Thursday, April 14, 2016


The headlong rush towards the end of the term is begun. Papers aplenty will be coming in, and I will be grading them all; my weekends for the next weeks are bespoken to that end. I am not entirely pleased, of course, as grading is among the most onerous of the tasks teaching entails, but the students will not improve if they do not practice, and experience shows that they will not practice if they are not given the external motivation of grading to push them to do so (for the most part; some few will work whether they are seen to do so or not, but they are only few, and setting the rest aside in favor of those few occasions no small amount of aspersive comment). I do, contrary to popular belief, want to see my students get better at the work. As such, I offer round after round of review on their assignments. Not all avail themselves of it--and then they wonder why their work is assessed as unsatisfactory. Somehow, of course, it is my fault. I must have it out for them...

I try to resist such thinking, of course. I am well aware that every age of people complains about "kids these days." Malory, for example, complains of the people being "newfangill" (I use the example because of my own study). It is a persistent complaint, well documented, and usually not so accurate as might be pretended by those who make it. I know I am not the thing I am accused of being; I imagine my parents are not the thing they were accused of being by theirs, and so on. I do not want to fall into the fallacy of thinking that my juniors are less, at least less than I was when I was their age. Their elders have perhaps been more inclined to reward them than mine were me, and they have not faced some of the specific difficulties--but the latter is a good thing; it means that at least some of the problems are being alleviated (although certainly not all, and certainly not quickly enough). I am not always successful in my attempts, of course, and even if I do manage to resist acting in such a way and treat individuals as individuals, there are a great many that manage to annoy me...

It is to be expected, of course. Teaching is not a customer service position (despite the occasional comment from students to that end--but, as I borrow from another whom I, to my shame, do not recall, if there is a customer, it is the company that hires the student after graduation; the metaphor bears following), but it is one of relationships, and when participants in the relationship have different expectations for it, tension is inevitable. I am often expected to provide front-line customer service (as well as product support and claims resolution); I am charged to provide something else, something that manifests in the grading that I do, often to the displeasure of those who want their degree-plans rubber-stamped, but something that is, ultimately and hopefully, to their benefit and to the benefit of those whom they will encounter later on.

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