Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Because It's Fun to Pretend I'm Fascinating

My separated-at-birth Virgo twin Shawnee is doing this very "personalized" meme/interview thing. I e-mailed her requesting interview questions and she wrote some! Just for me! However, this meme dies with me. I can barely answer my own questions; please don't expect me to write some for you. Plus, finals week approacheth. Yikes!!

Here we go. Get ready to be fascinated!

Name five "luxury items" that you could not live without. (i.e., not necessities such as food, water, air, wine or George Clooney. Although that last one may just be me.)

  • Oh, gosh. There was a line in a movie/TV show/something once like, "Roughing it to you means staying at a hotel that doesn't have 600 thread-count sheets." I will pay a fairly hefty chunk of money for sheets if the thread-count is 400 or more. Mr. J. thought I was crazy when we first got married, but now I've got HIM hooked, too. It's like flying first class - once you've done it, you can't ever go back to coach.

  • Regular eyebrow waxing treatments at the salon/spa. It's not fun, it's not that cheap (considering you're paying someone to rip your hair out by its roots), it's pretty painful but it beats the hell out of me stabbing my forehead repeatedly with tweezers sharp enough to kill a man.

  • Burt's Bees lip balm. I've started buying multiple tubes so I've got one with me at all times, regardless of bag, wallet, what have you.

  • Pedicures. Especially the sinfully indulgent ones that take an hour and use 27 kinds of soothing mint-scented Aveda products. Every woman should have one, if only to kick off sandal season.

  • Ann Taylor pants. I am short. I have "birthing hips" (that will go completely to waste, but oh well). Ann Taylor (rest her soul) seemed to understand this. I can actually pull those pants up over my hips without the waist looking like it's six sizes too big.

What's your idea of a perfect weekend?

Is this a complete and total fantasy? Because then my idea of a perfect weekend would be one in NYC with tickets to have a dozen shows - the big, over-the-top ones like Lion King and anything that just won a Tony and of COURSE Avenue Q. And then food, wine and shopping. And maybe staying at the Plaza hotel. How's THAT?

If you could live anywhere on the planet, where would it be? What do you like most about where you live now? Least?

  • Back to Hawaii, baby. I miss it in the same intense way you miss a person. I always hoped I'd end up back there eventually, but I don't think it's anywhere in the near future.

  • I feel about 100 years old when I type this, but affordable housing? Minimal traffic? Near family and friends?

  • Where do I start? Scary gun-toting extremists, crappy weather, lame suburban chain restaurants on every friggin' corner.

Which do you think is more likely to make you snap someday: a clueless college student, rude neighbors or random people sharing their unsolicited opinions of your choices?

Honestly, it's probably going to be a college student and it's probably going to be something small, like the student who is CONSTANTLY e-mailing me questions about what we discussed in class (because he'd rather nap when he's IN class) and never, ever, NOT once included a salutation and FORGET about e-mailing me back to say, "Thank you. I know you discussed this in class and I appreciate you taking the time to respond to me since I'm clearly a sleep-deprived idiot." Either that, or a really bad run-on sentence.

Name at least one secret guilty pleasure. (The Girls Next Door doesn't count, we know all about it!)

I am so embarrassed to even type this and I KNOW I'm going to lose about all 15 readers, but I am obsessed with this little pet boutique. I bought Minnie a pink collar with her name spelled out in GIANT rhinestone letters (she does look a bit like a pimp/rap-star now that I think about it). It was not cheap. In fact, it was borderline, "It is OBSCENE to spend that kind of money on an animal who couldn't care what her collar looks like and who enjoys eating Kleenex and grass." You can't exactly see it in this picture, because well, even I was too humiliated to make her hold her head up high enough so I could take a picture of it. I've also bought her boots (pink of course) and those went right back because they didn't go over well. I bought her a pumpkin costume (it was Halloween, okay?) which also did NOT go over well. Most recently, I bought her a pink polo shirt with white daisies embroidered on it and although I managed to get it ON her, she was far too humiliated for me to take a picture and now I'm trying to stop because I guess it's bordering on animal abuse. Uh, thanks for reading. Bye-bye, now!


Monday, April 23, 2007

Housing Update

Let me begin by apologizing for the picture situation. I was quite happy to do the drag and drop that a wonderful reader told me about, but now the pictures don't seem to be the least bit interested in being dragged and they do seem to be interested in only living at the top of my post, regardless of where I have my cursor. Bah! Stupid technology that I am too lazy to learn!

