Lucha de Probabilidades

APSCUF poster

Buenas Días,

I had an excellent day today in spite of the fact that I got to by office by 7:15 a.m. and it is 9:15 p.m. and I am still here. I do plan to leave shortly, though I might try to be back at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning. While tomorrow is supposed to be a day where I am not on campus, I currently have 5 meetings, so I think I will be here for quite a while. Fortunately, they do not begin too early, though I do have a 7:30 meeting at the diner, so I will be up one way or the other. Today I went to my Spanish class and have gotten it scheduled so I can be there both class periods. It was really enjoyable, and while I felt a bit rusty on some things, other things I had learned on my own came back pretty quickly. What I noticed today is that when I was called on my pronunciation was pretty strong. That was a good feeling and I think someone, who regularly kicked me on some things, might have even been slightly impressed.

While I have been working on some important things and made some major life changes to manage some of those things, I have found out how fragile I am and how much I need to be really disciplined in what I am doing. My latest trip for testing revealed that the stress of the holidays and beyond, and the travel, probably did not serve me well. I think my failure to manage my diet as well as I had been doing also was a contributing factor. That being said, now I have to redouble my efforts. It is something I can do. I think we are always playing the odds on things. Sometimes intentionally and other times unaware. I am always stunned when I see people who really seem to take their fitness seriously and then I see them smoking cigarettes, for instance. It is times like that I realize that the addiction to nicotine must be exactly that. I cannot imagine that someone honestly wants to affect their body in such a negative way when working so hard in other ways to maintain or enhance it. Yet there are other ways I believe we harm ourselves because of the lifestyle we either feel compelled (perhaps almost in a VD way) to lead or because we merely do it without thinking. Because I started the semester in such a dismal condition, I have felt like I have been playing catch up from the outset of the semester. From more than a week before the semester began until late last week, the number of times I have been in bed before 9:00 p.m. is probably greater in that month than the entire previous year. It is what I had to do merely to maintain and make it through my classes.

Now I am working to catch up and get ahead of things. I actually feel like I have more on my plate right now than I did last spring when I was starting to prepare for tenure. That is a bit frightening and disconcerting. . . .  Welcome to Friday. I have been in front of people most of the day and it is Wisconsin cold out, so that is my day. I did not make it in here as early as I wanted, but I have been productive nonetheless. I have worked on tutoring an ESL student who works tremendously hard at learning and mastering English. It is actually fun to think about why things work they way they do. Today I got a picture (or actually a poster) that is being hung up around campus for the faculty union. It is the picture that you are seeing at the beginning of the post. It is a bit surreal, and it was also taken before I lost some significant weight, so I look like a fat toad, sad as that is.

I have been working on this post for a week and I’m still not done. I guess that explains how my week has gone. I am not sure the coming week or two will be any better. What I am realizing is that the odds I have been battling in more areas than most realize have taken their toll on me more than I wish to admit. While I have gotten things accomplished, the sum total have not been enough. I am reminded of one of my father’s saying, ” The faster I go, the behinder (sic) I get.” That seems to be the story of my life. However, some of it is of my own making, I am not merely a victim here. I am a bit frustrated with the insinuation, especially by one who should know better, that somehow we only work 17 hours (though it was noted as contracted) per week. I am reminded of another conversation in which it was noted that if we teach in the summer or do summer work related to publishing or other things, it was our choice. Again, it is my interpretation, there seemed to be no appreciation or belief that some of those decision felt more obligatory than optional because of things like tenure or promotion. I think of how sometimes it seems we are squeezed by both sides. The local paper, as they feel obliged to do yearly, printed all of our salaries in the local Sunday paper. Again with little explanation of how those salaries are determined or what work went into the degrees to earn those salaries. So now some people, as I expected, comment in the local paper that only our salaries are the reason for increased tuition. Then the administration notes we are contracted not even part time. So between the two extremes, it seems we are vilified. So I try to focus on two things: first, I hope to support my colleagues. Second, I work hard to support my students. Those are the two groups that really are affected by what I do or don’t do. I know when I hear something positive about my teaching that means more to me than just about anything. When I was awarded an outstanding teaching award at my previous institution that was probably one of the best things that happened in all six years. I know that the great majority of my colleagues work tremendously hard. Parece que estamos a menudo en combate contra las probabilidades o simplemente un siglo XXI versus de Sísifo.

Well, I think it is time to head to school. I have sat at the diner for more than an hour. Somehow I have again misplaced my office keys. I am not sure if I left them in my office on Friday or they are in my jacket at the dry cleaners. I did not hang them up and so I am afraid it will be a day or two yet again before they reappear, as magically as they disappeared. I have a great deal of grading to manage, but just keep plugging (all outside the 17 hours). Perhaps our Snyder Amendment papers need to go to more people on campus. I was looking back at my blog from a year ago. It is a bit boggling to see what was accomplished in the past year. The changes that occur are always merely part of our daily lives, but when you look back at them collectively, they seem so much more monumental. I have learned so much about myself during this year. I think it is that learning that helps me be more comfortable with the decisions I have made and where I am at this point. . . .

Good morning, it is yet another day and about 4:28 a.m. and I am still in my office. I will admit to an hour nap on my floor about 12:30, but otherwise I have been working steadily and getting things accomplished. It will be a long day as I have things pretty much straight through from 7:00-4:30 today, but I will make it through. I am actually feeling pretty reasonable at the moment. That is actually the reason I am typing on this and hoping to finally get it posted before the morning hits (or the normal morning). It is yet another case of understanding the obstacles to accomplishing what needs to be done. I always struggle with how much to respond to students’ work. I could merely put in grades, but that is not going to help their writing. There is so much more. I do have to figure something out, but I believe that the only way to become a better writer is to write. If I assign it then I need to look at it carefully and try to respond in a way that is effective for the student and yet efficient for me in the bigger picture. I am not sure I have ever learned how to do that. I am sure I am not the only English (or any language for that matter) professor who feels the pain of this dilemma. It is interesting how each step of the way, from graduate school to getting that position to getting tenure to . . .  you always think it has to be easier on the other side, and then you find out it is not really that much different. The papers are still there and they require as much work. I actually enjoy teaching composition and seeing the light actually go on. I love when a student who did not like writing suddenly decides it is not that horrific after all. I am excited when a student comes to the realization that writing has value. I feel accomplished when someone sees that the passion I have for what I do is actually inspiring and the result is their wanting to work more diligently. It is pretty simple to make me happy. Just do your work.

As we are into the fifth week of the semester already, I think I might be able for the first time to see that I can get on top of all the things that are out there. I might have to put in a couple more days like this one, but it will pay off. So in the meanwhile, I will keep working on all the things that are necessary for later in the day. I hope that wherever you are and from wherever you might be reading this that whatever odds you are facing, you know that the battle is worth it. There is so much that matters in the world in which we are living, working, and existing. In some ways it is always a gamble. With that thought in mind, I will leave you with one of my favorite artists (amazing that he has been gone for over 7 years). His narrative style and amazing instrumentals were something I so appreciated and still do. Thanks for listening to one of my favorite songs of Mr. Fogelberg. Ironic that I found it in two languages.

Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

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