How I feel when former students email me telling me the great things they’re now doing
Today, I received an email from a brilliant student I taught two years ago. She just got accepted into law school. Her email reads, in part:
“I’m really happy about the news and I would like to thank you for the part you played in how I developed with your engaging teaching and critical tutorial discussions.”
These are the moments that make teaching worthwhile!
“You should forgive me for plagiarism because I already confessed to my priest and he forgave me.”
Best tweets ever courtesy of @Worse_Reviewer on the excuses students give when justifying plagiarism:
The best excuse I’ve ever received involves a student who claims that “the use of quotation marks” is not something that is “culturally accepted” in her family. In the beginning of our meeting, she boasted about how she went to a prep school during high school whose graduates attended Ivy League schools and that she “of course” knew how to properly cite papers. So…no…I don’t buy her excuse.
When listening to someone attempt to show that he knows more about my research than I do
Awkward encounters with students outside the classroom: the gym edition
With the exception of that 1% of students who are so entitled that they see their professors and their TAs as ‘hired help’ (e.g., that student who told me that I, as her TA, should provide her with summaries of the readings that she did not want to do herself because she “paid” for my “salary” will forever more be on my shit-list), I like 99% of my students. I like talking to them in class, during office hours, and even when seeing them randomly on and off campus.
That said, there are certainly places where I don’t want to run into my students, even students who I like. Previous awkward encounters include running into a student en route to a dance club at the clubbing district (when saying good-bye, I awkwardly told him to “be safe”) and quite literally bumping into a student dry-humping his girlfriend in the library stacks at 11:30 pm (I nodded in acknowledgement and thankfully quelled the urge to remind him to “be safe”).
I had another awkward encounter a few days ago. I decided to go to the gym after a frenetic few hours working in the library. Now, those of you who know me know that I hate the gym. I am lazy by nature - the fact that last year was the first time I ever used the gym is testament to how lazy I am. The only reason I even go to the gym is because I am such a glutton that I know I need to counter-balance my love for food with exercise. I freely admit to being the worst gym-rat ever: I work out not because I like it but because I want to keep eating poutine. Hence, when I go to the gym, I am already feeling grim. Whenever I’m on the ellipticals or on the treadmill or on the rowing machine, amidst the cheerful strains of Kesha’s “Warrior” on my iPod, all I can think of is how much time I have left before I can end my work-out.
So there I was, in agony while using the rowing machine, listening to Kesha and looking at the timer on the machine, when I noticed out of the corner of my eye someone standing at the edge of the machine. For a few seconds, I kept rowing, until I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. I stopped, turned around, and saw a student I taught this term.
“Hi! How are you?,” she chirped.
I then made small talk for a few seconds, all the while wondering at the back of my head why she wanted to talk. I mean, isn’t it standard gym protocol that unless you’re friends with someone, you don’t approach them and try to engage them in a long conversation, and most especially not in the middle of them working out?
Finally, eager to get back to my work-out, I finally asked her how I could help her.
“Well, I wanted to say hi. Also, do you know what my participation mark was for the class?”
Because I couldn’t remember, I told her to email me. After politely saying good-bye, she then proceeded to do her own work-out.
While the exchange was pleasant enough, it made me think that maybe it would be a good idea to join a gym that my students don’t go to. I guess the only thing I can be grateful for is that this particular student did not approach me in the locker room, or, heaven forbid, while we were both in the shower.
On knowing when NOT to write and cutting your losses
As those of you who are academics, writers, consultants, and free-lance contractors know, the hardest part about setting your own schedule is the fear that you will succumb to your baser instincts and spend most of your work day doing this:
I’ve blogged before about the difficulties of having a consistent writing schedule, a challenge which most people I know apparently face. My issue is that even when I’m sitting in front of the computer - either at my home office or at my ‘office’ at the nearby cafe, where other free
loaders lancers go - there is a chance that I’ll be doing this:
Or even, at my lowest moments (e.g., after getting ‘suggestions for revisions’ back or when nothing is coming to my brain), this:
Recently, though, I’ve come to the entirely unoriginal epiphany that accepting that writing is a process and that those moments spent staring into space/crying/not doing anything is part of the game. Others have said this to me but, being bullheaded, I didn’t listen and continued to fret over not being “the Perfect PhD.” The fact is, the idea that one has to show something tangible at the end of each working day is ridiculous. I tried doing that at first but when I reviewed what I wrote the next day, I had to start from the very beginning all over again anyway because the writing I forced myself to do was terrible - illogical, not grounded in solid research, meandering.
As I’ve come to accept, there are days when I can’t write because I just can’t. No explanations needed. Then, there are days when all I can do is write - our zombie overlords may have started masticating people’s brains outside my office, the apocalypse might be taking place as I type - but it’s irrelevant because I’m putting words to page, dammit, and nothing can stop me.
Hence, rather than wasting time fretting over how we are ‘wasting’ time by not doing anything, we might as well accept this as being natural. No one is productive 100% of the time so if there are days when you feel like the ideas aren’t coming, cut your losses, call it a day, and start again tomorrow.
When I think I am done with marking and I see more papers in my mailbox
Every time I meet my supervisor, this is what I am afraid will happen
What he will say:
What I will say:
The Four Stages of the Writing Process
Stage One: After swigging coffee, I am prepared to conquer this paper. Let’s DO THIS.
Stage Two: I keep going, and, going, and going, and going…
Stage Three: Unbearable Ennui because what is the POINT of writing all of this?
Stage Four: The amazing feeling of being DONE.
18 Academic Papers About ’90s TV Shows
Some day, I’d like to write an article comparing the West Wing and House of Cards. Working Title: “The West Wing as a Symbol of our ‘Utopian’ Past, House of Cards as a Harbinger of our ‘Dystopic’ Future: The Hermeneutics of the Political ‘Self’ Through Popular Culture.” (Note: I just made up the most pretentious sounding title I could. It’s 4 am. Does it make sense?)