Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicken Soup & Perseverance

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

It’s been a few days since I’ve written anything and I’m anxious. I’m anxious because I haven’t written in a few days, not for lack of ideas or stories to tell but because I’ve been very busy with my day job and evening job. Between dealing with plagiarism at the University of Phoenix (pre-published thank Buddha), to starting the first day of my three classes – I’ve felt a lot like a chicken with my head cut off. [I was not prepared to work the 17 hour day this Tuesday, especially after not being able to sleep Monday night.]

Maricopa Community College District courses began on August 20, 2011 and I had my first course for Chandler-Gilbert on Monday night from 7:10-9:50 pm. It’s funny that doing what I always dreamed to do still gives me butterflies in my stomach – not necessarily because I am nervous, more because I have the tendency to say information (sometimes personal) about myself and once you have announced it in class – it’s public. On the first night of class, I went through my introductions, student introductions, syllabus review, class expectations, and tried to incorporate fun into each of the classes I met for the first time. I make an effort to make a good impression with everyone I meet no matter what. I was more successful in some than others but I’m sure comedians have the same problem, some audiences get the jokes – some think they are lame. I laugh at anything but I was quick to realize I am mostly alone in that respect.

One thing I have always taken pride in is being myself, all the time, even in high school – I purposefully didn’t fit in (that electric blue sequined dress in the class of 2000 yearbook from Prom Court 1999 shows historically I have stuck out in a crowd [sorry, I just didn’t want a pastel dress]). I’ve never really minded it much, fat or thin – I don’t fit a mold but it isn’t a bad thing, on the contrary I feel good knowing that I am different from everyone else. (Humming Jessie J’s song Who You Are in my head.)

Each of my three classes has a distinct culture. My Monday night class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College is full of students, mostly under 30, and were quickly (in my head) dubbed the Happy Hour Class. They all genuinely seem to be fun and very unthreatening. My afternoon class (same class model) but at Estrella Mountain Community College is very serious. It seemed like every time I was looking for a smile I found a frown. Not sure what I’m going to call that class yet, I’m hoping today everyone lightens up a bit. Reminder college is supposed to be fun (and work). My evening class on Tuesday/Thursday at Estrella seems to be very light hearted and friendly, most of the students are adults with families very comparable to my own – so teaching them public speaking should be really fun. They are going to be my Prodigy Class.

I think I made a fairly good impression Monday (despite the room making me feel like I was dripping with sweat). However, Tuesday did not go as planned at all. I began the morning nearly being hit in a three-car highway closer situation (they missed my bumper by a foot), normally I would’ve called or stopped but because I had the after work commitment I had to just keep driving so that I could be at work on time. But I was immersed in feeling disappointed in not being able to help, but I was also so exhausted I wouldn’t have made a good witness anyway. After opening my inbox at the University of Phoenix the drama unraveled and I was made aware of a serious issue with one of the courses I am developing. Plagiarism by the subject matter expert let me know that the day was not going to be easy. Since I was not feeling well because I didn’t sleep – I didn’t eat very much and found out (the hard way of course) that I must make sure I eat in the middle of my 16-hour days or I will embarrass myself.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~Calvin Coolidge

Who was the adjunct faculty member dry heaving in her class as they were walking out of the room? This girl. Typical luck, so not only was I sick - I humiliated myself in front of half the class as they were leaving. I felt horrible. So I had about two hours before my next class and I tried desperately to eat something, even though it was just beef broth. What happened? Well, I began dry heaving in the Adjunct Faculty Office in front of the secretary… I sounded like I was dying, she kept asking me if I wanted to cancel my class - but I have that no-giving-up attitude (especially on the first day)… I reassured her I was fine and I would be fine. I did manage to maintain my composure for the later class until after the students left – but I quickly fled to the bathroom. Then after some cold water on my face I proceeded for the long drive home across Phoenix Valley to East Mesa.

A few lessons I learned quickly from my experience:

· I am too old to go without sleep anymore, with 30 creeping around the corner I guess I just don’t have the resilience I had when I was 19.

· No matter how hard you try, inevitably your daily fate is not within your control. If I could go back and redo Monday night and sleep six hours – it would’ve made a huge difference in Tuesday, but I can’t and the only thing left to do is press on.

· Keeping the not-giving-up attitude, though I felt a lot like I was acting as a professor and not being a professor on Tuesday – I still got through it, dry heaving and all.

· Being myself is all I can be, whether it’s good or bad, I’m staying with being me.

“A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.” ~David Brinkley

Photo by me, August 2011.

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