Crack Open a Bottle of Whine! The Semester is (almost) Over!
Except for a "situation" I have with one student, I am done.
All papers graded (with much bleeding from my eyes). All exams graded. All grades entered into online grading system. I already experienced the dreaded "morning after."
"What is the morning after?" I hear you ask. Well, it's like this. I post all the grades online and then I go to bed. When I wake up in the morning, I have about 27 e-mails in my inbox from students, most of them time-stamped between 1:00 and 4:30 a.m. (I often wonder if this means they were taking a study break from their other finals or if they were drunk when they sent them - with some of the spelling, it's really hard to tell.) Although they all include various (non-sexual) propositions, threats and questions, it's all the same: I'm surprised. How did I get the grade I got? Can you change it? I really need a ____ (insert grade here) if I'm going to (choose one): get into the basketweaving program, keep my financial aid, stay in the basketweaving program, not get kicked out of school, get in the honors program/stay in the honors program, keep my football scholarship, not be killed by my parents and then forced to work at Burger King, etc., And it always ends the same way: I really thought I did better than that on the final. Can you tell me which questions (out of 50!) I got wrong? 'Cause again, I really think I did better than a 48%.
Sigh. And you know what? It's never, ever the students who showed up to every class, did their reading and turned in every assignment on time.
It's the students who missed 50% of the quizzes, left early whenever there was a last-minute beauty pageant, the students who turned in 2 out of 3 papers late and "forgot" to turn in the third one at all. It's also the student who had every damn thing go wrong in their lives in one semester.
Disclaimer: I am not manufactured from 100% heartless bitch. I understand that certain things (especially bad things) happen in clusters - some would even say they happen in threes. For example, my junior year of college, before school even started, my parents announced they were getting a divorce. Then, the second day of classes, my boyfriend dropped me like an anvil on someone's foot. And, finally, the dog I'd had for 13 years died you know, just in case God thought I wasn't enough of a weepy, non-functioning mess.
I'm talking about the student who has an ovarian cyst, an aunt killed in a freak scuba diving accident, witnesses a crime and is subpoenaed several times during the semester, gets in a car accident, has to go home to help her boyfriend while boyfriend's father must have serious surgery - he's getting a wart lanced off his big toe - AND she has to plan her parents' 25th surprise wedding anniversary party. All in the same semester.
On a completely different note, I have a question for other educators. Back in my first semester of teaching, someone complained and told my program coordinator that she was disappointed I didn't spend enough time talking about abstinence. Not sure if I was supposed to fly the abstinence flag during every class, or conclude each week with a rousing "Pet your dog, not your date!" chant or what. But, since I had never taught college before and I was (if you can imagine!) even more sensitive than I am now, you would have thought someone reported that I was bringing puppies to class just to kick them in front of students, say, "This is what I think of YOU, except you're all too big for me to kick!! Bwah! Ha ha ha!" and then top off the whole thing by tossing the puppies out the third-floor window.
My advisor made an excellent point: You've got to consider the source. But this also means, when you get raves in your evals that "Teacher Lady's class was all that and a bag of chips," you STILL must consider the source. And determine this equation for yourself: Students' opinions - positive and negative - mean X percent to me in my own evaluation of my teaching skills.
I haven't quite figured that percentage out yet. But what I have noticed is that the last two weeks of the semester, I get at least half a dozen (if not more) e-mails from students. In the e-mail, they're typically asking for something or asking a clarifying question about the final exam. Then, they end the e-mail with: I just want you to know I really enjoyed your class. It was the only class I looked forward to attending and you did such a great job and I really learned a lot. Blah, blah, ticker-tape parade for you.
The first semester teaching, when I got a few of these e-mails, I was all, "Aww . . . melty, melty." Then, over time, I started to realize there was a correlation between how poorly the student was doing in class (pretty high -although not 100%) and how flattering their e-mail was.
I think I forgot what my question was, and my brain needs to be removed to sit in its charger for the next 4 weeks before I can use it again, but if you're still following: Do you take e-mails like this with a grain of salt? I should probably just ignore them, but sometimes they just irritate the crap out of me. Like, do you think I'm so gullible that I don't notice you're carrying a 64% in this class and it's the last day of the semester before finals week? And then I'm bummed. I've only been doing this for two and a half years andI'm already one of those professors who doesn't trust students as far as she can throw them? How do you find the balance between cynical curmudgeon and clueless optimist? Don't ask me why I care, because I don't know that either.