This Winter Term: Some Small Good Things

1005017_10152126924015803_2115018870_nI may have been in Nova Scotia almost 20 years, but it’s no secret that I have not adapted well to east coast winters. I complain about them a lot! It’s not even the cold and damp I hate so much as the stress of driving in snow and ice. If I could hibernate, or just opt out of work, school, appointments, and grocery shopping whenever the roads are bad, I might shut up about winter!

However, this particular winter (though the weather so far has been dreadful) I’m feeling grateful for a number of small things that are making my term easier. If I write them up here that will make it harder for me to forget them the next time there’s freezing drizzle on top of a foot of snow and everything starts looking bleak.

1. This is my first full term with a reserved parking spot. What a relief! Not only can I drop my kids at school without either forcing them to be uncomfortably early or fretting that I’ll arrive on campus too late and be stranded, but I can even leave and come back during the day if I want. Or make a morning appointment off campus and still come in to my office after. This flexibility would have been even nicer when the kids were smaller, but even now it sure feels liberating not to be worrying about this logistical issue every day.

2. This is my first term in many years without a 9:30 class. Happily, I have long managed to avoid 8:30 classes (by nature I’m a night owl, not a morning person), but even a 9:30 class means having very little prep time in the morning, which means knowing you have to arrive on campus basically ready to go, which means often doing prep in the evenings. I’m sure I’ll still do some reading or marking or making up handouts after dinner, but not as often, and at the very least I’ll know I have plenty of time to do things like finalize notes or print and copy materials on campus before I have to head into my first class.

3. And speaking of classrooms, for the first time that I can remember my classes are all meeting in the same building that my office is in. This is a huge break during the winter term! Not only will I save all kinds of time putting on winter gear and trekking across campus and back (and, of course, also miss the unpleasantness of going outside repeatedly in cold, wet, blustery weather), but I don’t have to teach in my winter boots in my usually overheated classrooms. Plus if I forget something, it’s literally right upstairs, so I don’t have to check and re-check the contents of my folders and bags quite so obsessively. Win! This is possible because …

4. I have a very modest number of students this term: only 2 classes, with 30 in one and 22 in the other. Classrooms in this building officially hold 36 students; my classes capped at 40 used to get scheduled in here regularly anyway but apparently the fire marshal has gotten serious and as a result (because they are pretty much always full) I’ve been exiled for them – and classes capped at 60 or 90 (like Mystery and Detective Fiction) of course always have to be elsewhere. So: more intimate groups, less marking, more discussion instead of lecturing, and all in one building. Hooray!

5. Finally, and not specifically teaching or work related, I just discovered Sun Butter. It really does taste just like peanut butter! I used to love peanut butter, but since my daughter was diagnosed with a severe peanut (and tree nut) allergy over a decade ago, we haven’t had any nut products in the house. Sun Butter is completely nut free! (It’s made of sesame seeds.) I always doubted the nut-free alternatives but a friend assured me she even preferred this to the real thing so I finally risked it … and it’s good! I’ve never resented going without nuts at home (it’s actually easier, too, than worrying about cross-contamination — we can all just relax and eat), but it’s nice to have an old favorite so nearly restored to me. And if I get more protein in the morning and that gives me extra energy, that may indeed be a plus for my teaching term.

You see? I said these were small good things*, but they add up! I’ve been surprised, actually, what a difference the first three especially are making to my frame of mind during what is usually such a stressful time. Do you have any small (or big!) changes this term that make your days a little better? Or any that you wish you could make?

*A small bad thing is that the fiction anthology I’m using doesn’t include “A Small, Good Thing,” which is one of my favorite short stories. But you can’t have everything!

7 thoughts on “This Winter Term: Some Small Good Things

  1. RT January 8, 2014 / 5:49 pm

    Reserved parking place? One classroom building? No class before 9:30? You are clearly living the charmed life in academia. I say that without sarcasm or irony. I am envious. But the weather is another issue. I understand your agony. I am a transplant from the U.S. northeast, and I do not miss the snow and ice. Hang in there. BTW, my blog has be revived. Your posting serves as a pleasant tonic, relieving me of some my angst today. http://acommonplacefromeastrod.blogspot.com/2014/01/taking-look-at-academias-decisions-at.html

    • Rohan Maitzen January 8, 2014 / 6:22 pm

      Yes, I really do recognize how fortunate I am. Also, the reserved parking isn’t really such a “small” thing! It’s not cheap, and I’ve waited a long time for it. As for the classrooms and timetabling, things won’t fall so nicely into place again for a while, I expect.

      Thanks for the link to your restored blog – though I was sorry to read the pink slip news.

      • RT January 8, 2014 / 6:48 pm

        My pink slip is just no big deal. I’m an adjunct. However, consider D. G. Myers’ announcement today. That is a really raw deal!

  2. Jenny @ Reading the End January 8, 2014 / 7:41 pm

    Those ARE small good things! I love how big a difference it can make in your life to have small changes for the better. This is why I started drinking coffee in college: people seemed to really like it, and I thought it would be lovely to have something in the morning that made me happy. Worked perfectly. Every morning cup of coffee is a lovely treat. (I know that sounds silly but it is true.)

    • Rohan Maitzen January 8, 2014 / 11:44 pm

      That’s an excellent example of a small good thing – a comforting ritual, with the side benefits of caffeine!

  3. Stefanie January 9, 2014 / 5:14 pm

    Such wonderful small good things, though a reserved parking spot on campus seems like a huge a thing to me. Congrats!

  4. Kerry January 9, 2014 / 11:47 pm

    I like this list. The winter has been so hard this year that it feels like it should be the end of February. So I think that focussing on good things and little spots of light is so important. Thank you for the inspiration.

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