Thursday, May 17, 2012

Today's Big Thirsty. Did you Get Any Pleasant Snowflake Surprises?

So at the ass-end of burning, smoking, twisted train wrecks of final papers, mysteriously-ill-on-the-final-exam-day students, and the cancellation of my summer class three days before it was due to start (though let's face it, rushing through material that compresses four and a half months of study into one month was bound to be a shitstorm, so fuck it) I did have a handful of bright spots, in the form of kind emails from students. But Miss N. Thrope, perhaps you are saying, you are mean! And curmudgeonly! And you hate 80% of your students, or rather 80% of their wretched, beyond vexing behaviors. True, true.

Yet, on occasion, I get the kind of email that warms the cockles of my black little heart. (And they were sent after final grades were in, which rules out total and shameless grade grubbing). An overseas student with severely inadequate English language skills thanked me for all my help this semester and said she felt her writing skills had greatly improved (this was after the poor girl barely scraped through with a passing grade; she literally had to re-write all of her papers at least four times, but dammit, she did it); an adult learner said our class kept them coming to school and convinced them not to drop out again; another student said they normally hate the subject I teach, but this semester they actually kind of liked it and felt that they really learned something.

Now, does this mitigate the days when I feel like Maybelle, ready to burn this teaching mother down? Does this alleviate the tenuous, will-I-have-a-job-next-semester, free floating anxiety of adjunctdom? Of course not. But I'm not too proud to say it does, at least a little, make the poison go down a bit sweeter.

Q: How about y'all? Any pleasant surprises from your snowflakes at the end of this semester?


  1. One of my students who often came to class bouncing off the walls due to chemical issues (ie. tracks on the arm) failed the midterm. Upon receiving her midterm score and learning that I would be offering a make-up for anyone who failed it, said student actually got their shit together!

    She became one of my best students ever. And the best part is, new tracks stopped appearing on her arms.

  2. As I always do, I offered a couple of super-struggling students the chance to really work with me outside of class, office hours, after class, etc. Usually this is an offer easily made because most students don't give a shit. But two students took me up on it, worked my ass off, and they both passed when I would have given either less than a 10% chance at the start of the semester. It really is, sometimes, just about a student actually dedicating him or herself to the task. It made me enormously happy to enter a B and a C to those students. They earned every bit of the grades.

  3. Had one of my more difficult first-year students turn up in the upper-year class, and she was a joy! She had the epiphany that fixating on marks actually interfered with her learning!

    Oh -- and a number of former students stopped by my office to let me know that they had participated in an ongoing review of the courses I teach (I'm part of a sub-discipline within my department -- and part of a teaching team of three -- that has been targeted for review with an eye to elimination) and wanted me to know that almost all of the students had urged the PTB to keep the courses running.

  4. I got an email from a grad of 6 years back, saying that a few words of encouragement I gave her at her graduation inspired her to apply for grad school (in a program that will lead to wonderful opportunities, thankfully) at my alma mater. It made my day. Hell, it made my SEMESTER.

  5. On the last day, a few of my favorite students shook my hand.

  6. Yes!! This term I received a record number of cards. Yes, cards! I have received 3 cards in the past 7 years before this term. And in the past week I received 11 cards (well, some were notebook paper folded) and a gift card to Starbucks.

    The latter I will not use until after grades have been posted. But use it I will!

    This does nothing to compete with my partner, who got a gift card for $150 at a local fancy restaurant. $150??? Geez. Get me in on that.

    1. Well, Monkey, I hope you do get to share the benefit of that particular gift card. It seems like the least your partner could do.

  7. In a course where I ask students to do something that's quite new, and pretty difficult, for many of them (write a research-based paper that makes a small contribution to the scholarly conversation by analyzing some new primary evidence, rather than the entirely-secondary-source-based "research paper" they're all used to), a significant number of them have done what I asked, and done it quite well. Of course, some haven't, and some have gotten hopelessly tangled up (in some cases in promising ways, in some cases not) in the process of trying to do this new thing, but however I explained it this year, it seems like more of them "got it" than usual.

    Or perhaps the first third of this class, when alphabetized by first name, is unusually strong. I still have quite a few to go. . . .

  8. Are you kidding? The only surprise for me is that the apocalypse hasn't happened yet.

  9. A student thanked me when I handed back her quiz today. That surprised me; I hadn't been thanked by a student in a long time.

  10. One of my students who routinely missed lab, but made it up, often a few days late while I was doing another lab, and her labs were late, but turned in, and she squeaked by this class overall (my office-mate teaches the lecture) with a D, but she came in this week to tell us how great we were, and that she was graduating because of us helping her out, and how awesome our classes were. That was great. Totally made up for my "I didn't deserve a D" email.

  11. See, all these nice little tokens mean that the apocalypse has been postponed...until fall semester!

  12. I just found a card in my mailbox from a student I had for three classes last year. She's a returning adult, and has been selected as the student speaker at commencement.

    Her card said "My time at ****** has been an inspiring and rewarding time and one that you are partially responsible for.

    "I just wanted to let you know that your sense of humor and your dedication to teaching has had an impact on me--Thank you!"

    So yes, a bright spot.


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