LETTING GO

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In preparation for the move to a brand new campus in the next couple of years, the Library has been downsizing. Books that had not been actually checked out recently were disposed of, some were pulped. (Yes, I find this distressing.)

The other day a relative posted a meme with hideous and clearly inaccurate images and information. Further investigation revealed the creator of the meme was a Danish neo-Nazi spouting appalling anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant and other hate messages. I can’t help wondering if his profile is a fake Russian bot spreading discord and disinformation. As a good researcher, I am distressed to witness such careless disregard for truth.

On Tuesday morning, while I was administering a final exam, two women burst through the door to set up for their own presentation. When most of my students had left, believing I was overstaying on their room reservation, I invited them in. They bustled about the room, chatting while they set out snacks and handouts. I had allowed students to work long in order to finish, but eventually I asked the women what time they expected their people to arrive. It came out that they were two hours ahead of their time, that their presentation was scheduled for the afternoon. I asked them to note that students were testing and they stopped calling to one another across the large room. A very polite student confided he had made the decision to drop my class the next term. Teenagers often decide to coast their last term. I understand this.

I should let all this go, I know I should. There have been a great many disconcerting things. This day was it. The tiny proverbial straws that broke the camel.

As a result, though these are not legitimate reasons, not reasons at all, not the real ones, I made two key decisions despite how much I love reading what people are up to on Facebook, and even despite my genuine affection for my current students.

Last week, I went off Facebook, at least for a while.

Yesterday, I quit my job teaching.

The English Department Chair immediately accepted my decision. I told the Pacifica Project Director I would not be creating the program this year, participating in rehearsals, or scoring the presentations themselves—that nearly brought tears. (Mike and I have a long shared history of commitment to public service.) I told the person in charge of the bulletin to take Open Library off the schedule “for now” as I was asked to do, and informed the Library Aide the same thing. I touched base with a couple of people to let them know I was leaving. I returned my key to the college.

Breaking my contract means no more than a dozen students might need to rearrange their Spring Term school schedules (only 8 showed for the scheduled WR122 meeting that afternoon). I have made a problem and I am sorry for letting them down. After speaking directly to students who expected me to teach next term, I also sent an email to everyone in the class just ending, CCing a copy to admin. As I always do, I offered to provide editing and references later and to share with them the materials I would have taught them in that class. I am honored when they take me up on it.

Perhaps the school will find someone else to teach these classes. It is time for me to step away.

It is done.

Once my late student hands in a final essay, I may enter grades for Winter term. I will be able to do that after next week.

I love teaching. Everyone must know I do.

Way back to the beginning of the Pacifica Projects, a service-learning project required of all seniors, we hoped to challenge students in a grand manner. Among our prime goals was to allow students to put the full range of their skills learned throughout their education to use. Other aspects of the program include a public presentation and a persuasive essay. The goal of the paper was to allow them to achieve excellence, to demand excellence, and to support them in getting to that level. Students are almost never required to produce excellence. Some do, of course, but that is on them. We almost never demand it of them and support them through a lengthy process to that achievement. The Senior Research Paper was intended to be like that—a completed work so strong that students were impressed with themselves for having made something excellent. Not genuine perfection, perhaps, but something close enough to that ideal from a teenager, a work standing in witness to their persistence and power.

That was always my goal, to drive and challenge students, to reveal to them their own strength.

Well, now I am pretty much ranting. I am not angry or even particularly upset. Tired. Fighting the tail-end of a cold. More than a little sad. Glad to have decided. Wishing they had tried earnestly, if fruitlessly, to talk me out of my decision to leave (they didn’t and never have) or shook my hand or something. I am resigned that, at least, they may let me go without much fuss. A concern seemed to be that I might tell students something unpleasant about my decision. Even if I had something unkind to say (I don’t), how would that serve anyone?

I know I have served my students well in the past, and believe I might have gone on teaching for years, as I planned. I am sorry to stop. Sorry to miss future students. Most often I am appreciated, eventually, and I continue to treasure the relationships I have built with students over the years.

So why leave? I might come up with a list, but these would all be trivial complaints. I recognize this. No one really wants that list, least of all me. None of what really matters is lost, but lately I have sometimes felt more concerned about the trivial than teaching, and that is not right.

I will move on and do something different, something productive and not because I am broken.

This camel might write a book.

 

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