Saturday, February 09, 2013

Hoping for a 'flake-free semester

I hold out great hopes that this may be the one. Because the past few semesters I've had, I really got dumped on by people who were narcissists, or who just really misunderstood the concept of college (it's not, "Professor opens your brain and dumps in knowledge with no work on your part," okay?)

But this semester - so far I've been really happy with most of my students. I had one person who joined ecology late (an oversight in advisement - not her fault) who has totally caught up and actually wrote the BEST project proposal of anyone in the class, despite her having 2 fewer weeks to work on it than anyone else. And she didn't ask for an extension or anything! When I got her into the class, and explained what I had covered up to that point, she was all, "Thank you for helping me. I will get that proposal done on time." And she did.

And I have several other outstanding students in my other classes. So I'm very hopeful.

Any time what I see as the slide-into-Idiocracy seems to be checked a little bit, I am hopeful. Maybe there is a cohort of people out there who are more about just buckling down and getting stuff done than they are about whining about whatever they have to do - or finding the quickest and probably worst way to do it.

I've said before it's the 20 to 30 percent who really give a damn and are trying to better their lot in life that I am teaching for - not the 10 percent or so who seem mainly wanting to cheat their way through life, or the people who are willing to do things as half-assedly as they can get by with in order to get back to having "fun" faster. I teach for the people who have a sense of purpose and who can see the satisfaction and, yes, even "fun" in hard work and in learning things. And it seems like I have a critical mass of those people this semester, and that makes my work so much easier and so much more pleasant.

I think smaller schools like mine maybe DO get a bigger percentage of people who don't take their education for granted; we have a lot of first-generation folks and while some of them may be a bit unclear on certain concepts, they also often feel like they have the honor of their families riding on them, so they will pull up by their bootstraps and do what needs to be done. And we get a LOT of non-trad students, and they are mostly wonderful, because they have a perspective on life (doing poorly on a quiz is not the end of the world) but also have greater time-management skills and a greater sense of personal responsibility (doing poorly on a quiz doesn't mean the prof screwed them over; it means they didn't study hard enough for it).

(And actually, it occurs to me: if you take responsibility for your screw-ups, rather than pointing to someone else - it means you have the opportunity to do better next time. Saying, "Wow, man, I did NOT study hard enough for that quiz," means, to me: "Okay, then. Next time I will study for twice as long." But saying "That prof expects too much of us and makes the quiz too hard" - well, there's nothing you can do about that other than to whine about it and talk about how the system is screwing you over. And frankly, to me, I'd rather go, "Wow, I can do better next time if I put in more effort" is a lot more hopeful than "I can't win." But unfortunately there are some people who either become convinced they can't win, or who decide that it's easier to say it...)

Right now, I'm doing that very thing. I got a manuscript rejected. I re-read it and wow, I made a bonehead error in describing part of my methods. And there are things that can make it better. Was I pissed at the reviewer for some of the stuff s/he said? Sure I was. And I still kind of am; in a couple cases s/he seems to have misunderstood parts of the study. But I also see how the manuscript maybe wasn't my best effort ever, or how there are ways it can be made better, so that's what I'm doing - slowly working away at rewriting it, and I'm going to submit it somewhere else, and hopefully now I've made it good enough to get published. (But if not: I can rewrite again, and there's yet another journal I can try....)

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