As an academic by trade, I know that many feel our lives are rather soft. There are some WONDERFUL benefits of a life of academia, do not get me wrong.... a) you can make your day-to-day work different and new very easily, b) you have greater than normal flexibility for your working hours, and c) you get to work with young, *usually* interested people most every day. But today, I must say that my job *sometimes* is so damn hard I cannot bare to do anything after arriving home but become a veritable vegetable. Today, without any coaxing on my part, I was inundated EVERY minute of the day with students who were needy, worried, or seeking advice about their careers, schedules, or courses. The emotions and the urgency of their requests make it very difficult to ignore them, so I do not do so. But those same emotions and urgency they hoist into our meeting is so utterly draining to deal with.
For example, a pleasant young lady.... but one not exactly a high wattage bulb, came into my office today (mind you it is 3 weeks prior to the end of the semester) and wanted to talk about her grade. She has told me several times in the semester that she was "pre-med" and that she *LOVES* anatomy and physiology (the course of mine she is in). She said she wanted to determine her grade to this point. Now, instead of pulling out my grade book, I always have the students tell me their scores.... specifically so they can work thorough figuring it out themselves.... something any college student should be able to do.
The young lady told me the scores on her first five of six exams were: 42%, 47%, 55%, 41% and 54%. With only one 100pt test left and one 200pt final examination, I helped her compute her current score...... roughly 48% which is an "F". In our university, a "C" is the minimum acceptable grade for a major class, and that is set to be 73%. She did not need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.... it is all clearly labeled in the syllabus. Then I had her mathematically determine what would happen to her grade if she received 100% on the sixth exam and if she received all 200 points on the final examination. Her scores would then be: 42%, 47%, 55%, 41%, 54%, 100% and 200pts for the final (100%). When she mathematically determined her score with that very unlikely scenario would be 67%...... a "D". She was devastated.... she cried, big, dramatic tears.... and sobbed about how she never got "nothing but "A"'s before." In my mind I kept thinking ...... HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY NOT KNOW HOW POORLY YOU WERE DOING? AND HOW COME YOU START TO SEEK HELP THIS DAMN LATE IN THE SEMESTER? However, instead I talked to her about how she could retake the course, and that she should stick through it at this late date (at our school it is too late to withdraw from a course at this point in the semester) so that she can gain the experience so repeating the course will be easier. She then started to cry harder and sobbed "cant I do some extra credit?!?" Argh... I felt like hollering at her "NO!!!!! Do you not realize you are at a University, trying to earn a degree?!?! This isn't a high school!!!" But instead I simply said "No, we do not have extra credit for this course." She left my office with tears in her eyes.
It is so frustrating sometimes, bringing this reality to students. I resent the way many high schools coddle many students so that they do not feel the need to, nor do they know how to work hard for a goal. The above student was not dumb.... but she has yet to learn how to focus and how to learn. She is used to being spoon fed information that she then thinks she can simply regurgitate back on a test. THAT IS NOT REAL LIFE! WHY DO MANY (not all) HIGH SCHOOLS DO THIS GRAVE DISSERVICE TO KIDS?!?!?!?!
Enough for now. I need the deep, harsh comfort of my largest bowled briar pipe. I shall fill it with the strongest leaf I have and inhale as deeply as I can the rich draughts of the chalky smooth, harsh, yet soothing tobacco smoke.