23 August 2010

Not Eager To Go Back

Yesterday I had breakfast with Millie.  She's old-school and the wife of a retired blue-collar guy, so she doesn't do brunch.  That's one of the reasons why she feels like family to me.

Anyway, she asked whether I was looking forward to starting classes this week.  I'm not; she was surprised and almost a little hurt to hear that.  She said she never cared much for school, but she always liked the fact that I teach and have something resembling an education. In a way, that's not such a surprise:  She is knowledgeable about things that surprised me when I first knew her but don't now.

Why, she asked, am I not so eager to go back to school?  Well, I explained, I'm glad to be teaching again, but I'm not especially anxious to deal with some of the faculty and administrators.  Not all of them, mind you, but some.  And among them there just happen to be people I have to deal with regularly.

As I mentioned in some posts a while back, on a typical workday, I felt anxious and sometimes sick from the time I walked out of my apartment door until I set foot in the classroom.  I felt the greatest tension in my body when I was in a campus building but had not yet entered the classroom in which I was scheduled to teach.  My pre-classroom tension and nausea weren't quite as intense when I rode my bike to school:  At least on those days, pedaling relieved the tension for the time I was on the bike. But once I was parked,  my entrails felt even more tense and tightly wound together than the strands of the cables on the Verrazano Bridge.

I now realize that last year, when the semester was about to begin, I was just a few weeks removed from my surgery.  I was feeling ecstatic and as if I were learning a million things every second.  At times I was positively giddy.  When you feel that way, you overlook a few things, to put it mildly.

But the colleagues and supervisors who had been speaking to me condescendingly and treating me as if I were born the day before yesterday (Give them credit:  They didn't treat me as if I were born yesterday!) had not changed their attitudes or ways.  Being educators--at least in the sense I don't like--they are accustomed to dealing with people by exploiting their insecurities.  They assume that students and instructors with lower ranks than theirs--or people they perceive in any way to be less than themselves--are confused and unsure of themselves.  Contrary what they like to believe, they had a role in creating those fears and uncertainties.

Now I am everything they can't deal with.  I know who and what I am, and am still learning.  I give my best (which, in some areas, is pretty good, if I do say so myself) and go far beyond the written requirements of the job and the unspoken expectations of anyone who does it.  I'm not saying that I can't do more or better, I am saying that I'm not a slacker and, more often than not, I get the job done and I get better at it.  However, they still don't believe that a person like me is supposed to be capable of doing what I do.  

After what I've experienced, I can easily understand why Letitia left the college's Office of Students with Disabilities for its counterpart at another college.  I can also understand why someone who used to direct a campus office told me, "The day I turned in my ID and backed out of the college parking lot for the last time was the best day of my life. "  And, no, she hasn't retired.

They are examples of something I heard once:  Great spirits are the targets of mediocre minds.