Many Kinds of Blessings

Instruction ended today. Of course, I can’t celebrate too enthusiastically because after the last day of classes the most difficult work begins.

At this moment, university professors everywhere are clenching their teeth and focusing all their energy on overcoming the major hurdle of final grading and the accompanying drama of begging, pleading, and “shopping” for grades. We keep reminding ourselves that the end is in sight and a sweet summer of rest is on the way. [For many of us rest means working just as hard–but in our own space and on our own time].

At the end of the semester we must constantly remind ourselves of the general good in our students and the good we do for our students. My [former] student Raven made that effort a bit easier for me this week. When I finally made it to our P.O. Box a few days ago, I found among the cheerful greetings and cards from Love Notes pals a sweet and encouraging card from Raven. [Yes, Raven, I checked my mail days ago.]

The card reminded me that though we experience moments when we doubt our work, we actually do some good in the world; our students appreciate our pouring into them; and eventually, they get it.  Thankfully, some, like Raven, “get it” immediately.

Here’s part of her message:

You have been on my mind lately and I wanted to show you just how great you are and how thankful I am for your having been in my life as more than a professor and advisor. You share so much of yourself with your students and we are better for it. Thank you for being you. Your words of love and wisdom, the postcards you send, the blogs you post, the pictures you take…they all illustrate the beauty and intelligence that you are…

I am humbled by such messages. I do not take the influence or the gifts mentioned in Raven’s note lightly. I am blessed through my interactions with students and thankful–even if not always immediately–for the ways they help me stretch and grow.

I chose the [English] professoriate because through literature and language study, students and I open up and enter countless worlds together. It is my hope that through such study they ultimately become change agents in the hands of God.

Who Can Separate Belief from Occupations?

On this final day of NaBloPoMo, I’m sharing an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s “On Religion” from The Prophet, which is one of my forever favorites.

Today, I’m thinking about work, my students, and all the grading ahead of me. I’m also thinking about separate conversations I’ve had this week with a long-ago student and a current student. They were both “extolling my virtues” as a professor and talking about the profound impact I made on them and their peers, not just professionally but personally. Their words were encouraging–because it is always at the end of the semester that I worry over whether my courses did what they were supposed to do and whether I’ve helped my students on their own road to becoming–more than “just” academically.

Although my primary goal is to facilitate students’ development as writers, thinkers, and scholars, I see my role as something greater; therefore, I attempt to do more than teach writing, thinking, and literature. I work to push my students toward agency, authenticity, and wholeness so that they can ably meet the challenges beyond the college experience.

Like other areas of my life, what happens in the classroom is service, ministry, and an act of worship. It is seeing my work in this way that keeps me motivated and committed to students–no matter how they [and some of the other aspects of professor life] drive me crazy at times.

Gibran’s poem “On Religion” blurs the lines and shows us that every facet of our lives must be imbued with religion. Religion is not played out once a week in the company of likeminded others. It is in our every movement, action, and interaction. It is part of our essence, who we are, not a performance or garb we take on and off.

I am saturating my soul with prayer and Gibran’s words as I head into the weekend–a period of rest from students and madness. When Monday comes I’ll be equipped for the challenges the final grading period always brings and will handle them with grace.

Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?
Who can spread his hours before him, saying, “This for God and this for myself;
This for my soul, and this other for my body?”

Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.
Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,
The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.
For in revery you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your
failures.
And take with you all men:
For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower
than their despair. –Kahlil Gibran, “On Religion,” The Prophet

Wishing you a weekend filled with contemplation and rest.


Thanks for reading along for NaBloPoMo18. I didn’t think I was going to make it this time. In fact, I declared I was quitting two weeks ago because my plate was spilling over, but my precious Tyhara encouraged me to keep going, reminding me that I needed to do this for myself–to balance out all the head-stuff. Thanks, Ty!

Linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the final Festival of Leaves photo challenge post for 2018.

Reclaiming “the Grind”

Today was my first day (back) at work.

