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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

Choices: Because Pools Don’t Plagiarize

Sometimes, as I work on the pools, I shake my head and think, “It has come to this.” Yes, it has come to this. I am a Pool Lady with a Ph.D.! I laugh when I check the PH in the pool. I have lost my D! It amuses me and I have tried to think of all sorts of things the D might stand for.

I lost the life I Deserved?

This does cross my mind. It is hard to imagine all I lost and walked away from in order to heal the little child inside of me who had begged for help since she was abused at three. I gave away the life I built in order to help her. I suppose I deserved that life—I worked hard for it, but abuse finally took its toll. No regrets. It was worth the healing.

I lost Depression?

Well that is a good thing isn’t it? I’ll be the Pool Lady any day over depression.

I lost the Distraction from Writing?

This is a great one! All I ever wanted to do was write. Working on the pools gets me up in the morning and before long I am writing. Good with that one too!

I lost having my life Dictated by the expectations of others?


I lost the Determination to make every student succeed?

I am DONE teaching in any format that required me to give grades to students who aren’t actually in school to learn (so all of you former students who really did want to learn what I was teaching can breathe a sigh of relief here—I am not talking about you!)

My last teaching assignment (and I mean last) was an online class for an unnamed college (not where I taught full-time). It was online and for those who have never taught online and don’t realize how time consuming it is, I must explain that I made about the same wage per hour as I do now to take care of pools—but pools don’t plagiarize.

I said that at the pool one day while talking to one of our guests. She was a teacher and I explained my background. I felt her look around me at the pool I was sweeping and I said, “I chose to do this because the pay is the same and pools don’t plagiarize.”

We laughed.

We laughed but I felt sad too. I loved teaching. I loved my students. I loved when the light bulbs flashed above student’s heads. I loved when they worked hard and improved. I loved when they graduated. I did not love when the grade was all that mattered and I caught them plagiarizing. Honestly, it was so rare that I may have missed it many times because I wasn’t looking—but the last and final one ended my desire to teach online for minimum wage.

The student in ‘said incident’ copied another student’s paper and posted it with his own name. Yes, right from the same class. “Wait, I just read this! Seriously?” It was so much work to fail him. He argued they had used the same source. “Ummm. No. I Googled it. You were already failing and you copied the work of the top student.” (Ignore the fact that if it had been copied from the Internet, it was still plagiarizing.) It is so much work to fail a student. I didn’t want to crawl to the end of my life that way. I became a Pool Lady—because I had choices.

Choices are a significant part of this. I really never thought I had choices. I often totally ignored what I wanted to do and chose to do things I thought God or others wanted me to do. If it seemed responsible, spiritual, or logical, then it must be the door God was opening and I needed to walk through it—even if I was kicking and screaming.

Maybe this type of faulty thinking came from all the sermons I heard as a child about surrendering to God’s will (not from my dad). We were asked to commit even if it meant we had to go to Africa as a missionary (which going to Africa doesn’t seem so bad now, but they made it sound like it was a horrible fate). Somehow doing God’s will was always presented as being very difficult to discern and destined to result in suffering. (I always wondered why those who taught this didn’t seem to be suffering at all.)

The day I wrote ‘said college’ and told them, “I have chosen to no longer teach online,” was wrenching. How could I turn away potential pay in our difficult circumstances? How could I decline what had certainly been God’s provision in the past, simply BECAUSE IT MADE ME MISERABLE (and I drove Scott crazy with my miserableness)? Did I have the right to make that choice? Once I got past the haunting need to do the expected, responsible, and ‘surely God’s will' thing, I decided to become a Pool Lady and spend my days writing.

What a way to use a Ph.D.! It makes me smile. During the six very long weeks of that last course I am not sure I ever wrote anything of significance. The class consumed me. I did like teaching and enjoyed the students (all but the plagiarizer who had a string of issues to address before the final straw); but I needed to walk away in order to do what I WANTED to do. Pools require so much less effort. To this day, I have never caught one plagiarizing.

It makes me consider the choices we make and the reasons we make them. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I did not have choices in many ways. Choosing was a hard concept. Losing just about everything (there is a lot to the story) and living in an RV has taught me that as long as I have my little family and a few friends who love me, my car, tiny home, and a purpose for living, there just really isn’t a need for much more. I reached the point where I no longer had very many expectations on me and I could begin to truly make choices.

This journey has been courageous, transformative, and freeing. I finally understand God wants me to choose to do what I WANT to do. What a concept. It changes everything.

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