Monday, February 29, 2016

When Are You An Adult?

I read a column today in which a question was posed about the age at which you felt like an adult. The columnist noted that she felt like an adult through various events that so many others go through: getting her heart broken; moving 1,200 miles away for love; meeting and marrying her husband; having children; helping her husband bury his elderly father; etc. 

There were various other responses in terms of responsibility - financial, emotional, personal, etc. - being recognized as the marker of reaching adulthood, or the recognition of being adulthood, with general agreement that there isn't a single thing that one experiences - or a group of things that one experiences - that causes one to have reached adulthood.

One person remarked that the realization for her was her finally being comfortable with herself. I think that may be the single best marker of having reached adulthood. All those other things are simply markers that some people hit, some don't, and that everyone reaches at different points in their lives due to circumstances that we can't always control.

This was my response:
However, I think the biggest for me is that I’m finally comfortable with who I am. And I like myself. Yes. This. So much this. 
So many of those other things are just markers. Not to negate them or minimize them as means of "crossing that line," but merely to identify that there are things that happen to some people but not to others, or they happen at different times, so trying to say, "It's when I had/did fill-in-in-the-blank" as a marker of adulthood won't work for everyone. I'm so grateful that no one here is saying that.

I turned 40 last week. I married "late" (5 years ago); we paid off our mortgage maybe four years ago; our cars are paid off; our student loans are paid off; we managed to send me through grad school (out-of-state grad school, so higher tuition) with no student loans; just this summer I finally started a full-time job that comes with a slew of benefits and a pension (I'm a teacher). We're childless, and it irks me to hear those with children tell me they didn't really know who they were until they had children. (Again, I realize no one here is saying that; I'm just very aware of that childless state.) 
Any of those could be (mis)construed as, "Welcome to adulthood!" For me, though, it's that I'm finally becoming comfortable with myself. Many feel more comfortable with themselves sooner than I did; I'm sure there are those who are never quite comfortable with themselves, regardless of age. I like myself; I see things how I could improve, but as I stand now, I'm happy with how things are. 
As an addendum: I think that helping my husband bury his mother 14 months after we got married helped, too, as did my husband losing his job 10 days after we got married. It was a rough start; my MIL wasn’t even 70 when she died, which was six weeks after having receiving a diagnosis (cancer). I remember how undone my husband was; he was 37, which to my mind is too young to lose one’s mother (and I’m saddened when I hear about people who were younger than we were when we lost his mother).

Teaching Stories

So, let's talk about teaching.

We're halfway through the third quarter, and my seniors are in the midst of Oedipus Rex. I'm not convinced I'll teach Sophocles again; I haven't clicked with any particular novel or literary genre. (I prefer teaching writing to teaching literature.) I've incorporated various types of assignments, including discussions, character analyses, study guides, short essays, crossword puzzles and word finds, movie guides, non-fiction web searches, etc. At the moment we've been focusing a lot on character analyses and study guides, but we've done all the previously listed activities in this particular unit and throughout the year. A student told me ("no offense") that I'm "overdoing the character analyses." We have done four within the past several weeks, but you'd think the play we're reading has hundreds of characters. Fortunately, this is the last round. Moar torture!

Today I asked one student to leave the class for the second time this quarter because he simply will not stop texting, and when I call him on it, he accuses me of being unfair, of singling him out, of not equally being on top of other students, or being "uneven" in my distribution of punishment. It's true that I do ask him repeatedly to put the phone away, more so than I ask other students, but this is after months' worth of asking him to put the phone away, his not doing his assignments, talking to both his assistant principal and his counselor, talking to him in multiple ways at many points throughout the year about his homework completion, etc. He doesn't see me talk to other students because from the moment he walks into my classroom (late - if he comes), he only ever stops texting when I ask him to stop, which is only when I'm standing over him. The other students actually do their work.

The day did start on a good note: One of my favorites students is an aide (filing, running errands, dropping off or picking up copies - grunt work). I don't remember how we got to talking about this today, but he said, "I'm not a cow. If anything, I'm a moose." I've been giggling about this all day. Whenever I get frustrated with some students (fortunately it's rare that I encounter students I dislike), I think about the students who are just nice.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Thirties

I turn 40 today, and I'm feeling reflective. I've been busy these past ten years:
  • I finished an undergraduate degree in English education.
  • I traveled abroad ten times (three trips to Ireland; two to Northern Ireland; and one trip each to Britain, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Italy, and Vatican City).
  • I moved from New York to Pennsylvania to Utah within the space of a year.
  • I met my husband and got engaged and married within 18 months.
  • I started two graduate degrees, finished one, and am nearly done completing the second (I'm revising my thesis).
  • I taught at four colleges in three states (Long Island University in New York; Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania; and Utah Valley University and Salt Lake Community College in Utah); I taught part-time at a high school that was not a good fit before being offered a full-time position at a high school which is a better match.
  • I presented at professional conferences, including NEWCA, several times as an undergrad and once as a graduate student, and NCPTW just last year, my first time as an actual teacher based on research I had done for my master's thesis.
Hopefully, I'll be finishing that second master's degree by the end of the year, barring any weird unforeseen issues. Ed and I had hoped to have the experience of adopting and raising a child, but so far that hasn't worked out. I'm not sure that we'll adopt a child at this point, but it's still something we're still considering - perhaps an older child.

That which I have accomplished in my 30s are things that many people do in earlier than I have; I'm only now becoming more comfortable with the way things have worked out This was difficult for me to accept because I felt I was consistently surrounded by people who were doing things the "right," more traditional, way, although I'm seeing more people who get married later, don't have children, who have children later, who adopt children, have fertility issues, start and finish college later, etc. I no longer think there is a single right way to do these things. The pressure I feel is largely completely internal and not the result of anyone else, but in my mind, I still feel the pressure I felt in high school to have done these things 10-15 years sooner than I actually did do these things - yet I look around and see that I have things others don't - a house paid off; student loans have been paid off or altogether unnecessary; cars paid off; the ability to travel. It's been a good decade. I'm finally beginning to feel settled.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Small Life Update

I've been  a long, in a manner of speaking. Last week was rough, but generally I've just been plugging away.
  • A colleague's wife died a few weeks ago; the memorial service was held at school last weekend. It was rough, as these things tend to be. She was a young woman who left behind her husband and a little girl.
  • My car's clutch needs to be replaced (I barely got home after the memorial service), so I've been driving around a rental car for the duration. Yesterday after school I temporarily lost the rental car in the school's parking lot. Like seemingly every other car, it's a silvery white sedan, so I kept walking around trying to unlock several cars until I found mine. I was slightly worried that someone would mistake my incompetence for attempted burglary.
  • Last night I completed the first class - Foundations of ESL Education - for my ESL endorsement. All the classwork has been graded; it looks like my final grade will be a 99.87%. (I lost two points in a discussion post.) Next week the second class - Understanding Language Acquisition & Cognition - begins.
  • Yesterday an abstract I submitted for Beyond the Frontier: Innovations in First Year Composition was accepted. (I'm told that the second volume, of which my paper will be a part, will be published in 2017.)
  • Niall turned 10 months old last week. He's pulling himself up and standing, crawling in fits and starts, has two bottom teeth, and is eating things like kiwi and peas. He's quite adorable. I haven't FaceTimed with him since Christmas, I think, but I think that should be remedied.