This semester I have a major/service class which is delightfully small. I suspect that this is due to my busting a cheating student big time last semester. This particular student (and his friends) threw a big fit about the incident. Due to that FERPA stuff I could say nothing to ease many of the panicky students who then worried I was a mean troll out to fail them. Quite a few students heard his false claims as truth.
Now don't get me wrong. I still have quite a few former students who enrolled in my classes because they came to office hours, attended lecture, and believe that I really do want them to succeed. The nice thing is that these students were all the really good ones. I've got the student who earned A's on all my "impossible" exams. I've got the exchange student who sent me an email thanking me profusely for his lower than B grade (apparently grade inflation hasn't caught on in Eastern Europe yet). I have students who came to every office hour to bring their F's up to B's.
In addition to all my best "old" students, I got all the other faculty's best students. I got the kid who had the course in high school AND actually knows his stuff and answers the questions correctly. I've got the front row student who hangs on every word I say and suggests correct alternative solutions and asks great leading questions (creating perfect transitions to the next topic). I've got the guy (who is actually repeating the class after failing it last semester) who pin points exactly what he doesn't understand and asks (after class) for examples specific to those topics.
They are lively. They laugh. They participate. They get something out of class. They appear to actually enjoy the time they spend with me.
So why does this make College Misery?
Last term was awful. Every term I seem to get less and less capable students. I give better lectures, I have better written exams, I better understand learning outcomes, I communicate more effectively, and I have developed better notes. But I find that I'd have to lower my standards to maintain the same grade distributions as four or five years ago even with my more flexible policies.
Last term was so awful that I decided that next year would be my last year. It took me a long time to come to that decision. I felt at peace with the idea. I looked forward to what might come next for me. I started thinking about what happiness I should chase. But fate sends me a small class which is above and beyond all I would have dreamed up in my optimistic years. Now there is hope. There is hope and with it new misery.