Sunday, 11 November 2012

Too much, too soon

I've taken on far too much work. But the seasonal nature of my job (university general teaching assistant) means that what I earn in three months has to last me the whole year. And this year, not wanting to be parasitic on my new love, I felt unable to say no to everything that was offered. So I'm teaching three courses: my usual one; a political philosophy course, and academic writing skills. This is still not full time hours, but the travelling and time between classes makes it feel like it is. And now I have a huge pile of essays to mark, which is killing me.

My problem here is that I'm working with someone else's material, so when a student uses a term, or launches off on a discussion about something, I'm unfamiliar with I can't assume they've made it up, and have to scour the course reading to see if it exists. I don't want to penalise someone for my own shortcomings. This means it can take hours to mark an essay that someone who knows the subject intimately could mark in forty minutes. And it means I don't get paid for nearly the hours I put in. I can hardly charge the university for my lack of knowledge. Though, of course, I inevitably find the term, or discussion topic, isn't in the reading material. But what if the student has read books I haven't? What if they have read round the subject and gone much deeper than I have?

All this marking has to be done at my desk between the back of Dave's tv and the window in the sitting room, because feedback has to be typed onto a specific 'feedback sheet'. So I can't do it between classes, GTAs don't have offices and I don't have a lap-top I could work on in the car or coffee bar, and have to wait till I'm at home in the evenings (and at the weekend (I should be doing it now!)).

I had the day off on Friday. The class I teach on Fridays is having a 'reading week'. I planned to spend the whole day marking so that by now (Sunday afternoon) I could start work on lesson plans for the rest of the week. So, what did I do?

Because I've been working on Fridays I haven't been going to the music sessions in the Bull of Thursday nights. Dave hasn't been going either (not because of me), but he decided to go this (last?) week. And I went too. And it was so nice: the music, the buzz, the delight on people's faces to see us again after so long. The white wine spritzers. The red wine someone brought back to our house after the session... It's safe to say that I let of steam. Too much of it, and too long before I really should have.

The eye-popping, gut-scrunching hangover the next day wasn't so nice. Nor was it conducive to marking essays on the effectiveness of Monbiot's argument from analogy and use of authority in the article...

Last night I was up till 3am trying to catch up. I failed.

This morning I worked on making sure I was as familiar with the material as I possibly could be, and that I understood every possible way Monbiot's arguments could be interpreted by eager, unpractised students.

Now I am going to get on with the job of preparing a plan for tomorrow's class, and then I'll start on the essays once more. Probably I'll get everything done. Maybe I won't, and if I don't maybe the university will never employ me again. And if the university never employs me again maybe Dave will identify me as a parasite and throw me out of his house. And if Dave identifies me as a parasite and throws me out of his house I'll still have had the wonderful experience of being loved by him all this time. And a great night last Thursday.

My desk the morning after a similarly raucous, but nowhere near as affecting, night. Sometimes I can handle it, sometimes I can't.