Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This Earnestness Goes to Eleven.

We get a steady stream of email like the one below. It makes us think that somehow people still don't get the point of why we're here. Complaining about a kid in pajama pants who shows up to class with a muffin but no textbook does not mean we have no enjoyment for teaching. The site exists so that like-minded folks who get vexed by the modern student can vent off a little of the steam that might otherwise be taken out on a family pet, a car door, or the gradebook. We even receive a sort of post that we call "save your souls." These are usually shot through with guidance and piety, and they usually end with something like, "I pray that you find your true calling." We actually are interested in the answers to the questions in the last paragraph below, but we're not too interested in being saved from our own - delicious - misery about the profession.


The upcoming semester seems to have generated some discussion/stress/griping within the confines of these blog pages. I'd like to speak to the words I've read within these pages in the recent weeks. There seems to be an overwhelming sense of negativity, or more to the point, bitching about workload, miserable students, terrible schedules, stress, anxiety, and overall misery.

What happened to the enjoyment of teaching? Have we all been reduced to cynical people who despise what we do and who we do it for? Can all we do is talk about the negative aspects of our jobs?

We all work hard. I'm an Assistant Professor who is not yet tenured. I work my ass off on a daily basis all year around. I don't take summer off, I work through it, both doing work for my university based obligations and freelance work in my given field. I have a full load of classes chock full of students - some good, some not so good. Do I get stressed? Absolutely. Do I feel the need to vent? Hell yes. Do I want to murder various students at time? Lock me up now. Do I get to the point where I ask what I'm doing here? Yes. Yes. Yes.

But, I love my job. I'm part of a good Department. They're supportive and caring. We help each other out and we're there for each other. If things get tough I have people to rely on. If I encounter difficulties, I know I'll have support. If I just need an ear, someone is there to listen.

I love my students. Save for one or two bad eggs (we all have them), I have great students. They work very hard for me and I, in turn, work very hard for them. I focus on the positives in the class and try not to let the negatives get to me. They all have potential and when treated with respect, are very enthusiastic about showing that potential as best they can. They learn from me and I learn even more from them. While I give them grades, I always remember that I am not "better" than them—I just have more experience and knowledge in my field.

I love what I do. My job rewards me everyday. Watching my students succeed makes my job successful. I love to see them do well and I love to teach them what I know. I enjoy passing on the knowledge I have. If I didn't like what I did I wouldn't be here, I'd still be back working in industry instead of teaching.

So let me ask you this as we're approaching the start of fall semester in many Colleges and Universities. Why do you do it? Why are you here? Are your answers enough to help allow you to focus on the good students and the rewarding aspects of your job? Is it really enough?