Here's the thing, you guys: prepping a new class erodes my willpower. And did I mention? This semester I'm prepping two of them. I am going to bare my vulnerable underbelly here, and tell you about the way that my id has lately gone capering in stiletto heels across the more mature parts of me.
It's a little ridiculous for me to complain about this. Tonight I was reading to Stella about the men working on the railroad grade, covered in sweat and dirt. And I work in my comfortable office, where it's warm, and I have a big cheery window, with houseplants reaching for the sun. (I started to say that it is 100% free of horse manure, but I do occasionally hear some student stories that might deserve the label.)
But: teaching a class for the first time is a perfectionist minefield. The next time I cover this material, I will do it better. The next time I give these assignments, I will know where students will struggle. Practice makes perfect-- which means less practiced is imperfect. Uuuuuuggggghhhh, I wish I could make that not be true. But it is true.
And: my job is to push my students. Grad school, in particular, is supposed to be hard. I am teaching a class that many students expect to be easy: they've been children, they've learned a language, how hard can the study of child language be? Answer: very hard. There is SO much to cover, and they are not finding it easy.
The place where I run into trouble is where that "But:..." paragraph intersects with the "And:..." paragraph, creating a swirly millefiori sort of effect in my psyche: high expectations of my students collide with nutso expectations of myself. Are they grumpy because they have some catching up to do, or are they grumpy because I'm not prepared enough? Maybe I could disperse the grumpy with a little more preparation. But the preparation is so hard, and there is so much of it, and maybe I will just peek at Facebook to see what they are saying about tonight's GOP debate. (Side note: OH, AMERICA. People with the gravitas required to be president do not talk about the size of their genitals in public. Can't we send that man to an uninhabited Scottish island, where he can be the Führer of Seaweed and Maybe Sheep?) (But I suppose if "racist" and "xenophobic" and "wildly inconsistent" didn't turn his supporters off, "vulgar" is unlikely to do so either. What about "terrifying"? Can we not agree on "terrifying"?)
Grading is a task that stokes the crazy in a big way. The first-year grad students are not yet accustomed to grad school standards. Whenever I give them feedback, a subset of them will decide (again) that I am Dr. Stingy McMeanypants. Perhaps I need a little extra input to consider. Did I not notice that they worked really hard on that assignment? I keep thinking about sending an email that says, "When I give you a grade, it is not the opening salvo in a lengthy negotiation." Probably I won't send that email. But I think to myself, "This is going to be a ton of work and then they're just going to complain that I did the work. Wonder what's new on Ravelry?" My job has few hard deadlines, which makes procrastination all too easy.
Have you seen this post on procrastination? I spent too much of my day in the Dark Playground today.
So. This is me, pulling my socks up and getting on with it. Tonight I have an exam and an assignment to edit. Tomorrow I will BY GOLLY grade that overdue assignment for my grad students as well as their group projects, and clear out the email and tidy the papers. And make a plan for spring break, in which I get stuff done instead of being increasingly miserable as I watch myself avoiding it.
FEEL FREE to share your own brand of crazy in the comments. I'm not the only one who struggles with this flavor of crazy, am I?