Thursday, 30 October 2014

"Autumn" in East Texas

How adjuncts spend their autumn evenings.
When October hits, I always feel like autumn must be just around the corner. Of course, autumn is just around the corner for people living close to or above the Mason-Dixon line. There is no autumn here, really. I am told by weather websites that some leaves will change color in early-to-mid November, but we’ll see about this. I am not hopeful. The leaves never really changed in College Station. Today the temperature dropped (high of 79 degrees projected). This is not the weather for dying leaves and bonfires and hot drinks.

 One of the things I love doing in strange (to me) areas of the country/world is talking with locals about seasonal expectations. Some of my students indulge me by sharing their perceptions of “cold” weather, seasonal clothing, and seasonal activities. My students have been wearing sweatshirts lately (it’s 79 degrees, after all!!) and begrudgingly not looking forward to winter weather (50 degrees).

There’s also a sense of desperation some days on campus to wear all of the autumn clothes that one is supposed to wear in this season, even when temperatures are in the high-80s (autumn clothes = jeans, leggings, boots, sweaters, sweatshirts, fleece jackets, flannel shirts). I always chuckle at the autumn-clothed student, struggling and sweating across campus on an 87 degree day, and they always chuckle at me for unfashionably wearing decidedly summer clothes (summer clothes = capris, skirts with no tights/leggings, short sleeves, flats). We share a mutual chuckle.

By the end of October at universities, there is also a sense of dread and work-piling-up and sicknesses caused by not sleeping. I am a strong defender of the need for a fall break in October; both for the well-being of students and professors. My students are tired and sick and stressed, and they really need some time away from class so they can come back refreshed. I am tired and behind on grading and really need a break to refresh myself. Texas universities do not have a fall break, though, so we just have to bully-through until Thanksgiving break (which is super-long here; it starts after classes on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week).

I always like to dress up on Halloween if I’m teaching, and, conveniently, Halloween falls on Friday this year (when I teach all of my classes). Dressing in costume is a silly think for a professor to do, but I’m not technically a real professor (I’m like a half-professor), and I don’t mind being silly. Therefore, I usually dress in costume and give my students candy. This year, I will be Nancy Drew, albeit the early, independent, and updated Nancy Drew (the first set of books had a more independent sleuth; then they got a little too “I need a man to come in and save me”). I am updating the early Nancy Drew by wearing jeans, as I think this version of Drew would definitely wear jeans if she was around today (it’s so much easier to climb through brush and investigate strange events in pants). Also, I will wear no hat because hats are annoying.

I have to plan my costumes and usual teaching clothes around the temperatures in my classroom, too, as I nervous-sweat in front of people (and I hop around all the time in the front of the room). Two of my classrooms are super-warm (my theory is that they are on the floors where all of the older professors have their offices, thus they complain about reasonably cool temperatures and demand the heat on at all times), so I am planning around this factor. I will also plan to be less bouncy, but I can’t promise anything.

Family updates:

JVJ: This cat had an adoption birthday at the end of September, so he got a whole can of tuna and a few tiny bits of butter. It was a glorious feast. JVJ seems pretty content and happy. His favorite game of late is to dive headfirst into a reusable bag on the floor and slide down the hall.

Katie: I’m always behind on grading, though I do usually take some evenings off from doing work (especially nights when I teach all day). Sadly, there is no time for craft projects, which includes remaking David’s school bag (it’s falling apart and I have the materials but no time). Winter is coming. I’m not really that ashamed about falling behind with grading, since the state of Texas mandates that we give our students five papers per semester. There’s no way I could have kept up, really (someday, after I leave Texas and don’t need to fear keeping my job, I’ll write a long rant about suspect education policies in writing classes).

David: Since David is teaching two different classes, he has double the lesson plans and tests and quizzes to make. David is always working (with breaks on date night and a few hours over the weekend). He had to reapply for his position here and submit a few other job applications, so work was added on top of work. Despite the work, he still makes the time to read more books than me.

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