Monday, November 19, 2007


I have been working hard keeping up with my workload at Lane Community College. My workload is simple, but not easy. Read and respond to essays. Read and help students dig deeply into books. It's been rewarding this quarter. My students have written perceptively and intelligently, sometimes even spiritually, about the books we've read. Most of them have written honest, sometimes nakedly honest, essays about questions that rise out of these books and how they work out these questions in their own lives.

It's the blessing and the curse of teaching writing. The blessing is being a part of students arriving at deep knowledge of the world and, more important, discovering deeper levels of self-knowledge. Many make new sense out of their experiences and work out new insights about themselves and what has happened in their lives.

It's really too strong of a word to say curse. It sounded right when I wrote it, but it's not a curse. It's a weight. This is heavy work I do. That's a fact. I become privy to a wide variety of losses, abuses, crimes, heartbreaks, disappointments, and other things that my students have suffered or commited.

As weight, it starts to weigh on me. I suffer fatigue.

It's a fatigue I know well. As I grow older, it weighs on me more. I have grown more sensitive to the difficulties I read about in my students' papers and I seem to take more of it in each year.

Oddly, a consequence of this weight is that my class sessions are lighter. The more my students write and they more they know that I know and the more I encourage them that they are writing more honestly, more cogently, more expressively, more thoughtfully, the more trust between us grows and this trust spills over into the classroom.

We joke with each other. We laugh a lot. We discuss serious ethical, emotional, intellectual, and philosophical subject matter, but in our shared trust, laughter is always just a wise crack or a quick story away.

I don't think it's unusual to be fatigued by what I love. At one level, it's my love that engenders the fatigue because I pour myself into my work and I give my students all the energy and attention I can muster.

But, it's tiring, and while my work and my service to my students doesn't suffer from my fatigue, my writing has suffered.

I've had many ideas about things I'd like to be writing about on this blog and I've imagined pictures I've wanted to be taking.

But, I have to draw the line somewhere. I can't let my work suffer, so my blog has.

So I thought I'd write a post about why I haven't been posting much writing.


ThomG said...

Great insight. I was an English / Journalism major in college and I knew the amount of physical, intellectual and emotional effort I put into my writing, but it never occurred to me that my professors were making that same contribution, to each and every student. There must be great satisfaction in knowing that you are helping to shape young minds into useful contributors to society. Thank you.

Student of Life said...

Better the blog than the work, my invisible internet friend. I can relate entirely to what you're saying, although my perspective comes from a different profession. As 1 year turned into 14, the weight of the news I was presenting to my audience became a lot to shoulder every day. Stories that didn't make me flinch a decade before made me want to curl up and cry.

My blog is also suffering as of late, but it's not because of my work (since I don't work anymore). I don't know what it is. If I figure out a fix, I'll share it.

Inland Empire Girl said...

I understand about getting older and the fatigue. I have been pleased with how I have paced myself this semester and tried to to get worn down. So far, so good.
I think I also made it through the November fog this year.

MGM said...

I can't help drawing parallels often between your descriptions of teaching writing and my own experiences as a psychotherapist.

I feel fatigued, too. Sometimes I can pin it on my work. Most of the time I spread the blame between my work and my mission to invest intently and purposefully in my young children's lives. Sometimes I blame the parenting part on simply being an "old mom." Whatever it is, my intensity towards it all is both rewarding and exhausting. Often the exhaustion comes of squeezing all I can out of my life and the lives of those I have the opportunity to touch.