Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Grinding my teeth flat.

Rage in the Classroom 4 March 2009

To quote Jane Austen, I am all astonishment.
Yesterday, fully half of my Global LIterature class, a 300 level class, confessed that they had yet to hand in one paper. Three of which were due by 5 March. Without them, one could not take the midterm.

Silly me for putting such draconian threats in the syllabus. What to do? I have two dilemmas. The midterm, obviously. And then there is the revision class I scheduled for the day we return from spring break.Students think revision means fixing the commas and handing the paper back in. And for this they should get an A. I will be gone to the south to visit family for the first time in three years. But, being a responsible person, I arranged to get the class covered. And in doing that to give students a chance to revise one of the papers they have already handed in.

Somehow, when I started out, it all seemed benign. Now. It is a nightmare. I asked who hadn’t handed in a paper and clearly there were so many I would have to shift somehow. Or not. And my rage is about that. More later. Add to the mix of slackers, two women who are in the midst of personal tragedy. Three actually but she wasn’t in class and I got that news later in an email. One’s partner was having some breast cancer complication. She starts off, loudly proclaiming that giving any accommodation to the slackers is unjust to those who did their work(despite enormous personal cost, in parens to me). I mean she is loud and says she is going on a rant, looking defiantly at me. And she is very red in the face. Did mention loud?

After years of aikido training, I finally manage to use it. I sidestep the attack.I look her straight in the eye. I hold up a hand “Five minutes,” I say. “You can have five minutes.” She stops completely and says very softly, “I’m done.” I breathe and say “That still leaves us without a solution.”

Says the woman next to her, who unbeknownst to me was crying throughout class, “Well how about if people get what they can to you tomorrow by 3. And those who don’t, don’t get to rewrite.” Everyone agrees that might work. Notice no one has mentioned the midterm. Nor have I. Hence the rage at my own cowardice. I should have brought it up. I should have said no last minute papers that I have to print and rush to grade while I am fasting, running my own kid around and trying to get ready to leave on my trip tomorrow. I should have just left every last one of them swinging in the wind.

So why didn’t I? Fear. Cowardice. Not wanting to face the hassle of a pack of angry students who think the world revolves around them or are so scattered about the work they are at that they can’t read the syllabus. At the moment I hate them. I hate myself.

Oh and then there is the student who wasn't in class but emailed me a paper. She was a wreck because her partner had recently become disabled and suddenly the burden of that, school, work all fell on her. She’ll be ok.

Me. The last term I ever teach, I swear I am going to say whatever pops into my head.
For now I have to go file points back on the teeth I ground down.

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