Tomorrow morning will more than likely start the last semester of my teaching career. Technically I am too young to retire. But sometime last summer I realized that it just doesn’t matter that I’m an excellent teacher anymore.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I don’t want to be the associate who gave it her all for 40 years without health insurance or respect wearing a broomstick skirt and ill-shaped stretched out thriftstore shirts. Perhaps it’s my paranoia. Sometimes I’m amazed I did it this long. Teaching is kind of an addiction. It’s hard to stop if you’re a good one. There’s always a new thing you want to try, a new way you want to reach students, something you know will be the big breakthrough.
Part of this break up will really suck.
I can’t explain to you why I never became a full-time faculty member except to ask you to look at the statistics nationwide and see the odds aren’t very good. A few times I’ve been on hiring committees and that certainly opened my mind to the process. Once I was on a committee and heard a full-time colleague exclaim that we should hire contestant number 2 because he ‘looks just like us; like he’d fit right in.” Oh. This is like choosing sides for basketball. This is like not being the popular kid. I should have majored in something more esoteric that only me and five other people in the country can do and we all have to live in Iowa or something. Or I should have known better than to invest this much time and effort.
But I was the girl who was never going to have a career. I didn’t know what I wanted to do; I just did what I thought was best. There were no expectations. Nothing for me to deliver. I have delivered what I could.
I will miss them. I have 75 students this semester; 55 of them have taken me before. So in a way tomorrow is some sort of a reunion. Some of them have been on a real tough road journey. It’s those ones I really have a feeling for. The woman whose husband forbade her to go to school under penalty of fist who goes anyway. The single woman trying to raise a household of children and is making straight As until they one by one pass the flu around. The man whose been laid off by the mill and never thought he’d be doing anything else, suddenly becomes an environmental studies major. The former meth addict trying his best to make good by his kids he doesn’t get to see. Everyone has a fucked up story to tell and if it’s a story that’s owned, I’m there. This is why community college has meant so much to me; why I never wanted to teach anywhere else.
Not that I can save anyone. Not that anyone could save me. I don’t have that kind of complex.
But I do have a deep seeded fear and insecurity that if I stay or if I would stay I would never do anything else. Will I be on my death bed someday thinking shit? I have papers to grade? Why are they still not citing correctly?! Did they learn nothing?! That’s not what I want to be thinking. More than likely I don’t want to be thinking, but if I am, it won’t be that.
Also. I’ve been having the same ache I had when I left politics. Where I gave something my all for so long there was nothing left to give. Even now, I stare at all the horrid things going on in the world, in the country, in my county and I wan’t to mobilize. I want to move to do something, but nothing comes. My past immobilizes me. My complacency fights me.
We are asked as associate faculty instructors to take our activism of teaching and to substitute fighting the good fight for a respectable paycheck, a respectable schedule, a respectable life. It is our lot. Meanwhile, anyone who we went to school with us, who thought of themselves just a tiny bit more than they thought of others has good insurance and a more stable future. Am I wrong to think of that?
Last semester I offered to lecture on subjects I know well. Things I’ve won awards and praises for…no responses to my offers. My college just wants me to fill space and time. I am a body, given up for them. But only if I let them. I’m not into that sort of sacrifice.
But I will miss the students.
So 2015 becomes the year of living more dangerously. Of risking.
I re-read sections of Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion. It’s not meant as a how-to book, I know. But still. If you’ve gambled everything else and placed every other wager..why not this? Why not the wager of one’s self?
And so begins the last semester. Wish me luck.