Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

End of the year semester blues.

For most of us in the realm of academia, we are at the end of the semester. Believe it or not, this is a melancholy time for many of us. On the one hand we're saying goodbye to students that we may have grown fond of over the past few months or even past few years. On the other hand, we're also usually so tired from a busy, busy semester that the idea of saying goodbye can be a smidge joy-inducing.

Speaking for myself, I am pleased to see this semester close. Usually I am regretful at handing my students off to another instructor but, frankly, this time around on the last day of class I was tempted to lock the door and set fire to the room. Okay, not really, it's just been that my distribution of students has been very bi-modal. Either they're brilliant- and some of them this time around really are- or they're so damned lazy it makes my teeth hurt. I have one student who reads a newspaper in class and only stops to either (a) ask a question that implicitly criticizes my teaching ability* or, (b) eat her latest sack of grease from one of our many fast food establishments. Not that I mind if people eat in my class, I couldn't care less, but then again people don't normally bring in the family size bucket of KFC for lunch.** In any case, it's not that I mind people eating in class, or even reading the paper. As long as the paper doesn't block someone else's view it won't throw me off of my game. I do, however, mind someone being an ass about my teaching when they haven't been putting in even a modicum of effort.

But, lest I become too bitter, I should comment that the other mode in my distribution has been great. I have several students who work hard, study carefully, and are actually willing to accept responsibility for their own mistakes.*** I even have one student who has told me that my class has really fired her up about sociology. Given that I teach a class that most undergrads fear and loathe, I take that as quite the compliment. I have even run across one student this semester whom I have helped get into a grad class for next year. I would like nothing more than to see this student eventually enter grad school in sociology and would not be surprised if she surpassed the lot of us in a few years. In this line of work it's good to get used to the idea that there will always be someone who is better than you at certain things, but it's pretty damned neat to spot someone you expect to become better than you and help them get that way. I mean, what's the point of teaching if your students never surpass you?

So, basically, I have those end of the semester blues. I'm tired, I'm grumpy, I'm annoyed, I'm sad, I'm excited and I'm hopeful all at the same time. And I'll do it all over again next semester. And you know what?

I love my job.

* Not that my teaching is perfect but my evaluations to date give me good reason to believe that I do not, in fact, suck.

** Actually, the strangest thing I ever saw someone eat in class was corn. Doesn't sound odd? Well, keep in mind that they were eating it on the cob with the husk peeled back down around their fist. It was so unexpected it actually knocked me off of my groove for a moment or two.

*** Unsurprisingly, not all poor grades are the fault of the student in question but all too frequently undergrads seem to assume that NONE of their poor grades are their own fault.

As a side note: Dan Myers has an excellent post over on his blog that I highly recommend you read. It's a very good message for those of us who are feeling a bit toasty this time of year.

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Blogger SARA said...

This is a really beautiful post Drek with a nice human touch. I believe the Christmas season adds to the melancholy one feels this time of year.

"I even have one student who has told me that my class has really fired her up about sociology"
- I think that is the best reward a teacher can receive and speaks volumes to the type of teacher you are and the impact you have on your wonderful for you that they told you that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

Aw, heartwarming :-)

Personally, I long for the end of the semester, and I think most in the hard sciences feel the same. I admire those, such as my wife, who have a more personal connection with their students, and get a bit misty-eyed at the end of the semester.

But I don't *think* that we (hard) scientists dislike students...

I have some theories about this. One is that the humanities are more about discourse, so you have small sections, discussion with students, and this is very much academic work. In the hard sciences, the grad students rarely have any significant interaction with the undergrads, other than to say, "Read the dang lab manual, and try the experiment again, gah!" (Let's put sociology in between the humanities and the hard sciences - is that OK?)

So at the end of the semester, we scientists have the peace and quiet, and uninterrupted time, needed to squirrel away in the lab and get science done. The humanitarians (?) sit at home, lonely, surrounded by books.

A little rambling... sorry!

For the record, I also have an undergrad degree in a social science. Guess which one: it's not far off from sociology, but everyone in it is convinced it's far superior because all those sociologists (who aren't really scientists anyways) use *surveys* and, by Jove, that's not science! :-) Ahh... interdisciplinary snobbery. Love it.

Friday, December 07, 2007 8:13:00 AM  

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