Thursday, October 28, 2010

sick, but not ill... (and a tacked on big thirsty!)

I was one class through a three class day, beaten down by a level of ignorance and apathy that rivaled anything I'd ever seen, walking to my shared office, when I thought... I could just go home.

And I did.

I'm not ill. I don't have the flu like seemingly a quarter of my colleagues - who have been ringing me up to sub for them on a nearly daily basis. I don't have food poisoning. My man is not sick. He doesn't need a ride. I don't have a flat tire. I don't have a sick grandma.

I'm just fucking sick of my job.

So I turned around in the hallway, an office hour and then two more classes in my future, walked to my car, and am now home. (I have Norah Jones going, a cup of tea, pajamas back on, and mental health returning quickly.)

Oh I know I've done a bad thing. I know I'm a prof flake, or just a flake, period. But there was NO way I was going to be worth much to my students today.

What a crummy semester this has been, especially my trio of composition courses on TTh. My God they're needy. Lazy. Unhappy. Dull. Listless. I have tried the stern approach, the fun approach. I brought in donuts one morning...and I hate doing that. Nothing seems to jar them. It's all "Do we have to?" about everything.

Now, to clear away some questions. No, I've never done this before. No, I don't plan on doing it again. Yes, I'm wearing pajamas and not those shorts!

But seriously, my brain was fried after my first class. Another 90 minutes of pulling teeth, of working harder for their progress than they work themselves. And I've pulling them through this class for 9 weeks now, and I'm sick of it.

I have to tell you I felt GREAT leaving campus. I drove with the windows down, enjoyed seeing little kids getting off school buses, and I when I walked into my empty house at 9:30 am (when I'm never home), the sun warmly bathed my bed and invited me back in.

So, several songs, several cups of tea, and a luxurious and sloppy yoga routine later, I feel like a million bucks.

My thirsty:  What would you have done? Was I bad to indulge my anger and my annoyance? Have you ever done what I did? What should I have done instead?


  1. I have not done that, but I have to admit I've thought about it. I know one class missed is not going to damage any student, but of course there'd have to be a limit to how many "mental health" days we should take.

    Darla, I'm eager to see what kind of responses you get. I know some colleagues who come to class when they're legitimately too sick to be there, but they do it out of some kind of insane sense of responsibility. They can't even talk in class, surround themselves with Kleenex, cough drops, garbage pail for possible vomit (not kidding), but they have it all over us next time we say, "Oops, too sick to work." It's a kind of odd pride, and I have to admit I've "toughed" out some classes when ill when I didn't do anything worthwhile by showing up.

    But, your situation is interesting. I respect your feeling, and respect your need to just leave the building...but I wonder if it means more than you're letting on. Are you sure it's just today and not more days coming soon?

  2. I did that after having a shoe thrown at me and finding out the endowment whore (the assistant principal) wouldn't give the kid who did it detention (too connected). I quit a few weeks later.

    Be careful. It gets easier and easier. If the job is shitty enough, it doesn't matter because you shouldn't be there and you should quit instead. But it doesn't sound like yours is something you're ready to, or even really need to quit, so be careful with this.

    Slightly off topic here... your description of how the day is now unfolding is so delightful. I love when it snows all night so school is closed, but the day is sunny and your floors are warm and you can stay in clean jammies all day sipping tea and listening to music. I'm jealous.

    And my final tangential comment: the next CM prodo should be Darla-Shorts.

  3. I've never done this, but judging by the number of "no class today" signs taped in the halls, I know you are not alone. The whole "Wah! give me points for nothing but being a pain" is draining, even if that's a minority pulling that. So rather than walking away mid-day, for particularly immature sections, I prep less, show films, let them out early on occasion, make subtle and cutting remarks that they don't catch. Nobody can be Sisyphus day after day.

  4. I hear you, Darla...but I've never done what you've done. I remember being annoyed when teachers or proffies didn't show, and unless I'm actually unable to motorvate to campus, I get there no matter what, cough syrup, Ipecac, whatever it takes...

    But I will admit you're a TINY bit of a hero to me today because I'm in my office now thinking, "How many more sunny days like this will we have?" and "Where, oh where, are the students who wanted to see me today but who never showed up?"

  5. Darla, you're awesome. I'd love to do the same thing - skip class and show up at your doorstep for some tea, a nap and a sloppy yoga session.

    I see more profs skipping class because they are too busy doing research (their "real work"). That aggrivates the hell out of me, a prof who has and will teach 8 am classes for my entire career, all while doing my own research.

