Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Last Call

Can we call the last two weeks of the semester a "season"? Because I have to admit that it feels like a space and time that is uniquely it's own. Not unique to Upstate New York, but definitely unique to the wide world of education. It's the academic equivalent of 15 minutes before closing time with the bartender is yelling "last call" at boozy stragglers who need just one more before they can sleep.

This is the time of the semester when we second, third, and fourth guess ourselves. When those of us who do remarkable things every single day wake up in cold sweats because we know that it's not enough, isn't good enough, and will never be good enough. Plus, we're pretty sure that we're going to be fired. Tomorrow. Because our work is so bad that the powers that be won't even let us finish out the semester. I know, because not only do I have this conversation with assorted faculty and staff on a daily basis, but I fall victim to the same kind of thinking. There's nothing quite like the feeling of losing complete grasp of everything.

In the world of academic support, our resources get stretched to breaking points; the stack of paperwork on my desk grows exponentially; students' tough veneers are most likely to crumble, devolving into yelling or, worse, tears. Factor in holiday pressure, and it's a wonder we're not all eating Xanax by the handful.

But we keep going, all of us--teachers, tutors, techs, housekeepers, secretaries, administrators, cooks: teaching; listening; guiding. We will walk students to the health or counseling center even while we're mentally going over increasing to-do lists. We will take the time actively listen, even when that puts us behind; and we will, somehow, get it all done before the last call has ended and we stagger home to pass out for a long winter's nap.

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