig is by creating one myself. And even that looks like it will disappear in a few short weeks. I’m so frustrated I could scream. The icing on the cake is listening to those who do have the opportunity to teach academic writing bemoan their fate. THEY would rather be teaching literature.
Truth be told, I’m on the verge of giving up. I could end the daily hour-long commute, settle in my new home, care for my sick child and write whatever I wish to. I could quit teaching. A little voice at the back of mind is nudging me. Give it up. You tried for two years straight. You came close but you aren’t going to achieve what you wanted. Admit defeat. Move on.
On the other hand, I hate giving up.