Something about grading tests leads one to distraction. Last week brought two stacks of tests and two assignments. I decided this time around to grade section by section, rather than test by test. It's a bit more efficient, I think. My goal is not to let these papers remain on my desk longer than necessary.
I've graded the first half of all the tests in my Wednesday night class, and completed about a dozen of the Thursday tests, with the remaining 20-odd 3/4 finished (just their essay question remains). At times it's painful to read the essays, because so many of our students these days seem to lack the basic framework for thinking through a problem, then presenting their ideas in a coherent fashion. And, with 72 students, there's little chance that my criticism will actually lead to their benefit and improvement. It's frustrating, because as a teacher, I feel a great desire to leave them better off than when they came to me, not simply stuffed with a few more tidbits of information.
I feel this semester fading from me. Only six more weeks separate me from the end of my time at Lemon. What will await me at the end of this tour? That, I simply don't know.
This weekend, I did some thinking and scribbling of thoughts related to resolving the algorithm for this key element that remains to me for the proof-of-concept tools. It felt good to get back into it a bit. This morning, I sat in my office for perhaps two hours doing little to nothing. I took care of some bills, and looked at my calendar, and read emails. I was avoiding the grading, but not finding the energy to work on my research.
Partly it's also the uncertainty that lies before us that saps my energy. Rocket and I have made some important decisions, and set some deadlines. I let my membership in one of the main academic societies of my field lapse at the end of October. That's significant, because they host the most prominent job listing services in the field. I still have some search agents running, and receive the announcement list from the other main society. I decided however that I will not apply for faculty jobs in 2008. That leaves essentially until the end of this semester for me to keep looking.
After the broadcasting of applications the previous couple seasons, I've only submitted four so far this time around. I'm planning on one more in the next couple weeks. After that, who knows? I'm tired of the game. But more than that, I've clarified my requirements in a post, and am no longer looking for any job. I'm only seeking one that'd be just right for me. Rather, I've got a job, that's my research, and figuring out how to keep funding it, and marketing it as needed. If I can land an academic post that supports me in this research, where I can make an honest contribution, that'd be ideal. Shy of that, I know what needs to be done.
Perhaps knowing the light is on at the end of the tunnel, allows me to take my time getting to the exit. The grading will be done. There's no point in stressing over how much time and energy teaching at Lemon takes away from higher priorities (my research, building my firm, my family, even my health-which has taken a decided downturn as a result of the commuting, breathing the pollution, and the resultant changes in my diet). Six weeks remain. I will make it, and I'll do what I can not to compromise my teaching or my life.