These are my thoughts now
brittle like the bottom of a new ice cream cone
like iron heated once too often
like stands of October corn
like Grandma’s hip
like old paper
crumpled and scattered for the cat
to paw at under the refrigerator.
[from notes summer 2014; first draft 7 June 2015]
We none of us entered into the teaching profession expecting to be rich. But neither did we suspect that we would be attacked, vilified, and mocked for pursuing our passion for educating others, nor that we would bear the brunt of right-wing legislative ire and be made the face of waste, fraud, and abuse in a system where we have very little power to begin with–and absolutely NONE over how the money is spent. It’s an accident in slow motion, except that it’s not an accident.
The move by the legislature to remove the statute (WI 36.12) guaranteeing tenure to those who have earned it while simultaneously adding language to state statute (see OM#521.39) explicitly laying out the ways by which tenured faculty can be fired is novel only in its breathtaking venality.
What possible reason could there be for such a motion if tenure no longer exists? What can we do against such reckless hate?
So it is now that my colleagues and I are in survival mode, each of us trying to figure out what to do to just keep swimming. We aren’t surprised. We are angry, scared, sad, and gearing for a fight against long odds that we are probably not going to win.
There is no Fangorn Forest for us, no Gandalf at first light on the fifth day.
We are being robbed in broad daylight in front of witnesses who stand with mouths agape, unable to believe what is happening, much less stop it. (Or worse, cheering the robbers on and adding a few kicks in for good measure. I shouldn’t read the comment sections on news articles.)
I feel like a part of me has died. The part of me that decided in 1989 that my life’s purpose was to become a college English professor. The part of me that worked for 5 years at various places (including Marquette University) as an adjunct and worked other full- or part-time jobs to be able to afford to teach. The part of me that landed in Wisconsin in the summer of 2002 with my new husband (a Wisconsin native) and was thrilled to land adjunct jobs at UW-Waukesha and Marquette. The part of me that successfully parlayed that adjunct job into a full-time tenure-track gig at UW-Fond du Lac. The part of me that earned tenure after 6 years of work–of teaching, of service, of professional development.
The part of me that has won teaching awards and high student evaluations and praise from campus colleagues and gotten recognition from international scholars (who’ve since become friends).
If that part isn’t dead yet, it’s mostly because of my students, who work hard to learn what I have to teach them–some of whom even enjoy my classes, if the Student Survey of Instruction comment sections are to be believed. In 18 years of teaching at the college level, I’ve reached several thousand people in some way, hopefully for the better.
The rest of me will keep going because I am not only a professor–I am also a mate, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I have two cats, a pitbull, seven goldfish, and a lot of flowers. I am mobile under my own power and I am well-fed and well-loved and at least for now I have money to buy myself Wonder Woman underwear if I want it (I did). As my neurologist’s nurse pointed out, people depend on me.
For now, though, I’m burned out. I’m done.
(H/t to Marnie Dresser for posting this song last week.)
And if you read all the way to the bottom, thank you.