The Broad is Back!

May 3, 2014

It’s the Worry that’s Killing Us

“Work is healthy, you can hardly put more upon a man than he can bear. It is not work that kills men; it is worry. Worry is rust upon the blade.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher, quoted in The Teachers’ Institute, Vol. 18, No. 1 (September 1895)

I used this quote today in my inspirational blog, and as I was writing, I knew I had to come over here, because this reflects something that’s been on my mind a while. Of course, I don’t have a lot of time to develop it today, but it’s a taste

I’m one of those people who works on weekends–that’s when the majority of my grading gets done. So work is on my mind today. I saw this quote, and it resonated greatly.

I do love my job, and even the grading doesn’t bother me overly much. I’d rather have fewer classes or the same number of classes with fewer students, and that’s where the worry comes in.

Am I spending enough time on each student’s paper? Will I get it done in time? Will I have time to spend with my son? Will I have time to sleep? Probably similar questions to what others have.

Education has changed in America, especially public higher education. As teachers, we know that the optimal number for a composition class is around 15 students or so. You want enough for a lively discussion but few enough so that the professor has time with each student. Depending on where I’m teaching (as one of America’s permanent adjuncts, I teach at up to three different schools at a time), I have between 29-45 in a composition class. Most of the time I have to teach six sections at a time to make ends meet.

So on average, I have about 150-170 students a term. And every one of them writes a paper, usually one a week. And some of those papers are 1200-1500 words. So in a heavy week, I can read 238,000 words. But I also grade them. Each paper takes me 10-20 minutes. Sometimes it’s longer if I have a particularly weak student; sometimes it’s shorter for a brilliant job. But even if I average 15 minutes a paper, that’s 2550 minutes during a heavy week, or 42 hours or so. I’m in the classroom 18 hours, have four hours of office hours (where I can often get some grading done), and so there you go. Welcome to the life of a composition adjunct.

So that worry about my students? I think you can see where that’s coming from. I went into this field to empower people with communication skills. That’s the theory, at least. How much am I really teaching them?

And like all positions, I worry about work related things that have nothing to do with my job. Because I’m not a permanent worker, every 15 weeks, I worry whether I will have work in the next term. Summers and January are the hardest times as jobs are scarce but the rent is still due. This is my reality. The vagaries of the student population and the state budget impact whether or not I’ll have work, but my friends in all fields face similar worry. I don’t think I have a friend who hasn’t either been laid off or had a spouse laid off in the seven years since I’ve been back in America.

Many have gotten new positions, but always at lower pay with more hours and no job security.

No wonder we are a nation of obese, unhealthy people. Our stress levels, worry levels, are off the charts.

Beecher is right. It’s the worry, that’s getting to us.

As a nation, we say we want to combat our national poor health and obesity, but we have created an employers’ paradise in which individual Americans have fewer days off than workers in most other industrialized countries. The Far East Asians beat us on hours worked, but they are about the only ones.

If we all just died from stress-related illness, that would be bad enough. But mostly we don’t die. We’re left on medications, or medically handicapped, and that is where it starts getting expensive.  According to Cornell University, obesity accounts for 21% of US health care costs. Now there are many reasons for obesity, but stress is a major factor, as is eating junk food or fast food as it’s called, which many who work long hours rely on.

I know that this term I have packed on pounds because I don’t have time to cook all the time, so dinner is often a peanut butter sandwich or two. I don’t like to eat fast food, so as a result, I eat far too many carbohydrates because they are quick and easy. No time to eat? Grab a bagel and go. Not the best of diets for a woman of my age, let me tell you!

So just putting this out there as some points to ponder.

 

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June 6, 2009

Weighty Matters

Filed under: media,New Broads,overweight,Uncategorized — by maggiec @ 8:05 pm
Tags: , ,

One thing that has bothered me about American culture for years is its obsession with bodies. We attack celebrities for being too heavy or too thin. Who is just right?

Since I’ve come back, I swear it’s gotten worse.

Women’s magazines inevitably have a diet featured on the front cover. Just looking at some magazines in my room I see: “Lose up to 14 pounds!” and “Have a Bikini-Ready Body by June!” and “Better than Gastric Bypass! Lose 9 lbs a Week”.

But those same magazines also have stories on easy treats–Boston Cream Cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and “fun party cakes”.

And one  magazines that published recipes for an everyday meal totaling 1065 calories and 55 grams of fat, also carries ads for Hydroxycut, Super Dieter’s Hunger Control Slim Mix, Apatrim and Xenadrine RFA-1. In fact, there are only three other ads in the magazine, so that’s a pretty overwhelming message to readers: You’re too fat!

And we are.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 66% of Americans over 20 are considered either overweight or obese and 24% of them are obese.  That’s a frightening trend.

In an earlier blog entry, I mentioned that when I returned to America, the shapes of some Americans frightened me so much that I lost weight.  Luckily, that trend has continued.  I’ve lost 40 pounds since I’ve been back.  That’s not an amazing amount over two years, but at least I buck the national trend of gaining weight every year!

By no stretch of the imagination could I ever be considered not overweight, but there are days when I’m riding the subway in NYC, especially when I’m not in Manhattan, and I look around and think: “I’ve got the smallest butt in this car!”  That breaks my heart!  Seriously, it does.  When I see young people, male and female, severely overweight, it frightens me.  Once in the grocery store, I heard a little girl, no more than 10 years old, talking about her high cholesterol with her mother!

What’s going on? Part of the problem is the complete and utter junk that passes for food in the country.  There is also the portion distortion that we hear about in the news.  In an effort to lure in customers in these financially lean times, fast food restaurants are offering more and more grease and carbs for your money.

Even nicer places are doing the same.  My family went to a seafood restaurant, and my sister and I took home so much of our dinners that we each got two more lunches!

One thing I do find worrisome is how weight is such an accurate class marker, especially here in New York City.  Riding the subway in the Bronx, I can feel pretty good about myself.  Once I cross over into Manhattan, people are radically smaller and healthier looking.  It’s no surprise that more money means better nutrition as well as better education.  But being able to eat healthily should not be a privilege of wealth and education.   That’s just a national shame.

I have no solutions.  It’s just a scary trend I see now that I’m back in the States.  And since I have so much to say about so many things, I thought I’d start with some scary observations just to get them off my chest.

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