Friday, May 6, 2011

never again, again

At the end of this crazy semester, I find myself saying "Well, that was tough, but I'll never do that again."

I'm not sure what part of "that" I'm planning to avoid in the future. I've run out of grandparents, so there won't be more last-minute trips across country for a funeral (God willing!). And it's not like the opportunity to take on a massive teaching overload is something I could foresee. But this feeling of "never again" is all too familiar. I've been down this road before.

Last year, it was the pregnancy (during fieldwork and lab work and an intensive summer class), followed by the baby (back to work a week later, for the last few days of the semester), followed by another crazy semester (teaching 8 credits while trying to stay at home with a newborn as much as possible). A year ago, I thought "Well, that was tough, but I'll never do that again."

And I haven't, at least not in the same way. This year I didn't over-commit myself while pregnant and caring for a newborn. Instead, I over-committed myself while caring for a toddler, and decided to heap coals on the fire by changing the format for all of my classes, changing books in two of them, and making things needlessly harder.

So I'm learning a more general lesson here. Young children are a big job. Teaching is a big job (especially when your regular load is 20 credits). Research is a big job. Life is a big job. Don't take on too many big jobs.

Limit what can be reasonably limited, such as revamping classes or adding to the grading pile. Don't volunteer to make the new brochure for your kid's preschool (yep, guilty on that one!). Don't volunteer for a new committee, just because it sounds "interesting". Sleep sounds interesting, too. As does playing with your kids, or getting tenure.

"I'll never do that again" is not about the specific idiocy of a specific semester. It's about the general tendency to heap far more on a plate than it is possible to finish. Knock it off!

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