Anyway, let's work from the bottom up, shall we? No, it isn't a prison! It's the only functioning toilet in the basement of my "new" 70-year-old house.

The lovely Mrs. T. has asked about our current living situation.

She is correct - we did buy a 70 year-old home in December and we are renovating it. Praise be to Jeebus we are NOT living there. Not for another 5 weeks, anyway. It looks like it will be in move-in condition by then, don't you think? Yeah, me neither.

Did I mention that I took these pictures on Saturday??? Saturday. Notice the back of the house. There used to be a room there. Mr. J. had concerns that the wood underneath was rotted because the room seemed to be an addition. He was correct. Rotted. But now? The proverbial door to nowhere. Well, that's not entirely true. It's just a little high up for Minnie (or me) to be using it as an entrance or exit.

Now, if you're still with me through this ridiculous mess of a post, look at the very top picture. Notice something? Talk about a door that goes nowhere!!! See, the one thing about that little room was that it had a flat roof because it was actually a small balcony you could access from the master bedroom (off the second floor). Now that is no more. Although I guess it's probably not such a bad thing, because apparently during February someone managed to scamper up there and tried to break in (broke the door handle) which is what (I guess) you get for leaving a house empty for an extended period of time, but sheesh! Do your homework all thieves, robbers, cat burglars and ne'er-do-wells: That wadn't nuthin' in there to steal.

I promise to keep you posted on renovations over the next five weeks. Mr. J. assures me that there WILL be functioning shower by the time we move in. We finally got hot water on Saturday as well, so that's exciting. I like showers and I like hot water and I like toilets that flush. I guess I am spoiled. I do so love the modern conveniences.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Don't You Be My Neighbor

Are deer supposed to eat white bread? My hunch is no, but I'm not a large animal vet, so what the hell do I know?

Here is what I do know: I know how to be a halfway decent neighbor. I'm a better neighbor than I used to be, thanks in large part to Mr. J. He is constantly watching out for ways we might be "not very neighborly" because being "not very neighborly" is actually the Eighth Deadly Sin.

You know what's maddening, though? What's maddening is when you're doing your damnedest to be neighborly and well . . . no one else seems to give a tiny rat's ass (to blatantly steal a phrase from Friends).

We moved into this rental back in September. The good(?) news is that we're moving out in about 5 weeks. Since I won't have to deal with these clowns for very much longer, I can now acknowledge the rage I've been feeling this whole time. Mr. J. does not have this rage. He has a very Jesus/Oprah/Maya Angelou attitude about the whole thing, like "they know not what they do" or, "If they knew better, they'd do better." Did I ever mention that I once bought a few decks of these cards? I gave them away, mostly as gag gifts and now I'm tempted to buy a big slew and distribute them in the middle of the night in a fabulously spineless, passive-aggressive attempt to indicate my unhappiness.

Let's start with the biggest offender, the one with the bread. I shall call him "Rudely McThoughtlessen." Our very first night here, he showed us a hint of his not very neighborly ways when he started playing jazz music, very loudly, at oh, about midnight. Now I like jazz - especially jazz with a very heavy bass line - just as much as the next gal. But not when I'm trying to get my beauty rest and definitely not when I share a wall with your speakers. Of course, he is the PRESIDENT of the condo association so what the hell were we to do except bitch to each other? Did I also mentioned, he's like, 50? And retired? And married? And has the requisite motorcycle in his garage?

Then in early October, he put a pumpkin in front of his door. We all kind of share the front wall of our units (hard to explain) so I guess he put a pumpkin out for all of us to enjoy. And enjoy we did. All through November and December and just when I thought Minnie was going to choke herself trying to get away from me in order to eat the delicious rotting pumpkin, it went away. Or so I thought. He just threw it in the backyard, which we do all share. I guess he's an animal person and I imagine deer can eat pumpkin. But even deer probably don't love rotting pumpkin. Again - just a guess. Throughout the winter, I would look out my patio door and see white bread thrown up on the hill/backyard we all share. At least when it was cold, I could try to justify it - he's worried about the deer. He doesn't want them to starve. Except this morning when I came downstairs I looked outside and lo and behold, what looked like an ENTIRE loaf of white bread (whole slices!) thrown all over the hill. A few piece were dangling gently from some tree branches. Did I mention it was EIGHTY degrees today? Dude! Um, it's also ANT season. I know they're outside already, but do we really want to encourage them?

