Pushing Through


October 27, 2013 by Jean

Two weeks ago, I spent a long weekend, our mid-semester break, at home in Maine. I read a novel, stacked a cord of firewood, put away the deck furniture and took down the screen house, put away plant supports and garden hoses, put out reflectors for the snow plow, did some reading for class, and graded a few papers. Although there was a lot to get done in just a few days, it felt both productive and relaxing.

When I came back, though, it was to the hardest part of the semester, and it hit me hard. During the six weeks from mid-semester to Thanksgiving, the workload ratchets up inexorably. This is always the case. This past week, I held individual conferences with all the students in one of my classes to discuss their progress on their term papers; 7 hours were needed just for these conferences. This week, I will hold similar conferences with students from another course. In two weeks, students in all three courses will begin handing in first drafts of their term papers. These drafts typically take me 90 minutes each to read and comment on, and there will be 50 of them to complete before Thanksgiving. During this same period, I need to complete work on evaluations of three faculty – a junior colleague in my department who is going through a pretenure review, a tenured colleague whose quadrennial review I am responsible for carrying out, and a candidate for tenure at another college whose scholarship I have agreed to evaluate.

I know that once I get to Thanksgiving, things will be easier; we have only one week of classes after the holiday, followed by a week of final exams and final grading, and then a blissful 5-week holiday break. Since my teaching load will be much lighter in the spring semester, I will never have to work this hard again. Still, at this point, all I can see in front of me is a wall of work. I always feel this way at this time of year, but I think it’s worse this year. I seem to be less tolerant of this exhausting work load because I know that this is the last time I’ll have to experience it.

Sometimes, when I’m on a long walk or hike and start to feel as though I want to quit, I push through the tiredness and keep myself going by chanting “One foot in front of the other; keep going, keep going.” That’s what I need to do now, keep putting one foot in front of the other and push through the wall of work to the freedom beyond.

8 thoughts on “Pushing Through

  1. I can totally understand how you feel Jean. It has been a brutal workload for me and there is a slight easing right now until the holidays. Very busy but not oppressively so. Once January hits though each month gets more crushing until April when I am working what feels like 24/7.

    I am hoping to be able to just keep pushing through until June.

    • Jean says:

      I just talked to my teacher-niece and she was telling me about the same, exhausting work load ahead of her this coming month. Teachers are such hard working and dedicated people! You will get through your coming weeks the way you’ve always done it in the past but with a much bigger carrot, this year, to keep you moving forward. I just found out my niece was honored by her school board for running a summer bookmobile with her own time, money, books and vehicle. I am so proud of her! Sorry, I had to brag somewhere. LOL

      • Diana Studer says:

        I have a great-niece and great-nephew who began teaching this year. Yes, I’m proud of my two as well!

        • Jean says:

          Diana, It warms my heart to hear about these young people taking up the profession of teaching. Although I sometimes grouse about the work, I have found this to be a very rewarding career.

      • Jean says:

        Jean, Kudos to your niece; you should be proud of her! Library books were so important to me as a child. Our city public library allowed you to get a library card as soon as you could write your name, which was motivation for me to learn to write my name at age 4. Then came the excitement of my weekly trips to the children’s room at the library and the agony of trying to choose just four books that would have to last me a whole week. If I had a relative that had taken personal action to bring that kind of joy to others, I’d brag about it, too!

    • Jean says:

      Donna, I thought of you as I was writing this post. Pushing through your heavy workload this year to retirement in June must be all the harder for having thought you would be retired by now. I am counting weeks now until things ease up for me, and I’m looking forward to a much lighter workload in spring. I think I would be finding it much harder to push through the wall of work if I were facing your heavy workload through the spring.

  2. I’m feeling guilty because I got up early so I could get started on my current quilting project. Get your rest and get through this busy season so you can have your well deserved break.

    • Jean says:

      Judy, I’m looking forward to being able to get up early, not because the alarm clock went off at 5:45, but because I woke up eager to get to work on some project. Enjoy! I am counting the weeks now (3) until I am through the worst of my fall workload and off to Maine for Thanksgiving. These coming three weeks will be made easier for me by the time change, which will allow me to walk to work in the light again.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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