Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cory from Columbus Is Losing.

I can't think of anywhere else I can say this.

I'm on the verge of giving up on my students. I'm in my 4th year of my first t-t position - though I've also held 2 VAP spots previously.

It's too damn hard to get them to give a shit, to do their work. When I've held their feet to the fire in the past, even in my current position, I've gotten no support from my administrators. I've been encouraged to find "alternate" assignments for students who just blew off the real ones. To give "second chances" to "delicate" and "troubled" students who I knew were neither.

When I try to rally my colleagues about it, they all look at me with dead eyes and shoulder shrugs.

It's easier to let it all go. And when I've done it - very sparingly - in the past, nothing bad ever happened. I let a kid through with a gentlelady's C- last year because I couldn't go through another crying fit in my office, or hear another surely fabricated set of excuses that would rival any fiction ever created. I sat there with her D (non-passing) folder, and just wrote C- instead. She didn't come around. Nobody called me. The earth continued spinning. And I never had to deal with her again.

And this semester I'm tempted again.

I don't have one bit of understanding why most of my students are here. They don't want to work. They don't even care about the topics of study when I let them choose. "Bring in anything you want us to study," I say. "We can make it work with my curriculum." I beg them. I give them steps and help them through it. They fuck it up. I leave them to their own devices and they do nothing.

I work far harder on the course than any student. I slave over their work, showing them ways to improve, tricks to try, things to work on next time, and without fail I get the same shit each time. Why did I take the time? Why did I make them come to my office?

The only way I KNOW I can get them to generate work is to photocopy my questions on a sheet with broad spaces for them to answer RIGHT on the sheet. (Oh, and I take a few pens to class, too, because there are always some who don't show up with anything - except for maybe a coffee.)

I walk out into the hallway to find a colleague to commiserate with, but usually the doors are closed. Young and old alike, they scurry when their classes are over. I ask my chair, and she looks at me and says, "You have to reach them. It's your responsibility. Not theirs."

In a typical class of 30 students, I have about 10 who'll work enough to earn an honest C. There are one or two who do A work. The rest should flunk. But in my first year I flunked 20% of one of my sophomore level courses and I spent the entire Christmas holiday justifying every grade, meeting with 2 different deans, providing paperwork, assignments, grading one essay in FRONT of the dean, calibrating my list of absences with the students's lists! (Lazy Leon says he was there on the 17th of October. Are you sure the X on your grade sheet for that day is correct? Why would Leon lie about that?")

I don't want to do that again. I don't want to have to get on my knees and take it up the ass from administrators, colleagues, AND students.

I used to love teaching. I still love my research - which has little to do with students - and that keeps me in the job. But I feel like a complete fraud sometimes. I go to class with a black heart, with less and less hope. I rev up at the start of semesters, trying again, like this term.
It took them about 6 weeks to break me. We had group work today, where they could get feedback on their in-progress projects in order to make them better for next week's grading. I did handouts, sheets for their comments, a performance scale. I reserved a library seminar room so we'd be comfortable. I got there early. 30 students in that class. Nobody near an A yet. 4 people showed, 2 of them 15 minutes after the start of class. (Oh, and they know where it was, and all of that.)

Those projects will come in next week, and the vast majority of them will be pure shit. And I just want to slap C's on them all, let them go through. I don't want it to be such a goddamned fight every time.

I'm losing, I know. But I don't know what else to do.