End-of-Semester Ninja

Ninja-Level: can perform complex tasks in conditions of high uncertainty, stress, and conflict.

If we consider the above definition (which is 100% accurate since I found it on the Internet), I've officially leveled up. I'm a ninja, dear readers. In the midst of high uncertainty, stress, and conflict, I'm still performing complex tasks.

Am I scaling walls? Launching metal stars with great accuracy by swiftly flicking my wrist? Lunging athletically while wielding an imposing sword? No, on all accounts. But, if you saw me with a rubric right now, you'd definitely think, "Dang. She's a ninja." (That is, if you could see me at all. Ninjas reside in the shadows, invisible.)

So far this week, I've listened to approximately 70 final student presentations. I've graded slightly over half of them. They're my air and sustenance right now: I breathe and eat final speeches. These are the walls I'm scaling.

It's all I do: I listen, I take notes, I think, I grade. I sift rubric criteria with swift flicks of my wrist, lunging in an imposing manner with my audio podcast feedback that's personalized to each and every student. Ninja-level, I tell you.

I also keep sharp in other ways, asking myself tough questions like, "Wait, why did I walk into this room?" and "What was I supposed to be doing right now?" Apparently, if I'm a ninja in one aspect of life (work), I'm a goldfish in all other areas.

In the moments when I'm not grading, I daydream about everything I want to do when I have a break from grading. So far on my list:

  • Organize my entire closet by holding each piece of clothing to my heart and asking, "Does this spark joy?" while deliberating all the fashion choices I've ever made.

  • Read books. What books, you ask? All of the books. ALL of them.

  • Paint my dining room. Or maybe change the pictures on the walls. Or perhaps swap out the table cloth. I'm not sure. Something is off in that room. I can't put my finger on it,.

  • Become a professional garage-saler, like those guys on American Pickers. Imagine me driving a van off into the distance like a modern-day treasure hunter. 

I'm so close. I can almost taste it.

Once I submit my final grades this upcoming weekend, I'll have two full weeks before classes start again. And during those two weeks, trust me, not only will I remember why I'm walking into rooms, but I also plan on being a ninja-level master at closet organization, book reading, dining room decorating, and garage saling.

You won't see it of course, because I'll be invisible. That's just the ninja way. 


You Always Feel This Way

I have pressing news: there are less than two weeks of classes remaining. Students and professors alike feel the heat. I check my inbox cautiously, opening it with a quick glace, narrowing my eyes as I scan for troubling subject lines. The process reminds me of when I work in my yard and need to dig up a rock. I always flip that thing over gingerly and spring back a foot or two, hoping there's nothing creepy-crawly underneath.

That's me with emails right now. I poke at them with a stick before engaging.

I've been ending semesters forever, though. Shouldn't I be better at this? Shouldn't I be impervious to the mental and emotional toll by now?

I asked myself these exact questions this week because I've been frustrated for not feeling "more together" (whatever that means). Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that not only do I always feel this way at the end of a semester, but also that it's okay.

It's okay to feel this way. A handful of students are clamoring for extra credit even though they haven't done the regular credit. Other students are hitting the panic button for reasons that have nothing to do with me or my class. Some are enduring legitimately extenuating circumstances. I hear about it all. It's all right there: messages in my email inbox, clusters of students waiting to talk with me after class.

Sometimes my head spins. It's impossible to manage all their things on top of all my things.

This is why I need to step back and remind myself that this is the norm. The last two weeks of the semester always feel this way. I repeat to myself this phrase: You're not doing anything wrong: you're just in the tunnel. This will pass.

And it always does. The semester always ends. The scrambles always unscramble. So right now, I simply take some deep breaths and ride it out.

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