  6. I'd have to answer yes and no. Yes, I called in sick when I could have gone in. No, because I really was sick when I called in, just not falling-down sick.

    When I called in sick because I'd been ill and fighting through it (and continuing to work, and doing crappy work, and getting more run down), the sick day absolutely was motivated by mental health: I just couldn't face the flakes while feeling so completely drained of energy. My physical health did improve, but I could have gone in and waited for the weekend to recover.

    As the wise Wombat said, just don't make a habit of it.

    And to paraphrase Ben, bully for you!

  7. I have never skipped a class unless I was sick. I regularly have nightmares, before the beginning of term, that I was supposed to be meeting 3 classes but only remembered 2 classes and now it's the 3rd week of term and I've just realised I'm supposed to be meeting a third class and presumably they've been gathering in the classroom 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks at the appointed time and I've never been there and I haven't even got a syllabus and have no idea what to teach them and oh sh*t oh sh*t oh sh*t and it's halfway through the class time already and I can't even FIND the classroom and all the corridors have changed around and why am I climbing through this tunnel ...

    But I've never actually DONE it. Given the level of terror in the nightmares I'm obviously very afraid to.

    However I have called in when I was, say, only a little bit sick. I had a cold, but it wasn't a TERRIBLE cold. and I relished lounging about all day, let me tell you. This seems to happen about, oh, 3/4 of the way through term most likely.

    I have rescheduled graduate with only a couple of students in them from time to time, so as to give myself a day free, but only if I have a sick child at home.

    I don't publish much, so perhaps I feel over-responsible about the only part of my job that I really feel I am doing properly.

  8. I'm a student/staffer, but people at my university flake out all the time. People are constantly going home early because they 'feel a cold coming on' and many of my coworkers seem to be sick all the time. I don't mean pretend-sick; they really get sick like once a month. I do not know why, since they are always swilling echinacea and getting flu shots, while I don't do any of that and never get sick. Faculty just call the department secretary and have them tape a note to the classroom door and their office door saying "Prof. So-and-So is out today; no class/office hours." It happens so often that every department has a Word template for this sign.

    You can just pretend you got suddenly, violently ill, had some crisis with your kid/husband, car trouble, or any of the other lame excuses I hear all the time. I guess getting someone to put a note on your classroom/office door is prudent, just in case you have one student who is trying to reform and actually wanting help during your office hours. Especially if your office hours are in two- or three-hour blocks. I have sat waiting for three hours for an absent professor's office hours because he never called the department secretary. It's kind of a drag. Yeah, I know that faculty sit there during office hours and no-one shows up, but at least you're in an office where you can do some other work, instead of taking a vacation day to sit on a hard bench in a dingy hallway waiting for someone who will never appear (Or maybe you do have to hold office hours on a bench in a hallway, I don't know. But I would hope you don't have to take vacation time to hold office hours.)

    I don't know how tolerant my university would be of adjuncts not showing up to teach and not calling or providing any explanation for their absence. The silverbacks can probably get away with it and make up some excuse about a sudden emergency the next day, but I have a feeling that the adjuncts would be penalized for this behaviour.

    I sometimes feel like flouncing out of my office and not coming back for the rest of the day, but unfortunately I couldn't get away with it.

  9. In any other sector of the economy, absenteeism ramps up when employee morale goes down. Why the hell should the education sector be any different? Sure, it is damn hard to find a replacement to do your job, so class usually gets cancelled as a result, but proffies are still human beings. Why the hell should we beat ourselves up over this type of behaviour? (with the caveat that it is not a habit)

  10. At my quite respectable college, I have a certain amount of leave time for things like illness, professional meetings, and personal time. It's not a HUGE amount, by the way, and if I go over that time and miss a class, it costs comes right out of my check. And I have to account for any missed time on a website.

    If I remember correctly, a few years ago I missed a 50 minute class and it cost me $300 or so on my next paycheck. I never wanted to know how that number came about, so never asked.

    Now, I watch my leave time balances to make sure I don't come up against the paycheck police.

  11. We can do an alternative thing on Blackboard ("instructional continuity") and all is ok. Since all of my classes could be done hybrid anyway, it works out.

    I give myself permission for 3 "sick" days a term (when I'm in only T/Th), but normally only take 1, sometimes 2. I'm an adjunct, and the schools I've worked at have been ok with that. My order of operations is first notify students via email, then get things on Blackboard, THEN tell the department secretaries.

  12. Remember my messed up plumbing? Yeah, I got "crypto" from that, which means I spent the first two days of this week getting the kind of rehydration support I associate more with folks suffering from amoebic dysentery. I am generally quite physically healthy, which means I do my damndest to get through classes unless I am really having a horrid, horrid mental health day.

