Friday, September 19, 2014

Feeling better

I was REALLY bummed out earlier this week, to the point of having one of those "I don't know how much longer I can do this, but I don't know what other career to go into" conversations with a colleague. Part of it was the rude student, part of it was that half of a class failed to turn in an important assignment, part of it was that students flaked on me about something they had promised to do.

But last night, I had my capstone-level class. And we discussed projects the students could do. Several people had good ideas; the student I talked with the most had a really fascinating idea that could even be publishable, depending on the results he gets.

We need more students like him. Part of it is that he's a little older (just a few years younger than I am) and had a whole career (as a paramedic) before coming back to school to do what he "really wanted to do" (his words).

More and more, I'm starting to lean to the idea that some have proposed, that of having 2 years mandatory military (or other) service for younglings before they can go into the workforce or college. And while that would have ticked the heck out of me as an 18 year old (I was ready for college - I knew what I wanted to major in, I even kind of knew what I wanted as my career), there is a critical mass of people now (maybe there always was) who don't really have a clue just yet, and who kind of drift around their first two years and often wind up wasting a lot of time (and taking longer to graduate). And there's also the whole whine factor: I've had people whine at me because there are no make up labs and they were SICK and that's just UNFAIR. (Oh honey. Oh. Life isn't fair and the faster you learn that the better). Or that a month is too short a time to write a five page paper in. Or that "all that math" is "boring." And I can't help but think: If you had just spent the past 2 years scrubbing latrines and marching, or spent the past two years picking up trash on the roadside, or spent the past two years building stuff in National Parks, you wouldn't be whining nearly so much.

(And yeah, I get the "but how, as a nation, would we pay for this?" I don't know, but I wish we had some way we could, because there are an awful lot of people I get in my classes who come from totally coddled backgrounds who expect everyone to bow down and do just what they want. And it ticks me off. And it ticks off the mature students, like the guy I was talking about above).

But anyway. I live for students like that guy - the people who have a passion, who want to be here, who know why they're here. He also talked about how he recruited his kids as field hands and how his daughter is really interested in birds and is keeping a Life List - she's 11. And I wanted to tell him, but I sometimes get shy about doing stuff like this, that he was a good dad because he was showing his kids that it's cool to be interested in stuff, that it's worth having things you care deeply about. I hope in a few years he maybe considers sending his kids here, we need more students who care.

I find my own passion for doing research flags when I have to deal with too many students who seem content to drift along, but it reignites when I talk to someone like that guy. (Actually, same with my passion for teaching).

I don't know how to keep from letting the energy vampires in my classes get me down. I do know I need things like conversations with students who do care to keep me going.

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