Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Melancholy Pleasure

As of about 10:30 pm last Friday, when I submitted my final grades, I am no longer a part-time physics instructor. So now, the day job is the only job I have. I may as well stop calling it the "day" job, I suppose. I'll probably go on calling it that, though. Habit's a powerful thing.

It always feels good to be done at the end of the spring semester, with the summer stretching out endlessly before you, with lots of time to rework lecture notes, revise the lab manual, tweak the syllabus, and so on. This time, the good feeling is mixed liberally with sadness. I really, really, really like teaching physics. (Grading lab reports, on the other hand, is a bale of drudgery that I'll miss not at all, not even a little bit.) But aside from maybe substituting every now and then for my replacement -- a day-job co-worker of mine who really knows her stuff and will do wonderfully well -- I'm done, and that doesn't feel very good.

It's the correct decision for me right now, though. The day job expects people like me to travel every now and then, reasonably enough ... and the last five years, I've traveled very little indeed, needing to be on hand on Monday and Wednesday evenings from late August through early May. The day job's been nothing but cooperative, but my conscience has been uneasy. Several times, I've seen colleagues have to go places when I should have gone. So, five years is enough, and it's time for me to give my primary employer some undivided attention for a while.

Teaching an evening class, I've had a varied group of students, a lot of them non-traditional in age and situation. I'm not likely to forget Nathan, an electrician from Ghana who used to drop in on me at my Friday evening office hour the year after he was in my class, just to chat or sometimes for some "consultation" on his work for other classes. Another young man -- never mind his name -- had, I think, a dozen piercings above the shirt collar where they could be seen, and I shudder to think of the hardware he probably bore in places that I, thank God, had no occasion to see. (He was quite a good student, too.)

Well, anyway, good-bye to all that. It was good. I'll miss those folks.

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