Avoiding Freeway Flyer Burn Out


OrtizBy Jenny Ortiz

Too often recently, I’ve been pushing aside my work load in order to simply sit still. Mornings, I find myself wondering whether I should grade papers or stare up at my ceiling? At first I thought it was the weather. Yesterday, however, I came to a realization as I was on the  phone with Public Safety at Adelphi pleading with them to open up my own classroom as I tried send a class email to my students at LaGuardia: I’m tired! Obviously, Freeway Flyers bounce from campus-to-campus and semester-to-semester.

More traditional colleges break the school year into two semesters: fall and spring with optional winter and summer intersessions available. The Fall and Spring semesters are longer and more taxing, while the inter-sessions aren’t as exhausting. Yes, there is less time to cover the material, but I teach fewer classes, fewer students, and usually on only one campus.

However, what happens when semesters begin to bleed into one another? At LaGuardia Community College, there are four semesters as well as inter-sessions: Fall I, Express Courses, Fall II, Express Courses, Spring I, Express Courses, Spring II, and that’s right Express Courses. While Fall II and Spring II are shorter, they have more students and the work load is heavier. With this schedule, I am still teaching Fall II at LaGuardia, while teaching the spring semester at St. John’s and Adelphi. While I have started meeting my students at these schools, I’ve been teaching my students at LaGuardia for three weeks or more already. I’ve had a nice month away from St. John’s and Adelphi, while I jumped from finals week to the start of another semester at LaGuardia.

Over the past year, I’ve worked non stop except for three weeks where all the schools I teach at were closed at the same time. No wonder I’m burnt out and technically the spring semester has only begun. So what do I do? The campuses I work on can’t come together and coordinate schedules; I also don’t want to stop teaching at all three campuses. How do I keep myself from succumbing to the peaceful idea of staring at my ceiling all morning?

Keeping hydrated and getting copies done are great tips for staying focused in the classroom. However, what happens when I can’t even get to my classroom? I can’t take a mental health day and while weekends should be a time to get away, I find myself trying to get my everyday errands done as well as fulfilling my other roles of friend, writer, daughter etc…..

My solution? Lunch.

I’ve been known to eat while I’m rushing to catch the train, or while I grade a stack of papers. Lunch time is the perfect time to get those extra errands finished. Right? Wrong.

Remember grammar school? Lunch and recess is designed to keep students away from mental activity. They need time to socialize and to refuel before the next round of lessons. When did I forget to have my recess? These last few weeks I’ve spent my lunch break eating my lunch. Thirty minutes without a worry or a care. I simply watch the people around me hustling from one class to another, and fighting with the copy machine,  while I eat.

It sounds simple enough, but believe me it’s not. There is the constant knowledge that in my office there are papers to grade, emails to check, and phone calls to make, but I’ve found that after my thirty minutes, I’m a lot happier and more willing to help my students. Things get done quicker and without the stress.

Every day my schedule is different; sometimes I’m on three campuses in one day, while others times I simply have a two hour class in the evening and a few hours of grading. Nonetheless, my thirty minutes of detachment from the world of teaching helps me regain focus for the tasks ahead of me.

When I think of myself as a Freeway Flyer, I think of myself as a super hero. The amount of mental activity I go through in one day is astonishing, but  like Batman sometimes even thirty minutes of time in the Bat Cave, relaxing, makes me realize how much I love teaching.

I’m hoping my fellow Freeway Flyer super heros might take a bit of time and share tips for avoiding burn out. After all, who better to give advice to one super hero than another?

About the Freeway Flyer: Jenny Ortiz is a quite serious 24 year old New Yorker, except when unicorns (specifically chubby unicorns) are involved. When she isn’t pleading with Kurt Sutter via Twitter to be her mentor, she is teaching at St. John’s University, Adelphi University, and LaGuardia Community College (see, quite serious). When she isn’t teaching, she’s hanging out with her friends showing off  earth and water bending skills (not serious, but super fun).  When she is alone and it’s raining, she likes to read Haruki Murakami, or listen to the Broken Bells and daydream.  If you want to be a fan, you can read Jenny’s work on fictionatwork.com, Blink-ink.com, Jersey Devil Press, dogeatcrow.com, Break Water Review,  Eighty Percent Magazine and InkSpill Magazine…or you can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/jnylynn.

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