Never Get Caught Up

I thought the fall break from teaching would give me time to catch up on things I wanted to do. The last day of teaching, my students arranged a “Coffee Social with Dr. James”. This was something that I had done weekly in the semester past. I would have 6 – 20 students show up to gather in a coffee shop and practice their English. The only rules were that we did not discuss school and everyone paid for their own drinks. We broke rule number one often. I did not realize that what was intended to be an hour of socializing would turn into three hours or more at times. I had not started up the practice this semester. Although I have less students this semester, they do have longer papers. There is also next semester to prepare for, being like a treadmill, you never come to the end of the road. So on Thursday, October 26th, we had a coffee social. Only two students showed and the wife of a Fulbrighter, who is from Poland, but speaks incredible English. One of the mental strains of the coffee social is that I do not get to relax and enjoy them. I am the moderator yet again. I feel a need to keep conversation going since the purpose is to practice English. My mind is always in multi-task mode of speaking, listening, and thinking of the next question to spur on the conversation. By the end, I am mentally exhausted. After two hour, I announced that it was time I departed. With a week of vacation, I was declaring this my student-free week, mental rehabilitation. It was not to be so soon. Hours after getting home, my TA called and asked if I would meet him for coffee on Saturday. He was leaving on Sunday to go home for the week, so I thought sure, why not? He is a wonderful guy, always on the spot when needed, checking in perpetually to see if he can be helpful, so if he wanted another hour or two of my time, I could do it. THEN I am becoming a student-free zone under all costs. As much as I love my students, I have this reoccurring image from when I was an undergraduate in a psychology course. I don’t remember the concept the instructor was trying to demonstrate, but he had a student, a woman stand on the desk. He then had a student simulate a child and pull on her skirt. Another student was her husband who pulled on her arm, her ‘boss’ pulled on the other arm, her ‘elderly mother’ pulled on her back, a student representing her ‘household chores’ was grabbing her upper arm. Within a half hour, she looked like she had been attacked by a mob and the instructor simply asked “How do you feel with some many people and things dependent on you?” That is how I feel at times. There are occasions when I want to shake off all the responsibilities like a wet dog shakes off water and free myself of everything that drags me down. It is not that I don’t like what I do. If I did not care for my students, I would not offer them my time, concern, and give them the motivation that I do. However, there are bills to monitor long distance, bank accounts to balance, household chores to take care of, computer maintenance to do, school preparation, and the list goes on ad infinitum. Sometimes I just want to do what I want to do and know there is money and time to do it without worrying about someone else.