On the other side, we have two young men. Mr. J. and I can only assume that someone has purchased the condo for them - or maybe they're subletters, like us - who knows? We call them the "Let's spend Saturday afternoon throwing furniture down the stairs" guys because it seems that's what they like to do in their spare time. Another family lived there (before they got evicted!) and were so quiet, you'd hardly even know they were there. (Which is maybe why they got evicted?) And they had a big dog! And a small child! Two almost guaranteed to be noisy residents and not a peep. The other thing these two fellows do is put their trash outside either not in bags or mostly not in bags. It seems like they have a contest the night before trash day and see how many pieces of junk they can throw into a small garbage bag. I think they do the throwing from several feet away. They also remind me of my students because they can't seem to find a little twisty-tie thing and the bags are always too overflowing to just tie in a knot. If the sanitation engineers come kill them in the middle of the night, I can't say I would blame them.

Ending abruptly because I'm not sure I'm making much sense and this hour and suddenly find myself unaware of how to spell basic words. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, April 16, 2007

Just a Bunch of Stuff

When you are in the car, trying to peer through a windshield being pelted with giant raindrops and you hear the DJ/weather-person guy say, "Tonight, there will be a slight chance of rain," you have to wonder how the hell you can get THAT job. And also? Dude. Stick your hand out the freakin' window. Or, gosh. I dunno. Maybe look out the window?

Some people have luck. I do not. I don't think I ever have. Short of winning a few coloring contests in my childhood, I'm fairly devoid of luck. I guess I have to clarify. I don't just mean winning the lottery luck. I mean the kind of, "I'm running late but if I can make every light I might even be two minutes early" luck. And of course, if I'm running late, and I will get stopped at every light and perhaps a freakish accident or two. The next day, traveling the same exact route, when I'm hoping for a red light so I can just catch my breath, take a sip of coffee, or get the giant eyelash out of my eye that is temporarily blinding me, that is when I will glide through every single green light. Of course.

So I should not have been the least bit surprised when last week I was running late for my office hours. I have office hours three days a week. I think it's the 11th? 12th? week of the semester. I have been on time or early for my office hours every single time. Whether it was 33 times or 36 times, no student ever showed up. Ever. Thursday, I was late. About 15 minutes late. And of course, that was the day a student showed up. Even better: Some office mates told me a student had stopped by, waiting all of 20 seconds and then saying, "No big deal, I'll just e-mail her," and then he did. Except in his e-mail, he told me he had been waiting patiently for 20 minutes and then finally - sadly - gave up. Apparently his plan was for me to pack my bags and set off on my guilt trip, but you know what? Not gonna happen. I had witnesses - and I was there 15 minutes late. Not 20. I would have tripped over him had he still been there. Doesn't matter if he wiated 20 seconds or 20 minutes. That's going to show up on my end-of-course evals: Not available during office hours. And you know what else? He said he'd stop by today. Since I was a bit paranoid and overzealous, I was an hour early. Then another professor asked me if I wanted to run to Starbucks with her. Knowing my luck, I declined, figuring he would show up during the last 10 minutes of my office hours and I'd look like the thoughtless prof once again. Except he didn't show up. Even better? When I got home tonight at 9:00 p.m. I had an e-mail from him that read: "I'm sorry. I was too ill to come to your office hours." Thanks. I didn't notice you were ill, but I did notice you didn't show up. Like the college boyfriend who would call me when he was an hour late and say, "I'm running late." And the only appropriate reply was a crass phrase I normally don't use in life: "No shit, Sherlock."

This weekend, after hearing much praise from several women in my life, I rented The Holiday with Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black. And all I can say is, "The hell?!?!!" Do you have to be high on eggnog to think this is a "not-to-be-missed" movie? Mr. J., who is an amazingly good sport about "chick flicks" was equally mystified. Then again, he couldn't say much because it was his sister and his niece who happened to be raving about it when we saw them last week. After we watch crap movies, we often talk about how we should go to Hollywood and somehow get involved producing movies. You know, 'cause I'm sure it's a real easy field to just bust into. But seriously. Gigli, anyone? How hard can it be? Or do you think the average Hollywood exec just grossly underestimates the intelligence of the average American? Luckily I have no problem fast-forwarding through any scenes that appear to be utterly pointless and dreadfully boring, so I lost approximately 1.5 hours of my life instead of 2.1 hours.

