I don't understand it. Why do teachers, especially in the humanities, continue to perpetuate the myth that teaching is always wonderful?
I'm especially talking about the comments to Fenton, who wrote that article about enjoying seeing students fail that either didn't do the work, or were exceedingly rude and didn't do the work, and so on. Many comments seem to suggest that she doesn't deserve to be an instructor at all because she's not doing her job. One of the very first commenters gives her as an example of why the humanities deserve less funding--look! they don't even enjoy it! There were nowhere near as many negative comments here when we discussed students we hate, but there were still some people who said that hate was too strong a word for it, or that it wasn't fair to let people get to us, etc.
Right, let's get one thing straight: for the most part, I am one of those crazy people that genuinely enjoys my class and students. However, there are exceptions to the rule. I too have been frustrated by people that just won't do what it is that most college students are there to do (which is get a degree--grades and learning being secondary to that).
If anybody really truly loves all their students, I want to work at their school. In order to really appreciate your students, you must have fairly good administrative support that allows you to deal with problems quickly and quietly. Alternatively, you must have really awesome students.
The students I deal with on a daily basis came from some of the poorest school districts in the country scattered over the past 30 years. They aren't very prepared, but many of them are very bright and catch up very quickly. This is amazing and why I genuinely love my job.
But then, we do get the occasional person who is so packed with entitlement that they think the world needs to bend over backwards and bow down to their almighty power. I have no idea where they get it, and I've seen it equally scattered among students and faculty.
When I have new faculty members that come to me in tears because they have encountered one of these jerkwads for the first time, do you really think I tell them that they should love all their students equally and that if they don't, they don't deserve their job or funding for their research?
Out there, right now, there's some poor grad student or contingent faculty member who has their first hard case. Articles like Fenton's (as well as the I hate this student article here) let them know they aren't alone. Guess what? Problems happen and they suck. Pretending otherwise is absurd.
What I actually do in such situations is that I comfort them, share some of my own stories, and let them know that they aren't alone. I also let them know what other administrative support they can reach out to if they need it, and be sure they know the proper procedure for reporting whatever issue (behavioral or academic) is currently cropping up. I let them know I'll come to their class if they need me to observe the behavior. I bend over backwards to make sure they know they have my support to do what they need to for that student.
Teaching college can be great fun, but it isn't sunshine and unicorns all the time. Why would anybody continue to perpetuate the myth that it is? Not all problem students are savable. Sometimes you reach out and it helps. One of my least favorite students when she started here became the girl I hugged and took pictures of on graduation day. She hangs on my office door, along with our other success stories.
But I'll begin to wrap up with a story. Guess what? Reaching out to students doesn't always work. Gasp. I know, I'm probably preaching to the choir here. In my fourth or so year of teaching I had a guy in class that wouldn't stop doing chewing tobacco in class. He was breaking two of the school's rules: 1. no eating or drinking anything but water in class (gum included), and 2. no tobacco except in authorized locations. Also, this was freaking gross.
Fine. I confronted him, explained the policy, and he swore at me, refused to stop, and started to break even more rules. He cheated on an exam and then laughed in my face when I caught him and failed him for it. I talked to him after class, confronting him about why he was behaving this way. He plagiarized his essay. Then I ended up mentioning the chewing tobacco to my supervisor (then the Dean, now there's a Department Chair) and Security overheard. They watched on the in classroom camera (fancy computer lab) and nailed him for it.
From what I understand, his excuse was that he didn't want to be in college at all. His parents were forcing him to go. We talked to him about wasting their money and the government's and he didn't care. He just plain didn't want to be in college and he misbehaved till he was expelled.
Without the support of other instructors who had been through really bad situations (complete with the cheating and plagiarism) I would have felt completely alone through the entire insane situation. I don't think that any teacher deserves to feel alone that way.
Having a rough term? Teach a hard class? More and more students being recruited at lower levels? It's okay. Why would we ever say this is anything but normal?