Tag Archives: teaching writing making best bad job ideal condtions

Doing the Job

Like the old man said life is making the best of a bad job.  Except for one semester when I was getting my Masters, I had never taught more than one writing class a semester or a quarter.  But when I was working for my PhD theEnglish Department got word that I had pretty well finished my dissertation, so they gave me three classes to teach in my last quarter as Teaching Assistant.  Technically, this wasn’t supposed to be legal, but they figured I would be done with the teaching by the time the paper work caught up to me.

Teaching three classes of writing per quarter is a lot different than teaching one.  By the numbers one is teaching 66% more than one did before.  But that’s not how it works really.  The first class is 33%, the second is 33%, and the third is 50%.  That third one is the back breaker.  I had those classes all on the same day, and by the time I was done, I had nothing left.  I was drained.  Then you had to mark up and respond to 75 papers four times a quarter rather than 25 papers four times a quarter.

I felt pretty bad.  I just couldn’t do all the things I had done when I had taught one class.  I couldn’t see the students as frequently in my office, I couldn’t remember their names, I couldn’t spend the same amount of time responding to their papers.  I told the same jokes over and over in class repeating myself and not even knowing it.  I honestly did not think I was doing my job properly and was letting my students and myself down.

But I had to make a living; I had to make the best of a bad job.  That’s how and what it is.  Rarely does one do anything under the ideal conditions for doing it.  There’s always some major fly in the ointment, like some Moby Dick of a fly.  Some people lay brick on foundations that are crooked while their hands are freezing from the cold.  Some doctors are so emotionally overload with what they have to do they become pill popping addicts and operate on people while completely loaded.  You do what you have to do, I guess, is the motto to make the best of a bad job.

I have heard of places—though they are few and far between—where people teach two writing classes a quarter and have less than 20 people in a class.  That approaches ideal conditions (although I have no idea what other rotten conditions might be interfering with these ideal conditions).  I am a good teacher but I will never know just how good I might be or might have meatcuttingbeen had I been able to teach under ideal conditions.  Instead, what once felt like a short cut is now just the way I do things, what once felt like not being responsible is being responsible.

So you adjust to the bad job.  Screw it!  What’s the use?  You can’t go around flagellating yourself because the conditions of the job make it impossible for you to do the job right.  That means going around being constantly irritated, upset, and chafing at the limitations of what you do.  Instead, you forget that you are making the best of a bad job.  You are just doing the job.