I can't even get into the Virginia Tech shootings and I'm not sure I will go there. But just so you know - I do try to stay up-to-date on some current events and even I am not that completely self-absorbed.

Peace (Really - it's more of a request than a closing),



Thursday, April 12, 2007

I am. So over. This semester.

This will be brief. But first, a question: Do they let inmates blog in prison? Or the insane asylum?

And also: Is it too much to ask of you (yes, YOU siblings in the back of the classroom) that if you're going to indicate your complete and total disdain for the subject matter of the day that you COVER your mouths when you perform those giant, exaggerated lion in the savanna yawns? You look like you're auditioning for the road company of The Lion King at best and trying to catch a fly, at worst. I've seen enough of your tonsils to last me the rest of my life, thanks.

Next, here is what I propose: I propose a ban on any and all siblings taking classes together. Save yourselves the money and save me the aggravation and do this instead: Show up on the first day of class and get my syllabus. Be sure not to register. Then, plan to meet twice a week at the same time at the campus Starbucks. You can discuss each week's topic since you know so much about it that you clearly don't need me anyway. This way, we all win. I don't have to constantly stare, glare, loudly clear my throat and finally STOP teaching because the two of you won't shut yer yaps and you've saved several thousand dollars. See? Everybody's happy!

I will rant more in the next couple of days. In the mean time, I'm off to find a physician who will sell me Valium in the convenient, economy-sized bottle.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Stop the Presses! Teacher Lady has Nothing to Say!

Since I've returned to blogging, I realized that being a dedicated blogger actually requires me to notice things. It also requires me to think, almost all the time. And you know what? I'm not sure I have the mental capacity for that right now. So I really don't have much to say. Here is a feeble attempt to summarize things I've noticed (or tried to notice) in the past few days:

I'm getting a new cell phone! Yippee! It's about damn time because the one I have now was probably discontinued about 2 years ago. What can I say? I'm not a gadget goddess. And I'm only replacing it because the top half and bottom half are no longer connected. (I'll post a picture one of these days). Because I bought it online, FedEx was suppposed to deliver yesterday. And do you know what? They couldn't deliver it without my signature and even though I was home until 2:30 yesterday, I don't have my new phone because they came by at 2:51. Of course. Here's what I want to know: How does anybody get anything? WHO is home all day to receive a package that will show up sometime between 8:00 a.m. and never-thirty? Even "stay-at-home" moms have reason to leave the house, if only for a few blessed moments.

Friday, I received TWO letters from my bank informing me of my new pin number. I don't recall asking for one. And also? Both pin numbers are different. Yesterday, I received TWO envelopes with two different new ATM cards. I don't recall asking for those either. And no, my card is not anywhere near the month of expiration. Here's what really bugs me: Because of someone else's mistake, I will have to spend some time on the phone today navigating the ridiculously confusing automated menus, holding for a real human being and then probably being transferred all over the banking world because some service/quality/technology person somewhere was talking to his girlfriend while fiddling around with something. That's not good service, people.

The DJs this morning on practically every radio station were obsessing over WHO might be Anna Nicole's baby-daddy. Am I missing something? Surely I'm not the ONLY person in the world who really doesn't care, right?

Still with me? This has got to be more painful for you than it is for me. A few other fascinating tidbits:

For Easter we went to my in-laws. My 6-year-old nephew came marching into the house wearing an adorable little suit, complete with vest and bowtie and toting a "toy" rifle that was bigger than him. Happy Easter! Don't forget to lock and load. Oh - and I brought chocolate covered strawberries that I made myself!! I am still very proud. Something edible AND I didn't burn the house down. That's quite an accomplishment for me.

And um, and . . . oh forget it. The end. Perhaps tomorrow will be better for all of us. Sorry for the major suck-i-tude of this "entry".


Friday, April 06, 2007

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

Believe it or not, in spite of my constant bitching, I do want my students to have a good learning experience. Notice, I didn't say experience. I said learning experience. I have enough educational theory under my belt to know the basic principles of "adult learning" and recognize that different people learn differently and blah, blah, blah. Oh, those poor "hands-on" learners. Anything that might be considered "hands-on" in my class would land me in the women's federal penitentiary.

