Long-time readers may remember that, back during winter break, I learned about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for people with student loan debt who work in the public sector. It wasn’t immediately clear that my university ‘counted’ – it’s a non-profit and it’s education, yes, but it’s not an underserved area, and certainly not an underserved population, and it’s a private school…
So I called my school’s HR office. Was transferred. Left a message.
Rinse and repeat for over a week.
So the new semester started, and I still didn’t know if I was eligible, or how to sign up (it requires an employer’s input but nobody seemed to know who was responsible for that), and lo and behold now it’s the end of August, and the fall semester is upon us, and I still haven’t got that settled. But I was on campus today, and dropped by the HR department (I figured it’s one thing to put someone off when you can just transfer them away; something else when they’re right there looking entreatingly in your face and waving the forms around).
Before I even got the question finished (granting that I was doing an exceedingly, even embarrassingly, even for me, bad job of articulating my question), the receptionist answered: yes. I am eligible, and HR handles it, she’ll take the forms, they’ll call me when they’re ready to be picked up.
This is a huge deal. This is literally a life-changer (assuming it goes through without a hitch).
My student loans – which are a sum greater than I will be able to repay in my lifetime of working at this pay-grade – are set by default for a 25 year repayment clock, after which point the balance is forgiven (though I think you have to pay taxes on any remaining principle or something).
With the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, that drops from 25 years to 120 months, which translates to some 10-15 years (we haven’t figured out yet if my job is technically a 12 month job – I think it might be a 9 or 10 month position, in the books? even though I get 12 paychecks a year?). They can be non-consecutive – meaning that if I’m not on 12 month employment, it’s still fine, will just take a little longer.
Best case scenario, that means my loans are forgiven 15 years earlier than I expected. After 10 years instead of 25.
And I’m already 5 years in to repayment, so I have already made some 45-60 monthly payments, and thus have some 60-75 to go.
Now, I grant that I’ll have to pay taxes on the remaining balance as income, which will be a larger tax bill than I can handle, so I’ll then have a few years of indebtedness to the IRS, but jesus christ this changes everything.
The husband and I could get married again!
I won’t relax about it until it’s all done and the checks have cleared, but yet and still.
I was supposed to meet my advisees and peer advisor partner for lunch today on campus, but I happened, and I was was 110% me: I got there, negotiated with a weary gatekeeper to get my way in without paying the normal $14 (!!!!) meal price, walked into the packed dining hall, thought I recognized my peer advisor, panicked about not being sure it was her…
And walked back out.
I sent her an email about how the gatekeeper wouldn’t let me in, which she believed (or at any rate accepted), and I went to HR instead.
It’ll be fine. I’ll meet all of them in the next few weeks. I sent them an email today telling them to set up a meeting with me before the 18th. We’ll make it happen. I’ll ferret them all out by hook or by crook.
I spent the rest of the day preparing for class. Because tomorrow is the first day of class!
And it turns out? When you spend the weekend in the Hamptons with your rich friends, you don’t get all that much work done. So I had several hours of work to do today, but I finished it by 9:30, and much of that time was spent working idly while hanging out with the husband, so it was a lovely and unstressful day.
And I am excited about tomorrow. Scared, always. I want them to respond to my humanity with humanity.
I am doing a particularly human first day this year too. Last fall, you may remember, I used Sonya Huber’s brilliant Shadow Syllabus on Opening Day: I had them go around the room reading each entry out loud, while I paced at the front of the classroom and responded to each point with small nods or smiles or eye rolls or whatever.
(Small, I promise.)
It was golden. So many of the students were really touched and moved. Who knows if it really changed the semester, but it made for a beautiful first day experience.
(I didn’t use it in spring, because too many upperclassmen and freshmen feeling jaded made me worry that it would fall flat and come across as bathetic.)
This semester I’ve worked it into my actual syllabus presentation: after I introduce all the rules and policies and expectations and grading breakdowns, I’m throwing it to them and having them take turns reading each entry. At the end of class.
I have high hopes.
One of my goals this semester, incidentally, is to keep a teaching journal. I sort of do that, informally, around here: I tend to organically reflect on things that went well or didn’t work as I’d expected. But I think I’m going to do a focused journal – handwritten, probably, ideally brief notes after each class session (ideally) (i.e., that won’t actually happen, but it’s fine).
The boss is crazier than ever, and I feel significantly less prepared than usual for Day One – granting that I am usually overly prepared – but I have a Good Feeling about the semester, for some reason.
(Maybe I just always do. Probably. We’re not in this for the money, after all: we kind of need to like what we’re doing to keep coming back.)
And we’re a few minutes shy, so I’ll plug a book I just learned about!
Verlyn Klinkenborg — which, first of all, is an A++ knock-out name — whoever that is, has an enchanting book on writing called Several short sentences about writing.
The husband, on seeing the title, made derisive noises and said it was an awful name, and I handed it to him, and he started flipping through it, and got reflective and thoughtful and quiet, and started reading passages to me.
Because it is full of clear, simple, beautiful, pithy, direct, sharp instructions for good writing.
It is a bit more appropriate to fiction writers, but not totally: it’s ultimately focused on such nuts-and-bolts and technical aspects of writing that is applicable to anyone trying to communicate effectively. It is also a bit dismissive of writing education (a lot of it focuses on how poorly done most people’s writing education is), but that’s rather hard to argue with. I mean, I’ve been reading freshmen writing for five years, and I can’t say I’ve seen much that brings me to song.
Perhaps the most amazing part, pedagogically, is the end-bit where he (she? but I think he) offers imperfect sentences, and diagnoses the problem with a dry wit that had me over the moon.
There are constantly trucks flowing in and out of National Meats.
The natural subject of this sentence is “trucks.” Trucks flow in and out of National Meats. But trucks are bad at flowing.
Verb choice, people!!
I leaned against the parapet as the wind blasted me and looked out over the sea.
The wind likes to look out over the sea whenever it can. Who doesn’t? Note how useless the “as” is here.
And I’ll leave that there. I already have plans to quote heavily from this book throughout the semester in my classes, so I’m sure you’ll get plenty chances to hear more.
(And one of these days I’ll get around to updating the ‘Edifying Reads’ tab, and then I’ll add this book to it.)
As for me, we’re right at the half hour, and it’s still early (for me), and I’m a little anxious and peckish, so I guess I’ll go eat some cheese and maybe catch up on all the blogs I didn’t read this weekend —