Last Day/First Day

A coughing fit woke me up again this morning, which is how I’ve been waking up most days lately. I haven’t been able to kick the back end of an allergy/asthma attack that took me by storm early last week. I know I’m under a lot of stress and pressure, and with everything going on at work and the new house, I find myself in the midst of a combination of exhaustion, a depleted immune system, and figuring out how to hang on by a string just a little bit more. Which brings me to my love-hate relationship with the tempo of the school year — the whole reason I started this blog post.

People often think that teachers — and especially professors — get the summers off. But in reality, few people in education make enough money to not work during the summer. Whether it’s been taking on proofreading jobs, making pizza, tutoring, teaching summer courses, teaching knitting lessons, consulting, and a variety of other random jobs I’ve had over the years, I haven’t had a summer off in fifteen years. Not until last summer.

photo (3)It was glorious. I had just graduated from the CUNY Graduate Center, and for the first time since college, was no longer a student. I went on a week-long vacation with my family on the Oregon coast, and read fiction for the first time in nearly a decade. If I stare at this photo for long enough, I can almost imagine what that week was like…

This summer, I’m teaching two new courses. Not that I’m complaining — I love to teach, I need the money, and most importantly, I teach my very first graduate class at SUNY New Paltz tonight. I’m thrilled to be teaching graduate students (no offense to my undergrads — I enjoy both age groups very much, but I admit that teaching graduate students back in 2004 for the first time is what made me want to become a teacher educator in the first place).

And herein lies a conundrum with the school year: I love to teach, but if I want to keep my job (i.e., get tenure), I also need to write and publish. Everyone says professors write in the summer. I guess I’m still figuring that one out.

I can no longer count on two hands how many colleagues have counseled me to say ‘no’ to things and have advised me to set aside more time to write. Which leads me to my current challenge — how to find the time, and also find the right “homes” for my work. So far, 0 for Greene in the scholarship arena.

I have submitted two single-author pieces of scholarship for review this year — an abstract for a special issue in a journal that would have been based on my dissertation, and a grant proposal to build something I called SCOPE, the SUNY Community of Practice in Education. SCOPE would have been a learning commons, or a virtual bridge, between SUNY New Paltz and a literacy education project I’m working on in Newburgh City.

Both the article and proposal were rejected. I know that rejection is just part of the process, but it’s hard to buck up and try again — especially when the one person who read every piece of writing you’ve written for the last eight years is no longer around.

I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m just saying: today marks the day that grades are due for the spring semester and the first day of the summer semester…and being able to take a breath (literally and figuratively) seems at once impossible and necessary.

But for now, I’m focusing on tonight: my first class with a new group of students. We’re going to talk literature reviews and research questions, and I’m going to channel the teachings of some of my favorite research and writing teachers — Jean AnyonMaria Jerskey, and Sondra Perl. I’ve learned so much from them over the years, and I’m looking forward to paying that knowledge forward.

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 Supported by the CUNY Doctoral Students Council.