Last night, I had inexplicable anxiety about facing today. With the way I was feeling, one would think I absolutely hate my job or hate working. But I don’t. After almost 24 years in the university classroom, I’m happy to say that I still thoroughly enjoy most aspects of my work. I dislike meetings, grading marathons, and end-of-semester madness. But I enjoy crafting information and creating content. I love facilitating discussions and watching students evolve, find their voices, and exercise their agency. I love engaging with students, tracking their progress, and keeping in touch with them as they move on from the university and develop their personal and professional lives.

So WHY? Why was I inwardly responding with such trepidation to the “first day back.” I’ve had a productive summer of writing, lots of reading, plenty of relaxation, and completion of a few projects. Then, it dawned on me. That’s the problem with returning to work–the rigid schedule that forces me up and out of the house and “doing” constantly until I fall exhausted into bed each night only to wake up the next morning with too little sleep to do it all over again and never, ever finding time for my own intellectual pursuits. Until next summer, gone are the slow, quiet mornings of sipping tea, spending time with God and watching day break. Until next summer, no playing board games with the guys and binge-watching Scott and Bailey (or some other British drama) with my hubby in the middle of the week.

Summers make me feel invincible, like I can accomplish any and all things. This summer has been particularly productive, so I don’t want to disrupt that productivity. Although I’m excited by the prospect of returning to a routine for my son, I realize that returning to a routine for me means less productivity. Less creativity. Less giving of my time in ways I choose, instead of ways that are mandated or expected.

By the time I drove down the driveway this morning, I was okay. I have two more weeks left before students return and classes actually begin, and in that time, I will be implementing ways to take care of my intellectual and creative self and continue to get my own work done. I’ll also work on getting more sleep. I don’t ever want to feel like the classroom is a trap and a killer of dreams (literally and figuratively).

Postcards and the Recipe for Summer

I woke up this morning stunned by the reality that there are 25 measly days left of my summer vacation.

Summer is my time to get.things.done. I usually use the time to “repair” and catch up on everything. I read. I write. I play. I watch a whole season of a television series I don’t have time to watch during the academic year. I create. I write letters and send lots of postcards. I purge toys, books, clothing. I catch up on [some of] the “household matters” that pile up from August to May. I plan for fall semester.

This summer is different. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night with an unchanged “to do list.”  Sure, I get some things done. But, despite my daily lists, I spend most of my time daydreaming or staring at the computer screen trying to figure out what to do next–or what I have the desire and energy to do next. Then, I take a nap.

As I was organizing the postcards I received over the last few months, I mulled over reasons I’m not as productive and considered strategies to increase my productivity over the next few weeks.  I paused when I ran across two love notes that scream “summer.” They reminded me that summer is not all about work, and what I need is rest not a reset.

“Pool at Luna Park,” Sketch/Watercolor by Andrea F.

Andrea F., an author/artist and Love Notes participant from Vienna, Austria, sent both images.

The first is a sketch Andrea completed while in Australia in February to escape the cold Austrian winter.  It depicts the North Sydney Olympic Pool with a view of Luna Park.  I’m impressed with how accurately Andrea sketched the scene. Check out a photograph here to see what I mean: North Sydney Olympic Pool [fourth image beneath the central image].

“Summer” by Andrea F.

 

With the collage postcard above, Andrea provided the recipe for summer–masterpieces, poetry, fancy, eternity, and pure art [see image for measurements].

Thanks for the reminder, Andrea! Summer is for all of this.

So, bear with me while I check myself: I work hard from August to May. My weekdays begin at 4:00 a.m. (sometimes 3:00), and I regularly put 75-80 hours per week into my work–preparing for classes, meeting with students, grading papers, attending other meetings, and doing my part for the committees on which I serve.  It’s insane to squeeze everything that I didn’t get around to from August to May into a two-month summer. It is absolutely okay to not kill myself working just as hard while I’m on break. Summer is, after all, the best perk of academia.

Thanks to two beautiful postcards, my break has finally begun–vacation from guilt, lists, schedules, and the fierce pressure to get it all done. I need the poetry, art, fancy, and naps (especially) to cope with life after July.