Giving Thanks


November 27, 2013 by Jean

I am finally coming up for air after several weeks in which every spare moment was devoted to reading and commenting on drafts of my students’ term papers and projects. I began reading first drafts early in the morning on Saturday, November 9 and finished the last of them in the late afternoon on Sunday, November 24. During the last week of reading them, I left the office early every afternoon (after “only” 8 hours at work) and got home in time to read and comment on two paper drafts and still have 2-3 hours left in the evening to prepare for the next day’s classes.

The first drafts have long been my least favorite part of teaching, but I know that the final papers will be much higher quality and much better learning experiences for the students because they will not be first drafts. Usually, I get myself through the period of reading first drafts by chanting to myself, “If I weren’t doing this, this is what the final papers would look like; if I weren’t doing this, this is what the final papers would look like; if I weren’t doing this, this is what the final papers would look like….” But this year, my mantra was “I’ll never have to work this hard again in my life; I’ll never have to work this hard again in my life; I’ll never have to work this hard again in my life….”

When I finished the last paper on Sunday afternoon, I felt wonderfully light and free. After a full day at work on Monday and a few hours in the office on Tuesday morning,  I drove to the airport and got on a plane home to Maine for Thanksgiving. I do have some grading and class preparation to do over the holiday weekend, and two more weeks of the semester to complete after Thanksgiving; but the hardest work is behind me. I have been enjoying some pleasure reading and some time to just sit and relax. By mid-December, I’ll be back in Maine for a glorious month-long break; and the spring semester that will follow will have a much lighter workload. This Thanksgiving I’m aware of just how much I have to be thankful for:

  • I am thankful for my long and rewarding teaching career and for the students and colleagues who have made that work a pleasure.
  • I am thankful that my teaching career is coming to an end and that I can look forward to new adventures and opportunities for growth.
  • I am thankful for the good salary that has gone with that career, a salary that made it possible for me to maintain my retreat in the Maine woods even when I couldn’t live here full time and that made it possible for me to save enough for retirement so that I can come back and live here full time.
  • I am thankful that I managed to dodge the worst of the winter storm and get home to Maine for Thanksgiving.
  • I am thankful that I still have the health, energy and stamina to work an 80-hour week when I have to.
  • I am thankful that I will never again have to work an 80-hour week.
  • I am thankful for the time to savor life’s daily pleasures.
  • I am thankful for the family members and friends (old and new) whose company I will now have more time to enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

5 thoughts on “Giving Thanks

  1. Jean says:

    And I am thankful you’re documenting the voyage into your retirement transitional period. Have a great thanksgiving!

    • Jean says:

      Jean, Thanks so much for your support. I am almost finished with my final grading for the semester and looking forward to getting caught up with my blogging community.

  2. Jean I am glad to hear the worst is finally behind you…so many students have benefited from your teaching….I am hoping to go part time starting in January. It has been grueling since summer and these many months have worn me down. I am looking forward to a break but the only way to get it is with going to 4 days a week. We get very little vacation or breaks. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Diana Studer says:

      4 days can make a very comfortable difference. A longer weekend, Donna, or a break in the week? I remember what a change it was when I reduced my working hours to 90%. Getting home in time to cook dinner, before I was too exhausted to eat.

    • Jean says:

      Donna, I’m really happy to hear that you will be able to reduce your hours starting in January. I will also have a much lighter workload (only 2 courses, about 40-50 hours a week — like a regular person ;-)). I have one more paper to grade tomorrow morning, post the final grades for my last class, and I can pack to head north to Maine. It feels so good to have gotten to the end of this semester!

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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.

Please join me as I step into my future.

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