Friday, June 10, 2011

Oh MAN, I'm tired

The first full week of summer research has concluded. (I told the students we weren't going to work today - I need to take care of some stuff, and also, I'm really, really tired.)

And I'm dealing with yet another difficult person. This is someone who is happy to tell me what is wrong with everyone else around them. At first, I thought, wow, this person is just really lousy at choosing co-workers. But now, I'm coming to realize that this person just has little tolerance for the stuff that may be going on in people's lives....if the person is not as punctual as they are, or as dedicated, or whatever, there's something WRONG with that person.

And you know, meh. I used to be kind of like that in my attitude (but I kept it to myself), but over the years I've seen enough stuff to be able to sigh, remind myself that "everyone is carrying a heavy burden" and let some stuff go.

I mean, yeah: if someone is late for every single meeting we have planned, I will say something to them. I do not like having my time wasted. But if someone is late once, and explains that they couldn't find their car keys (it's happened to me), or their kid had some emergency, or whatever, I'll be fine with it.

But this person I'm dealing with is super-critical. So I've decided that I have to take their assessment of any person with a grain of salt.

This person also can't understand how some students are less-than-devoted to their education. Again, meh, it happens: I can imagine if you have a spouse and a child and maybe an aging parent or grandparent to help care for, your attention would be somewhat divided. Heck, there have been times in recent years - a close family member with a cancer scare, a close family member in the hospital with pneumonia - where I wasn't on the top of my game because I was thinking about that person and concerned about them. Or I get distracted when something else is going wrong in my life. So I try not to judge the people too harshly when life interferes.

I mean, you make your priorities in life. I've had students who have been abundantly nice people, interested in the classwork, but who earned low Bs or Cs because they had other stuff going on, sick kids, emergencies at work, getting foreclosed on. My attitude is, if they're OK with it, I'm OK with it. It's like the old saying: What do you call the guy who graduated at the bottom of his medical-school class? Doctor. Many of the students we graduate aren't necessarily looking toward grad school - in fact, many of them have jobs already that they can continue in with or without the degree.

On the other hand, I don't have a lot of tolerance for people who slack off in class and are lazy and have bad attitudes about it - if you don't want to be in college, don't go. It's hard for me to work up a giant pot of sympathy for the student who drove all night long out and back to go see some band they like, and then want an extension on the homework. Or the person who rolls their eyes and groans melodramatically over a class activity.

It's hard for me to explain, I guess, but I can deal with the student who comes to me and says, "My kid has to have an operation, I'm sorry, but that's why I'm not giving 100% in class" and I can tell him that I'm fine with that, I understand, and that I hope everything goes well. But it's different dealing with the student who wants an active social life and figures that I should rearrange my teaching or exam schedule to accommodate that. (I had one student last fall who would regularly skip my class - several reliable people told me he partied a lot - and then would come to my office hours fifteen minutes before class on Monday and expect me to "recap" the past week for him. Sorry, I can't do that.)

Also, usually, the people with life-issues (like a sick kid) tend to take responsibility in other areas, in my experience: one of the students I had who had a child who had to have an operation, assured me, "I've spoken to my lab partner. I know she takes good class notes. She's going to let me copy her notes for the days I will be absent." They've taken care of it. I guess that's the difference: I can understand and deal with people who have problems in their lives, but who manage and who don't expect me to do "clean-up on aisle five" for them over everything.

But the people who either have or let their lives fall apart, and then come to me (sometimes at the last minute) and want me to FIX EVERYTHING NOW, I have a hard time with that.

I have occasionally thought, in response to a student like that, "If I had wanted children, I would have adopted one." I don't need a 20-year-old "child" who wants me to mop up everything after them (and at any rate: if I had a 20-year-old child of my own? And they had problems? I'd probably do largely what my dad did for me, which was say, "You're smart. You can figure this out" but stand by with some minimal assistance (like a loan or something) if things really go pear-shaped.)

So I don't know. Perhaps I'm more bugged by the person I referred to at the beginning - the one who has criticism for anyone who's not 100% dedicated "to the cause" for whatever reason, because I sometimes feel that way a bit myself. (But I maintain, there's a difference between having logistic issues because you're raising a child alone, or are caring for an ill elderly relative, or have some kind of issue like dealing with identity theft, than with things like "I want to be able to have a Mullet Life: business in the front, party in the back" or following the Dead (do people still follow the Grateful Dead?) or whatever. I realize those are life choices as well...but they're life choices where others are not necessarily depending on you.)

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