Cog-nitive Dissonance 1

I am trying to recover from a particularly bad experience in class yesterday. Nobody yelled at me, nobody threatened me. Nobody did anything at all, really.

My students didn’t read. Only 2 of the 15 who showed up (out of 23 currently still registered) had done the reading assigned–part one of Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. It’s a Literature of Nature class, and this is a tough subject. I get that.

I get it. Easter weekend–they were all busy.

I get it. No quizzes, no posts to the course website were required. No points available, so no one did the reading.

It was the last straw for the semester. Just before I left for class, I saw in my Facebook feed that The Chronicle of Higher Education released the 2012 Faculty Salary Report yesterday and found that along with all of my highly intelligent, motivated, exceptionally engaged colleagues, I am paid less than someone who is a non-tenure-track instructor at the flagship school in Madison.

As I stood at the front of my room after trying (and failing) to get a conversation going about the book, I realized that the silence was due to the fact that nobody knew what I was talking about. They couldn’t tell me what Kolbert’s premise was in Part I because they hadn’t read it.

I felt something give way inside–some cog slipped out of place, and the gears ground together before grinding to a halt.

I am ashamed to say that I cried. I managed to hold it together while I gathered up my book and notes and keys–but the ones in the front of the room could tell that my eyes were welling. I cried as I walked up the steps. I closed my door, sat in the dark, and cried like I’d just been dumped.

Normally, I am not a crier. Normally when this happens (and how sad is it that this happens often enough to feel ‘normal’?), I get mad, and I rant at them about being adults and taking responsibility for their own learning; I make them all sit and write for the entire class period (though I detest the idea of using writing as a form of punishment, but what else am I going to do?). Or I send them away to read and post to D2L.

This time, I just packed up and left. Sat in my office and cried. Made it through my other class (creative writing) because they needed me–we’re workshopping fiction this week–and left campus to pick up my daughter at school.

The gears are stuck–nothing is moving. Main force of will is the only thing keeping me moving at this point.

I suffer from depression. Have suffered from it since I was about 15. Luckily,  I have not been debilitated to the point where I cannot get out of bed–but days like yesterday and today make me wonder how close I am to ending up in a psych ward because I am just so damned tired of pushing this goddamned boulder up the hill.

I want so much just to give up. I’m tired. Spiritually, emotionally, physically exhausted. I want to quit. And I’ve never been a quitter. In the past, when I’ve left jobs, my former employers have not been able to find anyone willing to take on the amount of work I did (one place had to hire two people to do the work I’d been managing on my own).

I have to keep going, though. I need the job, so I will pull “The Myth of Sisyphus” off the shelf this afternoon, and I’m going to let Camus help me try to face the Absurd with my head up.

Bon nuit, mes amis.

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10 thoughts on “Cog-nitive Dissonance 1

  1. Sorry to hear that you’re being put through this kind of scenario. If it makes you feel any better, I first started taking classes just to see if I could do it. There was someone in my past I wanted to prove wrong. However after my first or second week of your English Comp.102 class hearing your lectures inspired me. Not only did I wish to see if I could do it any more, but now my goal became to see how well I could do it. This seemed to be a pretty large task seeing that I work full time in the factory as well as being a full-time student, and it baffles people that I’m pulling this off. So far my lowest grade has been a B- and that wasn’t until my third semester. I’m asked “how I am doing it?” and all I can say is “I don’t know, I just am.” But it was taking your class that made me shoot for a higher goal and I Thank You for that.

  2. ” I am just so damned tired of pushing this goddamned boulder up the hill.” Oh, me too. Another mutual friend/colleague of ours said today that she doesn’t want to waste her time waiting for things to get better, year after year, and that is exactly how I feel. And I feel like nobody in my life, except us academics who are all in the same shitty boat, gets it. If I hear “well, maybe things will improve soon!” from another well-meaning family member, I will scream.

    Hang in there, as Marnie said. We’ve got your back.

  3. Your title captured my attention, but I am really bowled over by your honesty here and the depth of feeling. I wish your students could read this. They don’t deserve you.

  4. Yes, I occasionally speak to college students about such boring topics as climate justice, forest protection, genetically engineered trees, Indigenous Peoples’ rights and other such life and death issues–usually complete with powerpoint filled with beautiful and poignant photos from my photographer-activist husband. And yes, the response is usually blank stares. I imagine the thoughts being “when can I get out of here and get a beer”. The state of education in the United States, I’m afraid. Ask what people think of the World Bank and they’ll tell you where they think their atm might be…

    anne petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project

  5. Pingback: Cog-nitive Dissonance 2 | Clockwork Professor

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