So this semester, for the first time ever, I've started doing "mini-evaluations" after every other class. Here's the logic: If I know I'm doing something wrong early on, I can actually fix it. I know - genius, right? Because honestly, by the time I get the official university evals back, it will be the middle of October, and I won't even remember much about this class. And - did I mention it will be the middle of October? Meaning any egregious teaching errors I made will be repeated for the first 7 weeks of a new semester? Great system, isn't it?

But the kids, they were angry this week. They didn't do so well on their last midterm. Well - that's a bit incorrect. They did "average" - which is about right. Average means that's how most people do (or am I wrong? Isn't that the gist of "average"?) But in spite of the fact that this state school isn't exactly considered a public version of the Ivy League, I'm still shocked that my students expect As for, well, existing, it would seem. So their evals were pretty pissy. As the saying goes, though, "You asked for it." Indeed I did. Here are a few of my favorites: WARNING: Not recommended for children or those easily offended. Severe sarcasm, bitchiness and very "Unteacher-like" behavior below.

  • For the exam, you need to narrow down the study guide more to the specifics of exactly what will be on the exam. Oh. I see. You need me to give you a copy of the actual exam. Duh. What was I thinking? My bad. See, I thought that the point of most courses is to learn about a particular body of knowledge, not memorize a bunch of exam questions. How silly of me. I'll be sure and distribute the final a few weeks in advance.
  • You need to stress to us how important it is to read the textbook. Gosh. I don't know why I didn't think of that. I thought since I give you quizzes every week to motivate you to keep up with the reading, that might be enough. I also thought that putting it in the syllabus, including some page numbers from the book on the study guide and, well, saying, "You need to keep up with your reading" you would get the fact that I think reading is important. Next semester, I will be sure to sing it, while performing an interpretive dance so you have a better chance of understanding that you need to read the textbook.
  • Tell us what is important and what is really going to be on the test. I'm sorry. I thought by saying before certain lectures, "Now, this will be important for you to know for the exam," that's what I was doing. If only I weren't so vague in my communications with you. For the rest of the semester, I will hit you over the head with a styrofoam bat every time I discuss something that might be on the exam. This will result in constant hitting, but over time I think the numbness in your skull will actually help you become a better human being.
  • Give more extra credit. Interesting. When I first started teaching, the concept of extra credit in college was about as foreign to me as young women parading their muffin tops across campus. But since I am insecure, neurotic and a people-pleaser I got on board right away. And you know what? I also tried to assign things that would actually inflict learning on your underfed, underworked little brains. The last time I checked, I have given five (5) extra credit opportunities this semester. The thing is, though, you have to be in class because that's when I assign extra credit. Sorry about that. Would you like me to visit you in your residence hall room so you can get extra credit without coming to class? Or do you mean I should come up with a few options just for you, that include, oh, "Have sex with your girlfriend and then write a paper about it"? Let me know what would work best for you. I'm all ears.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Old School Bitch-fest

I once read somewhere that "any unhappiness is life is caused by our expectations of others." And I know for me, this is true. I also heard once, "If you expect someone to be grateful for something you do for him, you probably shouldn't be doing it in the first place," or "You're doing it for the wrong reasons," or something like that.

And so today, it is an old school bitch-fest because I am SO over one of my students because I have expected him to be . . . grateful or at least say the words, "thank you" and he has not.

This is the student who came to me the third week of the semester because he was worried about the upcoming midterm. He hadn't yet received his check from his aunt, so he was unable to buy his textbooks. In a rare spasm of charitable behavior, I told him he could use my review copy until he got his check from his aunt. The next class, I loaned him the book, "Please guard this with your life," I said. He looked at me like I was the rudest person ever. "Why would you say that? Like I'm not going to take care of this book or something?"

On my planet, the appropriate thing is to say, "Certainly. And I'm so grateful you're able to help me out." I should have known. See, I didn't mean for him to not have to buy the textbook. It was a temporary solution. I keep one copy at my home and one copy at my office at school and that way I have one less thing to lug back and forth all semester long. So while I'm not exactly high and dry, it would be nice to have it back. The semester is almost over.

