Tag Archives: writing

RETIREMENT! sort of…

I’m taking a sabbatical from teaching, but since it is a self-imposed sabbatical and not a real sabbatical in thacademic sense I choose to call it “retirement“, a word which makes my husband crinkly, both from lack of income and from sheer finality of it.

He worries that my vision of it is this.


Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a “ceasing”) is a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year. The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in theBible (Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year). In the strict sense, therefore, a sabbatical lasts a year. Some universities and other institutional employers of scientists, physicians, and/or academics offer the opportunity to qualify for paid sabbatical as an employee benefit, called sabbatical leave.

While I think of my vision of retirement as

frenzy writer

My college is not offering a sabbatical leave, nor did I request one. The goal is to spend more time on my own work (many months had passed since I had written a poem) and spend more time with my two young children while traveling with husband. Much of November will be spent in Boston.

Did I mention there are 606 emails in my inbox? 206 of which are unopened.

Today was officially ‘day one’ of my-so-called-retirement (the phrase husband affectionately uses).

As you suspectthere was some sleeping late (I had to live up to husband’s vision just a bit)… then…

realized that having spent 5 years in the classroom AND raising the children AND managing a house and rental properties AND freelance writing and editing that I’ve done a rather shitty job of all (teaching the exception) so today is all about personal/household management.

Today’s goal is to go from 606 inbox emails to 400. There are 206 purposefully unopened, unanswered emails (that I don’t want to open due to subject title), and I’m going to answer today (though many will begin with… “I am so sorry to not get back to you sooner…”).  Most are difficult topics to tackle (sister and mom related, friends in Boston who are struggling emotionally, telling writers that I can’t/won’t edit their new work and why) 

Later this week I hope to actually schedule my 2 year overdue mammogram, find my driver’s license, get the dogs their shots (also 2 years overdue), get an eye exam (5 years was last one and I can barely see to drive), a pap smear (3 years overdue), and find a contractor for our sagging roof before we have a leak.

Next week is firewalling for writing projects.

Yours in productivity, 


The Quadrangle of Discomfort

Flashback one semester

The college I teach at is very small. Think 900ish students. As such, the community is quite insular (not in a negative way).  The nature of the college (a triad of work, service and academics) further strengthens community ties. The students study together, pull weeds on the farm together, play together, dine together, spend weekends on service learning trips.  There are assigned dorms, but few seem to be in the correct room. The intensity with which the lives of the students are entwined is apparent in their essays, their class comments, the way a student hugs another student after a peer review.

Thus, sometimes it may be difficult to assign peer rotation of papers, especially in a nonfiction class.  Especially when the first assignment is a bio, an exercise in self-exploration.

“I’ll call it the quadrangle of discomfort,” says one student.  He has grabbed a dry erase marker and is drawing a diagram on my whiteboard.  Class is dismissed, and I’ve turned on WERS, streaming live from Boston, my old college radio station.  The student stands at the board, creating a geometric pattern as the Foo Fighters blare out over the classroom speakers,

“Do you have any other colored markers?” he asks.

I hand him red and green to add to his blue.

When he is complete it looks like an awkward pentagram, a Venn on steroids.  There are loops and squares. I’m still uncertain what he is drawing.

“Okay, Professor Hunter,” he says.  He is one of the few who insists on calling me simply “Professor Hunter” and not by my first name.  I’ve had this student in two classes already.  I know him well.  It’s fun to see him at the board, mimicking my job.

“What you have done,” he continues, “is assign these personal bios in the worst possible peer rotation.”

This is not the first time an uncomfortable peer rotation has happened.  One of my first years here brought a similar situation.  A student had grabbed a sheet of paper or napkin and detailed how the peers I had assigned had all been very close, but that the relationships were in flux, were currently strained or evolving.  That time it was a trio, and the student had drawn similar lines, but nothing as complex as the diagram now on my whiteboard.

Peer rotation is my nightmare.  When I earned my MFA, apparently, all of my math skills evaporated. In went Hemingway and Lahiri; out went macroeconomics. In went Winesburg Ohio and San Lorenzo; out went fractions. I am faced with creating a rotation for my students so that they do not have the same peer read their work more than once a semester.  I was happy with the foursome that I chose.  It was one of the first days, so I just lumped four students together into a peer group.

My student continues to explain his problem.  “Of these four students, you assigned two who were rooming together but then she dated his friend, and then she moved out and now he is with….” He is pointing to his drawing of overlapping circles and lines. The drama that has unfolded is, apparently, intense.

“Well then,” I say.  “You will certainly be able to have the…”  Here, I struggle with the word.  “Backstory to read one another’s work.”  I smile and add “Have fun with it!”