Thursday, December 14, 2006

The End of the Semester (as we know it, and I feel fine...)

It's time, once again, for my semi-annual State-of-the-Educator report.

The fall semester has come to a close; grades are due Monday, but mine are posted already (Yay!), so all I have to do is take copies to the dean of the college and the chair of my department.

All was well until I made the mistake of checking my school email--I found a message from a student who has been chronically late with everything this semester; as a matter of fact, she's turned in the bulk of her assignments in the last week. When I gave her permission to submit her last paper late, she obviously took that as permission to turn in everything she hadn't given me this semester. So, when did she turn in her paper that was due on Dec. 6? This afternoon. At about 3pm.

I'd also like to know how someone could misconstrue this: "Do not email or call me about your grades. Dead Week in the cutoff for discussing your grade with me." Sounds clear to me. I deleted about ten emails from students telling me what grades they didn't have on the course gradebook. As if I didn't know. As if I wasn't working on filling in those pesky little squares.

I wish students were just as diligent about their grades during the semester, or about getting work in when it is due. But nooooooooo. At the end of the semester, though, they yell really loudly about how they don't want to fail and will I pleeeeeeeeease take their late work. I'm usually inclined, by this time, to say "NO!" And, if they catch me in the right mood, I will say "No."

I taught five classes this semester--four of them were composition classes. I read, on average, 60 to 100 papers A WEEK--and heard 60 to 100 complaints about having to write ONE paper or having to read something, for crying out loud, or having to post a blog before Saturday, about how much WORK they have to do for all of their classes, about having to work a job AND do coursework for school, and, geez, they don't have time for a social life, and... I could go on, but you get the picture.

So, for all my students who will read this blog (because some of them will), let me tell you what I did with my time--every class day this semester, I got up at 6:30am; I left my house at 7:30pm, arrived at the school around 8:15 or 8:30am (I live 45 miles away from the college). If I was not working my second job after I finished teaching my classes, or hanging around the university for meetings, I usually would get home around 1:30 or 2:30pm (after my 45-mile return journey; except on Tuesdays, when I taught my night class; I didn't get home until after 9pm or so). I would eat lunch, then start reading/grading papers, quizzes, blogs, etc. I usually worked at that until about 10pm. Most nights, I went to bed around 11pm. On weekends (did I have any weekends this semester? Oh, yeah, I took one weekend to go to Austin to see my kids; that set me back two weeks), I usually would get up around 8am and I'd being grading/reading papers no later than 10am.

And, of course, one or two days a week, I'd work my second job until about six pm, which put me home around 7pm; and I'd just start reading/grading until bed time.

And I usually had to stop in and visit my Mom once a week, or go grocery shopping, or clean out the litter boxes, or talk to my kids and help them with their problems, show up for various family functions (I have 9 brothers and sisters, around 40 nieces and nephews=quite a few family functions).

Is this a complaint? No, it's fact. It's the life I've chosen. If I didn't want to do this, I'd go back to being a secretary or administrative assistant or computer network analyst, or move to the Galapagos Islands.

And that's my point. If what you are doing is too daunting and the rewards too few, then give it up and go do something else.

Yeah, we all need to vent now and then, even professors. But if this is what you want to do, just do it and do it to the best of your ability. Get organized. And get the work in on time. And, if you have problems or questions or need help with an assignment, talk to your instuctor when these things come up, not three weeks after. It's moot by that time. And what can I do after the fact? At some point, I just have to throw up my hands and say "It's not my monkey!"

Okay, that's enough of that.

I was blessed with an abundance of really good students this semester--students who could write and went at it with their whole hearts, students who worked hard to find meaning in what they read and to understand literature's relevance to their lives. They make it worthwhile; they are the reasons I keep doing this, in spite of the students who drive me over the edge, or maybe "despite" those students. As long as I can find the students in my classes who want to be in those classes, I'll keep doing this.

To all my students, have a good break. And come back to school, if you come back, resolved to do the best that you possibly can in all of your courses. And if you decide on an alternate reality, send me a postcard!

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