This is the same student who told me he would be much too ill to study for our midterm and he had a doctor's excuse, so I said fine. He then called me, the day before the midterm, rattled off his extensive class schedule for that day and then instructed me to call him that same day between 5:00 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. (remember him?)

He came to my office yesterday to take the make-up exam. About halfway through he said, "Do you have a tissue or something?" He had been sniffling away, but I had somehow managed to block it out while I graded some mental trainwrecks posing as papers. There were no tissues in the office, but there were some in the faculty restroom, so I went and got him some. Did he say thank you? No, of course not. And that's why I'm pissy. Because after all my previous evidence to indicate otherwise, I still expected him to have the manners God gave a goat.

And then he had the balls to openly sleep in class later. I'm surprised . . . why?

Duh. And I complain about students being stupid.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

April Fool! Alas, No

I, too, was duped by the folks at RYS. And honestly, I didn't even notice the date on the calendar. (That alone says something right there, although I'm not quite sure what it says.)

Maybe I have been holding out a bit on this blog. As Mr. J. puts it, since I started my program, I've had "one foot in and one foot out," never quite deciding whether this was going to be my life's work or not. In fact, after about my first week of grading student papers I had my first doubts about this career.

As the extremely wise Denever put it, "But then I realize that as I'm imagining what my daily life would be like, I am actually thinking about my own days in college." Another "Alas": Denever has no blog. That's a damn shame, if you ask me!

I wish I had come to that conclusion three years earlier, because she's exactly right. Now remember - I was far from the model undergraduate. Personally, I am amazed that no one ever grabbed me by the shoulders and yelled, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life! Get it together, girl!" I did incredibly stupid things - none of which I will detail here because my mom sometimes reads this blog and since she and my dad paid for about 99.9% of undergrad . . . well, I don't want them to think that was a big, fat waste. Let me put it this way: I was in a sorority, all right? And it wasn't a professional or service one. To put it another way: I once skipped a class that only met once a week to practice for Greek Week opening ceremonies. So, if I expected undergrads to be exactly like me, I never would have been intrigued by this route in the first place. After all, who wants to be surrounded by clones of Bluto and Otter for all of her professional life?

Now I sound like an old bat, but seriously: I think e-mail and text messaging have been in many ways the best thing to happen to higher education since co-ed dormitories, but I also think they have been the worst thing.

And those two types of technology alone changed the college experience - at least from what I imagined it would be like - drastically. I never expected the poorly written, rude, bitchy and demanding e-mails I started receiving before the semester even started. After all, I had just come from Corporate America - people got FIRED for writing and sending e-mails like the ones I was getting.

I never expected text messaging to ruin any writing ability students' may have had and never expected I would be reading papers I could barely decipher because they read, "i think this speaker was cool. it was good for u 2 have a dr. come to our class."

Anyway, blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine.

Here is what I'm thinking of doing: Continuing to keep one foot in and one foot out. I truly believe in the importance of women's health issues and the necessity of comprehensive sex education. I still think the rate of unplanned pregnancy in this country is appalling (48% by latest Alan Guttmacher Institute data). But if I have to spend much of my time trying to determine whose excuse for missing an exam is legitimate and whose is complete bunk, I will go insane. (Yeah, I hear you peanut gallery - it won't be a very long trip.)

What if my other "corporate" work was my "job" so to speak - something I enjoy, something I think I'm fairly good at, but not necessarily my passion and my passion - sexual health - becomes my hobby? And not like a "I've scrapbooked twice in the last year even though I have hundreds of dollars worth of crap to cut every piece of paper ever made" hobby, but more a "we go out on the boat at least three times a week" kind of hobby?

I don't know why this didn't occur to me. After all, Mr. J. does it. His passion (bless his wee heart) is math. I know. I don't get it either. But he knew he could never teach college full-time for about a million and one reasons. He also claims he is in no way smart enough to get a Ph.D. in mathematical sciences (NOT mathematical education - as he often reminds me, there is a BIG difference!) so that ruled out that career option right there. But he teaches one or two undergrad calculus classes a year and it's enough for him. He gets to see that "aha!" moment when a student finally understands calculus, but he still gets to sit at the grown-ups table during the day.

