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!