Thursday, August 27, 2009

We're Just Bawling Over Kooky Kutie. And So Are Readers.

Kooky, how can I put this delicately?

Grow the fuck up. I'd have given you one breakdown in front of a professor- everyone's a freshman at one point, right? But when things go awry with "a professor or three," that's a good indication that rather than being a "nutty type A" with bad luck, you're a whiny loser who can't get her butt in gear.

You didn't email your professor after missing class because you didn't want to bug her? That means one of two things: either you waste her time constantly with frivolous emails, or you miss class so often you were embarrassed to own up to it again. Both of these indicate a consistent lack of maturity and professionalism, particularly in someone taking a graduate class. Real grad students don't miss class, period. If, through some cosmic misfortune, they happen to lose the use of both legs and can't quite manage to drag themselves into their car and drive with their hands on the pedals, they will certainly at least have the decency to contact their professor.

The worst thing in your hippy-drippy drivel is your plan to address your obvious shortcomings: "I can only hope that I'll become a good enough art historian that no one cares that I'm a hot bed of hormones." Listen, little Miss Snowflake, you'll never be a good enough anything if you don't start acting like an adult. No one wants to hire a researcher who can't meet deadlines or a teacher who can't show up to class, no matter how much talent and skill you've got. I can't imagine anyone wanting to date someone like that either, creepy professors on eHarmony notwithstanding.

And don't think you can get away with angsty tween behavior because there's proffies out there who pull the same crap; their lack of professionalism in no way excuses yours. If you're really upset about professors staring down your blouse, though, you might try dressing like a professional instead of a tramp. This is grad school, not a sorority mixer.

If it makes you feel better, Kooky, I was once a student much like you- unmotivated, absent, late to class. Then I finished school by the skin of my teeth and got a job, and now I'm enrolled in an grad program. The difference between now and then? I quit making excuses and started acting like an adult. I hope you'll find it in you to do the same.


If KK thinks that she's not deliberately manipulative, then she's an even bigger mess than she professes to be -- and it's not because she may or may not be "a hotbed of hormones," which is, quite frankly, insulting to anyone else who may be a hotbed of hormones and who manages to keep his or her collective shit together long enough not to inflict emotional (and probably verbal) abuse on those he or she encounters daily.

KK wrote, "Anyway, hopefully you get my point." Oh, I get her point. She thinks it's perfectly fine to ignore her responsibility to follow up on her absence, thereby missing the time change for her final exam. She thinks it's perfectly fine to deprive herself of sleep for 46 hours to cram for an exam for which she couldn't be bothered to prepare as the semester progressed.

She thinks it's perfectly fine to inflict her meltdown on her unsuspecting professor as said professor is leaving her office. She thinks it's perfectly fine to blame her own instability on her gender.

Such self-proclaimed "emotional needy, type-A-kooky, nutty" snowflakes who melt "if something goes awry" are the kinds of emotional vampires that drive good, caring, professional teachers like me and many of my colleagues to the nearest bottle. Because of Kooky Kutie and her ilk, we write longer syllabi outlining acceptable student behavior. We limit our contact with students to required office hours. We bolt to the faculty parking lot the back way to avoid seeing high-maintenance underachievers. We look for the sort of release-from-teaching work that we said we'd never take when we began our careers because we hate administrative bullshit -- the kind of bullshit that we hate, apparently, just a little less than our increasing exposure to Kutie and her kooky kind.

I love to teach. Seriously. Even after 20 years, much of it spent at a community college, I still love to teach. What I don't love at all is emotional manipulation. (If I enjoyed it, I'd still be married to Needy Ned, a rant for another time and a different blog, perhaps..)

KK urges us "all try to respect each other and enjoy the experience as much as possible." What KK wants is indulgence rather than respect, so that SHE can enjoy her experience as much as possible.

I'd prefer it if KK and so many like her would learn to respect boundaries, learn to respect their teachers, learn how to act in public. And if KK can't, she can help me enjoy my own experience -- an idea to which she clearly has given no thought -- by dropping my class or avoiding anything I teach altogether.

I'm sure that other students -- those who don't make their crises everyone else's crises -- would enjoy their experiences more with fewer Kooky Kuties around, too.


Kooky Kutie is correct that real tears aren't voluntary. But bawling in front of your professor is completely voluntary. If you find yourself doing so, at least have the grace to say that you need a moment to pull yourself together before you can talk. Then go to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face. Keep a stiff upper lip, keep your emotions close to the vest, and buck up and cope with it.

There have been times when I've almost cried in front of my professor, such as on the first day of a difficult math class, when I was confronted with a whiteboard crammed full of bizarre symbols and mysterious notations that I should have learned about in high school if I hadn't been such a burnout. And you know what kept my imminent meltdown in check so that it was nothing more than a shiny-eyed moment of blinking away tears? The potential humiliation of crying in front of my professor.

Cry in the bathroom, in the stairwell, or in the relative privacy of your dorm room. Don't burden a near-stranger with your extreme emotions. Think of how you'd feel if your professor started bawling while talking to you. Wouldn't you be uncomfortable? Just because your proffie's an old guy who wears tweedy jacket like Dad's doesn't mean he's comfortable with your breakdown.

As far as Kutie's "hope that I'll become a good enough art historian that no one cares that I'm a hot bed of hormones," sorry, Kutie, but art history's one of those overcrowded fields in which there are a hundred art historians just as good as you who aren't emotional roller coasters. If you want special allowances to be a huge crybaby, or for that matter, to be an arrogant prick, or unhygienic, misanthropic, obsessed with your pets, etc., then you have to pick a less crowded field, like industrial engineering. Or better yet, a professor of industrial engineering, then you can be a huge crybaby with tenure, so you can cry a river whenever you feel like it.

Otherwise, learn to regain composure - it will be an essential skill when you finally join the ranks of the gainfully employed, because as frustrating as college is, working a real job, even when you're doing something you love, is 200 times more frustrating. Work on seeing the grim humour in everyday disasters, and learn to conserve your grief for real tragedies like death and heartbreak.