So at this exact moment in time, on this day I am thinking I will do both. I will continue - very differently - and very slowly - with the doc, but with a "part-time" focus. My full-time job will be my corporate gig and also, digging us out from under the spectacle of disastrous proportions that is our "new" house. If it takes me three or four years to become "Dr. Teacher Lady", then so be it. That's the plan. For right now. Teaching will be my passion/hobby-which is good, considering I don't sew and I'm really bad at crafts. Stay tuned. Subject to change without notice.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Now! With Half the Depression and Two-Thirds Less Whining!

Ah . . . something fun.

From the lovely Fraulein N. we have a music meme:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what they are. They must be songs you are presently enjoying. Then tag seven other people to see what they're listening to.

I guess I tagged myself. I will give a bit of commentary although it's probably more embarrassing than if I said nothing. At least two of these songs are from The Devil Wears Prada soundtrack. Yes. I know. I'm that pathetic. Here we go:

1. Dropkick Murphys, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston"
2. P!nk, "Who Knew"
3. Rilo Kiley, "With Arms Outstretched"
4. Mocean Worker, "Tres, Tres Chic"
5. Moby, "Beautiful"
6. Bowling for Soup, "High School Never Ends"
7. G. Love & Special Sauce, "Cold Beverage"

Much like Fraulein N., I never tag people because, well, I'm afraid no one will do it and then I will be reminded of how ineffectual I am. So do it if you feel like it and then let me know! (Without the context, this last sentence could be really, really um, nosy and even vulgar.)


The Beginnings of a Confession

This is my last semester of coursework. I'm supposed to take "comps" at the end of this summer and then begin the daunting dissertation process.

I don't think I will. I don't think I have it in me because I don't care enough.

For the past 15+ years, I always thought that eventually I would end up as Dr. Teacher Lady. It was just a matter of how, when and where. I always figured I would be a college professor. I could live "the life of the mind" and that's what I was meant to do.

And as soon as I started teaching college 3 years ago, I started to hear the distant sounds of my life-long dream falling apart, like chunks of plaster hitting the floor - some big, some small - crashing into smaller and smaller pieces. Now there is nothing left.

I don't mean to make this sound like a melodramatic suicide note, which I suppose it is. Let me begin again:

Jerry Seinfeld once said the best time to have a job is that brief window between the time you are offered the job and before you actually have to start doing it. In my case, that summer was filled with delusional fantasies about what it would finally be like to "live my dream."

At least I know I am not the only delusional person in the world: At every single wedding I have worked, some young drunken bridesmaid or guest comes up to me and says the same thing: "Are you the wedding planner? Do you have a card? Could I, like, talk to you sometime about how you got into this? This is my DREAM job!! I have ALWAYS wanted to be a wedding planner." I don't have much self-restraint, but I have enough to keep myself from saying, "Good gob, why!?!?!" I won't review the gory details since I have this whole series, if you will, but there is nothing glamorous or romantic about being a wedding planner. Nothing. I've swept trash at an amusement part and I've worked at a waste-water treatment plant and being a wedding planner is only slightly less offensive than those two jobs. So I understand that maybe it's a bit immature to think a job is going to be what you think it will be. In the case of wedding planning, I blame J-Lo for all the false perceptions.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Confessing my immaturity about thinking that teaching college was going to be some cross between Educating Rita, Dead Poet's Society and the scene from Kinsey where Kinsey first taught his "marriage course." In actuality, it has been more like Animal House and Dangerous Minds, except I don't look like Michelle Pfeiffer and I don't play the guitar and/or have sex with my students. (Oh, boy. Get ready, Sitemeter. Here come the pervs!)

From the moment I started teaching, I kept thinking, "This is teaching college? This?" And for a while I told myself it was because I was new and I just didn't get certain things. Then I wasn't new anymore and I told myself that Inappropriate Sister and her brother were anomalies and the majority of students weren't like that. And to some degree, that was true. Except the anomalies took up more of my time than everybody else - and dare I mention that they got special and/or better treatment than my students who toed the line? Then I told myself it was just where I taught - a large research university not known for its tough admissions requirements and somewhere else it would be different. Except Mr. J. teaches at a small, private liberal arts college and it's no different. In fact, it may be worse because many of his students are spoiled, wealthy and possess an enormous sense of entitlement. At least mine are just toting around that sense of entitlement. I thought maybe it was just my students who were vaguely delusional about their abilities - i.e., the endless "But I've always thought I was a great writer" or "I studied really hard - how is that my grade?" except then I started reading Rate Your Students on a daily basis and I found it wasn't just me or my students. As an aside, today I find out that RYS will be outed in The Chronicle of Higher Education tomorrow and I am officially pissed. But I guess that is for another post.

