Thursday, May 08, 2014

Thursday morning things

Exam week is just mood-swing week for me.

There's the good: "I got my grading all done!" or "That student who struggled all semester despite working hard did well enough on the final to pull a decent grade in my class!"

There's the kind of sad: "Oh, that student I enjoyed having in class is graduating so I won't get them in class again." (though then again, that's happy for the student.)

And there's the frustrating. This morning I came in to an e-mail essentially accusing me of getting someone thrown off the Dean's List because they aren't earning the grade they wanted in my class. Because I wouldn't accept a late paper. Because that's syllabus policy. They're asking me to reconsider. I can't, because there were several others who got turned down with late papers in that class, and I'd have to find some way of contacting them, telling them it was okay to hand the paper in, and THEN grade all the papers and modify my grades and get them in on time.

The whole e-mail was designed to make me feel guilty, and while I see that it was ("I've never asked a professor this before," "I had family problems that week"), I still feel bad.

I posted about it on ITFF, and someone commiserated: "f'in' 'Ask Culture'!" And yeah, that's what it is: Ask Culture bumping up against a Guess Culture person.

And I realize another reason to stand firm: there was someone in that class who, I am concluding from all my interactions with them, is in the Guess Culture camp,. They didn't get their paper in. They didn't ask to hand it in late - Guess Culture people probably wouldn't. And it's not fair to the Guess Culture people to tell an Ask Culture person that it's perfectly fine for the rules to be bent for them just because they asked.

But still. I hate the "you've ruined my life" e-mails. In some cases, they're kind of laughable (the person who failed to hand in five labs blaming me because they didn't earn an A and wouldn't get into professional school as a result). But they're still uncomfortable.

I know, I need to just suck it up: I'm a grown-up, this is my job, on some level I signed up for this. But right now I'm just feeling kind of worn-out and used up and like nothing I do really has a good impact. When students tell you you're a stumbling block to their happiness enough times, you kind of begin to internalize it a little.

The thing is, if I were actually evil? I'd be able to rejoice over stuff like people not getting into professional school because of poor grades, or getting kicked off an honor roll, or whatever.

The thing is: I don't remember ever making Dean's List. I'm guessing LS and A at Michigan didn't have one, my grades were pretty good. But if I had been on one and dropped off, I'd figure it was my fault for not earning the needed grades. Likewise, I was never asked to join Phi Beta Kappa or any of those kinds of societies. And yeah, I feel kind of bad about that, and yeah, that probably matters to me more than it should. But whatever I did that kept me out of those things? It was something *I* did, not something my profs did....

I was in the Honors College there for a year, but it was such a pain to get the required "honors credit" classes if you were in the sciences (at least at that point; Honors College was fairly new) that I quit after a year, because I realized I could graduate with Honors College Honors in five years, or drop Honors College and graduate in three. And yeah, I still feel a little bad about being an Honors College dropout, but it was expensive to go to school there and they wouldn't accept that I was an in-state resident, even though I had moved there and worked there and paid state taxes there. (The joke at the time was that you had to marry a state resident to get state residency)

I dunno. Sometimes, like now, I look at my life and I go "People told me I had so much potential when I was 18, what happened?" I won't ever discover anything exciting - I barely have time to do research as it is. And while I'm a decent teacher, I'm not win-a-teaching-award good. And it seems that so much of my life is stuck slogging in the quotidian paperwork and dealing with stuff that's urgent but not important. And I seem to wind up doing lots of stuff I have to do but don't necessarily want to do, and the things I want to do get shoved to the interstices of my working life - like doing research in the gap between spring classes and summer classes. I don't know.


Chris Laning said...

Seconding your insight: it's not something YOU did, it's something THEY did. They took a risk that you didn't really mean what you said about the rules and lost -- but it was their choice to take that risk.

Lynn said...

Try to feel good that you are doing the right thing and maybe doing the student a favor in the long run. Sooner or later a lazy or entitled person person will have to face the fact that they can't just cruise through life. Sooner or later they're going to have to do some work if they want to be successful. Better to make that discovery early than late.