    I try really hard not to leave out of frustration, because I worry it will become a habit, but yeah, I've definitely done it.

    Also, like Patty, I notice that "I don't mean pretend-sick; they really get sick like once a month. I do not know why, since they are always swilling echinacea and getting flu shots, while I don't do any of that and never get sick." My colleagues are darned sickly, even the ones without, I understand, are germy little buggers who come home from kid places laden with infectious diseases. But, even the childless ones I work with seem to get sick a lot.

  13. Of course I've never done anything like this. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help HAL said to Dave, in 2001. ;-)

  14. I've done it before (including as a student), but I must admit, it's better when I don't. If I do decide to take a "personal day," then I go back to school/work thinking how wonderous it was to be home and how painless it was to make up the missed work, and I'm tempted to do it again.

    It's kind of like getting to fly business class one time - you don't know what you're missing until you do it, but after that you REALLY hate flying coach because you know what's happening on the other side of the curtain.

  15. The coach/business class experience that Elsa mentions reminds me of a coleague who was promoted from faculty to administration. It was unsettleing to see how the red carpet was rolled out for him as she moved into his new office. Luckily, he is a friend so I won't hold it against him, so long as he puts in a good word for me when I move "up" in the world.

  16. Wow, you know, I'm going to sound like a weenie, but I've never canceled class for any reason but conference travel. I think this is because I have never taught more than a 2-2 load unless I wanted to, so I feel pretty obligated to be there. There aren't too many jobs where you can work from home 2-5 days of the week (depends on the quarter; we have a research quarter). So I'm, I dunno, mindful enough of the privileges I have to try to be answerable for them.

  17. Marcia makes a good point. My schedule has been 5-5-2 for quite a few years now, and I'm on campus, from 8-3 on MWF and 7:30-4:30 on TTh. (The 2 summer courses I choose to teach, one each session; the 5/5 is normal load here.)

  18. At my school, tenured and tenure-track faculty teach 4-4 loads. Some semesters, I teach all 4 of my classes MWF because the department doesn't offer composition courses in the longer TR blocks. I have been SO tempted to go home before class #4 on way too many occasions.

    But I don't, and here's why. My school is the kind of place where I'm expected to be on campus 8-4 every day, even on days when I'm not teaching. My campus is the kind of place where shutting your office door is perceived as being un-collegial or thinking that you're somehow above everyone else, unfounded perceptions that will bite you in the ass during your annual performance review.

    Darla, I am so jealous of you for working at a school that doesn't micromanage. I am so jealous of ALL of you who work at a place where there's no invisible attendance-taker monitoring what time you pull into the parking lot and what time you pull out. I am going to a conference next week -- an academic CONFERENCE, the kind I need to attend to bolster the "professional development" part of my tenure file and get a good annual performance review from my area chair and the dean -- and I can't cancel class for it. WTF? My area chair has told me that I need to find subs because it is unacceptable to miss unless there are unforeseen circumstances.

    Really? Some days, that kind of BS makes me want to walk out even more than the students make me want to walk out -- and believe me, the students are damn good at it.

  19. MCM: I did NOT mean to give the impression that my college doesn't micromanage us!!! On the contrary. I have paperwork like you can't believe that I'll have to fill out for going AWOL, and I'll have to lie about all of it to avoid "getting in trouble." My escape from campus broke all kinds of written and unwritten rules, and like ELS says above, my paycheck gets docked if I dismiss or cancel a class without a real reason, or if I've used up my microscopic amount of actual leave time.

    I'm going to have to lie about this event to my colleagues and my boss forever.

    I tell my CM colleagues freely, though, that the one mental health day has given me enough will to finish the semester...


  20. If you're teaching 5/5 or 4/4, why not skip another class, work on the vita, and get a decent job. I'm not being rude or dismissive. I'm just saying. If you have to flake out after one class, maybe you have problems too big for some tea and sobby music to help you heal.

    Seriously, publish something, put it on a vita, apply somewhere where you teach a reasonable amount.

  21. I find that it's way easier for me to make it through the "bad days" if I have a collegial office environment. At several of my past schools, I have no problem hanging out in my office and getting stuff done. (I'm a lowly adjunct who happens to teach a full load, why would anyone talk to me?) But, at other schools? Yech. Just being at the place makes me sad.

  22. Uh, Tim (Not Jim), have you seen the job lists in the Humanities? They're unbelievably bad. Getting a good job isn't a matter of merit anymore.


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