In a bizarre turn of events, I picked up a consulting position last week. It has nothing to do with sex or education or sex education. It is a complete and total return to my old life, minus the job stability and medical benefits, but plus a whole lot more cash. I will be working 20 or so hours a week until this semester ends and then . . . I imagine I will pick it up to full time or more.

Mr. J. and I have had endless conversations about this. Me quitting my full-time job and becoming a full-time student has been extremely difficult for our little family. Going down to one real income tested our marriage, our patience, and certainly our ability to be "frugal." Generic tampons, anyone? I'm not completely whining about the situation. I know that few adults are lucky enough to quit their jobs full-time and indulge in the pursuit of their life-long dream. For that, I am truly grateful to Mr. J., to gob, to all my family and friends who constantly said, "atta girl!" and "you can do it!" And I suppose I can do it - I have done it so far - but I don't think I want to anymore.

Two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a student telling me that he had been really ill and was not able to study much for the upcoming exam. Would this affect his grade? I e-mailed him back, politely writing that I wasn't sure if he had kept up with the reading, how he felt about his comprehension of the topics, etc., What was I supposed to say? Sure! Anyone with a few brain cells rattling around in their skulls can pass my exam with at least a B+! He got a note from his doctor, showing how he had spent some time in the emergency room which had rendered him incapable of sitting upright and reading a book. I wasn't about to do battle over this one, so I said fine - you'll take the exam when you feel better. Except Monday, the day before the exam I had a voicemail from him. (This must have been really urgent. Students rarely use the phone. Too much of a chance they'll actually have to talk to you.) It went like this: "Teacher Lady, I really need to talk to you. I have class from blah, blah time to blah, blah time. I need you to call me back today between 5:00 p.m. and 5:15p.m. when I will be waiting for your call."

I wasn't furious - believe it or not. I don't think there was anything to be furious about. Mainly, I thought two things: Interesting that he is just "too ill" or has been "too ill" to study, yet the day before he can't take the exam he's running all over campus and is apparently so busy he has exactly 15 free minutes. And then I thought: Oh no, my dear. Even though you might think I work for you because when you pay your tuition, you believe you are paying my salary, you don't tell me to call you within a specific 15 minute window. Because it wasn't a polite request or a suggestion. It was the same tone that a supervisor would use when telling a subordinate she must call the client at this time because that's the only time the client would be available. A very "don't drop the ball here" tone.

This isn't the straw that broke the camel's back - I think that happened a year ago. I also know that I do enjoy teaching - believe it or not. My evals are okay mostly (if not extreme) - both the official university course evals and the Rate Your Professor evals. But I cannot do this every day, every semester for the rest of my life. I will end up meaner and more bitter and more jaded than I already am. And that is not good. I may decide to proceed with comps and work on my dissertation at a snail's pace, part-time while I do my new/old corporate gig. Although I'm not sure I will ever technically "need it" at this point, giving up the life-long dream isn't easy. It's sort of like finally realizing you and a childhood friend no longer have anything in common. And maybe you don't even care for the childhood friend anymore. Suddenly, you realize her husband is a racist and she's picked up his racist tendencies or whatever. But you feel guilty and maybe you want to hang on to that friendship for sentimental reasons. I don't know.

But I do know I am tired of being a human lie detector. I am tired of trying to determine which stories are real and which are fabricated and of the real stories, which ones deserve my understanding and which ones deserve an "Oh, well. Sorry about your luck." Because at the end of the day, my driving philosophy has been to be as fair as possible. Which - I found it - is about as much of a pipe-dream as pain-free plastic surgery.

So there. That's my rambling, make-no-sense, not exactly clear "confession" of sorts. I will keep you posted, if you haven't deemed me a selfish, heinous sell-out and traitor to the educational system. Wait - although I will say this: I sure did miss wearing the Ann Taylor suits! It's awfully nice to be able to wear something cool and know it won't end up covered in chalk dust or dry-erase markers by the end of the day.

If you have deemed me a selfish, heinous sell-out and traitor to the educational system, that's okay too. I get it. Thank you for your readership. Good night and good luck.

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