Life as an Extreme Sport

small victories are still victories

I made it through the evening. I selected some readings on the Hippocratic Oath; a student had asked if we could look them over, then I took a nap before dinner. My dean talked to me after dinner a bit – gave me quarters so I could do laundry (not implying I needed to, but an acknowledgment I was unable to get off campus to do it myself), and generally just checked in to see if I was okay. I assured him I had a lesson plan, I had napped, eaten, and things were fine – I was momentarily overwhelmed, but I’m good again. We’re gonna meet tomorrow afternoon, nonetheless. But it will be fine.

And I did make it through the evening. We did a close reading of the Hippocratic Oath, as well as the modern Tufts University version, and spent some time talking about the history of medicine. They were fascinated and appalled by “the cutting of stone”, surgeon barbers, the heavy use of mercury, etc. After the compare and contrasts of the reading, I taught them the four box paradigm of case analysis, and then had them analyze the case that was on their pre-class assessment. It was loud and they talked, a lot – but it was a good thing. I think running through case studies and analysis like this for every topic will be highly beneficial, especially if they become more and more complicated.

I’m not entirely sure what we’re going to do Weds, yet, but it’ll be fine. In the end, it always is.

blues

I’m susceptible to post-teaching blues. There’s such a high when you teach, and feel so in your element and on your game, that the crash can be hard. I’m teaching for seven hours a day right now, in chunks that give me at least one crash, if not two. It’s hard. It’s hard to stay positive and think you’re doing a good job – and it’s even harder when you don’t have a classroom key, you don’t get all your supplies, you’re flying by the seat of your pants because someone screwed up and there weren’t textbooks, and you keep finding out at the last minute that the things you need can’t be had.

I have about two hours to pull a two hour lesson plan out of thin air – that includes making photo copies and eating dinner. My TA has the night off, I didn’t get the movie I needed, and I nearly broke into tears in front of the academic dean – told him it was just everything all at once, and I need a nap. A nap I can’t take because I have to do other things. And there won’t be sleep after class, either – the lack of movie throws my entire schedule and plan off, and I’d better come up with at least 5-10 hours of material before morning class.

On top of all that, I’m missing my support system. The people I normally talk to, who know how to deal with me, who know how to be kind without coddling, or causing tears.

I know this is normal for me, I know it will shake out in another day or two. But right now I just want to throw myself down on my bed and cry. Instead, I’m going to figure out what I can do for tonight’s class. Because, if nothing else, I am a magician, and I always pull it out of my hat – even if it’s the very very very possible last minute.

snapshot into my brain

Scene: Wandering down a hallway on the UCSC campus, partly exploring randomly, partly heading to food. Idly chitchatting with several other instructors and RAs.

Kelly: Yeah, so anyhow, it ought to be interesting and I think it’ll be a lot of fu…
slows down, allowing other people to pass her by
Kelly: A lot of fu…
swivels and stares fully at office in front of her

RA: Kelly? Yo, Kel – everything alright?
others rejoin her

Kelly: I..
gestures at door
That’s Donna Haraway’s program. Her office must be around here. I’m going to need to take a fangirl moment, hang on…

These People and The Mountains

I’m in Santa Cruz, California. I haven’t been into the city proper yet – we came straight to the UCSC campus from the airport – but just driving through Mountain View, Los Gatos, etc, en route to the site brought back floods of memories. It’s hard to believe I haven’t been here in something like 12 years. (I know I visited the area with Kellie and Eric before moving to Oregon, so that gives me a pretty narrow range of times of when I could have been here.)

I’m here to teach bioethics to a group of academically bright 12-16 year olds. I’ve spent my time since arriving Thursday setting up my dorm room – the first one I’ve ever lived in, or even been in for more than an evening (itself a thing new to the last few months) – and getting to know people. Oh, and eating in a cafeteria, another new experience. It’s like I get to round out all the things I missed by being a non-traditional student!

I’ve been so impressed by the people here, from the staff to instructors and RAs. Everyone is incredibly warm and friendly and welcoming. Plus, it’s California – my fast pace but casual relaxedness? Yeah, this is where I get it, so in so many ways I really am coming home. I’ve held myself so tensely, for the most part, while on the East Coast; it’s like exhaling after a long dive.

My dorm is a top floor corner room; I look out over the Santa Cruz mountains as well as a small volleyball area. That the mountains are right there is really an amazing bit of nature; deer wander the property like it’s a giant buffet, the fog rolls in every morning and night, the air is tinged with the tang of salt. It’s a beautiful place, full of all the small and subtle things my body thinks of as “home” in so innate a manner.

Which is not to say that… well, actually, yeah. I don’t miss Albany. I don’t, to be honest, even miss anyone in Albany – not yet. It hasn’t been long enough to yet notice I haven’t seen friends, and/or I’m still talking to people in the evening. I suspect come Monday, when I’m in class until 9pm and my ability to talk to people decreases dramatically, the missing of people will begin to happen.

And now, if I don’t want to miss breakfast – and I really don’t want to miss breakfast – I need to shower and make ready my day.

Teaching

I miss teaching. I don’t have a chance to do it formally at UAlbany right now, although I often end up the go-to person when it comes to anything French, continental, or bioethics-y. But the way its set up, there is a lot of competition to TA, and you have to be further along than I am to adjunct on your own.

It’s a funny thing to admit, in a way. Although I’ve known, since that first 390 Phillip dragged me kicking and screaming into teaching for, that I would become a teacher, it’s still strange to realize how much I miss it. How much I miss sparking people’s interest in a subject, seeing the ways other people understand the material, what they take from me, and what they give.

One of the many wisdoms Phillip left me with was the idea that some people learn best through reading, some through writing, some through teaching – and I very obviously learn best through teaching.

A little over a week ago, Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth sent out a last minute job opening… to teach bioethics at their residential site at the University of California Santa Cruz. A position starting Thursday the 26th.

I took a deep breath, I threw my CV, my Stargate syllabus, and a whispered prayer, at the email address, and I waited. Before end of day, they had set up a phone interview.

I spent the next couple of days preparing, learning everything I could from people who’ve done this before. And interviewed for the job at 9am Monday morning. By 10am, they had offered me the position.

So in three days, I’m returning to a city I used to haunt as a teen, to teach a new crop of teens – some of whom probably weren’t even born the last time I was running around the Boardwalk. It’ll be a little over two weeks of intense coursework, smooshing an entire semester of work into that time. I’ve never done anything like this, and although I’m full of trepidation, I’m so very excited. Moreso, as it gets closer to time to leave. I’m going to miss my cats, my friends (and then some), spending the 4th of July with people I know, and small things I’m sure I’m not even thinking of and won’t until I’m gone.

But I’m also going to have a great time with 15 kids who want to learn about bioethics, in a beautiful place, on a great campus. And I’ll be putting another stone down on my own rambling, satisfying path.

(Granted, 10 minutes from now I’ll be back to freaking out about my still unformed syllabus and cleaning the house and trying to figure out every single thing I need to bring, but right now I’m going to sit here and enjoy my small moment of contentedness and serenity.)