It’s the end of the summer semester for me, which means that I’m so excited I could pretty much do anything, including this:
(At 0:45 – come on mustache, get it together already)
Everyone starts a semester so optimistically with brand new pens that still have their caps and perfectly organized three-ring binders. By the end of the semester I have the optimism of something half-dead dragged out of a storm drain. Also, I have one pen to my name and I fashioned it out of a sharp stick dipped in the tears of my students. Those quirks that made my students unique and fun in the first week now make me cringe like the sound of a woman scratching her pantyhose (shiver).
I will also be grateful to stay off the bus for a week (some guy sneezed on my back yesterday and unfortunately I don’t have a cat o’ nine tails or any hydrochloric acid to slough the contaminated skin from my back). I will not miss the nervous sweat that makes me smell like a hobo every time I teach. In short, once I submit my final grades and get all my materials arranged for next semester, I’m going to try to think about my job as little as possible for the rest of the week. I’m going to dip my brain in the warm fondu of bad television and marinate in juices of idleness.
It’s going to be glorious.
However, almost everything I post on here is negative (you guys have probably already written letters to Amnesty International on behalf of my students), so I thought I’d share something positive today. In spite of a few degenerates who caused me to consider what it might feel like to stick my face in a blender, I was actually pretty luck to have some great students this semester.
One student in my 102 class was actually a former 101 student of mine who barely managed to scrape a passing D in that class. She seemed like a very bright and capable writer – when she actually did her work (which wasn’t often) and showed up to class. This semester, she came to almost every class, completed almost every assignment and finished up the semester with a B+ (borderline A-). I assumed that, like many of my community college students, last semester had been filled with work difficulties or home-life issues that pulled her away from the classroom and that this semester those issues had been resolved. I had almost forgotten about the e-mail I sent her, but she didn’t. A few days ago she sent me an e-mail which said the following:
Last semester I was the epitome of a lazy student . . . I skipped class on multiple occasions to get sleep, I did poorly on my papers, I avoided peer revision and I honestly don’t recall doing any assignments. That all changed for me the night before the beginning of this semester. You sent me an e-mail that said, “I know you are capable of much more than a D. You are a strong writer, so I hope you will be able to push yourself to complete all your assignments (and on time) this coming semester. I know you can do it!” That was all the motivation I needed for this semester.
It didn’t seem like much to me when I sent that e-mail (although I did mean it), but it meant something to her – enough that she was able to completely turn her academic performance around this semester. So I guess I’m pretty much Mother Teresa guys.
Another student, an ESL student from Korea, also e-mailed me:
I still can’t believe that English class could be my favorite class, because I hated English class since 9th grade, first time I came to United States. I learned about the ‘Beowulf’ in my first year, of course, I didn’t understand single word from it. And my first assignment came back with lots of red marks and big F on the top, so you can imagine how awful I felt and how much I hated English class. . . But in your class, I felt more comfortable because you tried to understand the meaning behind the words, try to encourage foreign student like me.
Poor chump, reading Beowulf as a non-native English speaker in his first English class ever – no wonder he hated it! So at least I was able to help him hate English class a little less.
I had another student who wrote her first essay draft without forming a single grammatically correct sentence (all fragments and run-ons), and ended the semester getting an A- on an essay that contained no run-on sentences.
I still remain shocked that I was able to motivate or help these students so much. Most of the time, I feel completely lost in front of the classroom.
Yet somehow, despite my scatter-brained, sweaty, anxiety-ridden efforts, I was able to help some people this semester, and that assuages some of the doubts that frequently creep into my mind about whether or not I should even be a teacher.
I had so many students who were good, decent, honest, driven people I’d like to take out for a beer sometime. I was able to help some of them.
Sometimes my job sucks. Truly (madly, deeply).
Other times it doesn’t.
Still, I’m going on vacation in a few days, and I will try to forget about all the crazies, d-bags and Chad McFrats for a while. Instead, I will spend my time worrying that this is the captain of my plane,
that I’m going to end up on Lost island with crazy Claire’s creepy animal-bone baby and her mangled tarantula hair,
and digging my fingernails several inches into the arm of the person sitting next to me.