Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Just When I've Given Up Hope...

Dammit, don't get
me all misty!
So, I've taught for 30 years, and there are times that the never-ending spigot of freshmen and their decreasing ability to read, understand, care, attempt, etc. make me want to blow my brains out. I had that particular feeling this morning.

I get to my office, open the door, and there's a large envelope on the floor. I open it and see two 8X10 photos of my favorite new songwriter. The note inside the envelope is from a student from last term. It's the kind of note proffies dream about. I encouraged this student to take charge of her own heart and head, made her give a shit about things. We've all gotten notes like this and the details are not relevant.

We do a unit each term on the portrayal of women in music videos, and this artist is one we covered in class last year, a brilliant songwriter whose record company seems determined to turn into a common whore.

My student saw this songwriter was doing a show OUT OF STATE, and drove more than 10 hours to see the show and take some photos for her "sometimes cranky and moody, but always awesome and inspiring prof."

Yeah, I got a little moisture in my eye; it was almost as if my heart wasn't dead and black.

Goddammit, this job is hard. And the rewards are meager. But one good student, one good student who gets it, finds something, is challenged, is changed, gets to begin afresh, makes all of the misery worth it.


  1. Hurrah! Indeed, sometimes the whole process works as (we imagine) it should, and not only does that counterbalance a lot of nonsense, it also suggests that our sense of how the process should/could work isn't entirely delusional. I'm glad the reassurance came at a good time for you, Cal.

  2. Good for you, Cal. And don't be a stranger! (Could you tell me if the duck is supposed to get one or two cups of that grain?)

  3. And are we supposed to let the grain ferment?

    That is a wonderful story! And for every rare student that gives you reason to think they actually got something from the class, there will be more who don't tell you, but got something all the same.

  4. Aw, that's a sweet story. And your experience (even though it's not mine) gets me through, too. :)

  5. I love you Cal! You deserve it! Thanks for sharing; it made me feel moisture in my eye as well.

  6. This is one of the main things that keep me going. Every now and then, you do get a victory. The signal-to-noise ratio is appallingly low, but it isn't all bad.

    That, and I get to be an astronomer, and that's even better than being a cowboy. (Sorry, Bubba.)

    1. P.S. Again, it isn't all bad. The victories are few, but they are sweet, and they do happen, every so often. Yesterday, our aggressive, micromanaging, pointedly disrespectful Dean with no research background found a new job as Provost at a university over 200 miles away. The faculty immediately burst into a rousing rendition of this song:


      I made it a point to volunteer to be on the committee that selects the new Dean.