Don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you’re reading this and you start to get annoyed because you’re discovering that I’ve got absolutely nothing to say, don’t get mad at me about it. You probably shouldn’t be spending your time reading this anyway.
It’s only the second day of NaBloPoMo and I’m faltering! It’s not that I don’t have things to write about. I do, as a matter of fact — I want to write about Rosamund Lehmann’s A Note in Music now that I’ve finished it and I also want to write about Seneca. But I’m still sick, all coughing and sniffly and woozy, and I’m not sure I can think straight to write about something serious. And I just got terribly annoyed because I read through some student essay revisions and found that they hadn’t revised at all. After ten years or so of teaching writing, why this would surprise me, I don’t know, but I am still always surprised when it happens. I mean, why would anyone think it’s a good idea to hand in an essay revision that is almost exactly the same as the first draft? Don’t they realize I will get frustrated at them, which is, surely, the last thing they want? So I’m more in the mood to vent than to write something thoughtful and smart.
I have discovered over the years that the best approach for me to take in the classroom is to be all happiness and cheer all the time. Somehow I’ve never figured out how to make any other teaching persona work for me. If I let myself show frustration or annoyance, things go downhill fast. Given that I am by no means a cheerful person generally, staying so cheerful might sound hard, but since I see students only for three hours a week, I usually do okay. But what it means is that I have a powerful need to vent when the students aren’t around! Not that teaching is so hard or unpleasant, or that my students are so terrible, let me clarify. Most of the time they are a pleasure to teach. It’s just that … well, I’m a perfectionist and was a perfectly obedient, perfectly diligent student myself, and I (still) don’t understand why students aren’t more like I was. I have to remind myself that, yes, occasionally, even I skipped the reading now and then or asked for an extension or took the easy way out in an assignment. I think this is one of the hardest things to learn about teaching — so often (although not always) those who end up teaching were the model students of their day, and they have to learn that not all students are perfectly-organized perfectionists like they were. (But why not? why not?? Don’t they see how much easier things would be if they were?)
So, this has turned into a post about teaching, which is something I rarely write about. But at this point in the semester with all the grading I’m doing, it’s hard to think about much else. I do have the pleasure of choosing a new novel now; perhaps that will cheer me up after that disastrous grading session …