I always despise teaching fall quarter because I always teach freshmen composition. It’s not the class that bothers me, it’s the students. Almost all my students are straight out of high school and this is their first quarter at a university. And they have no idea what they’re in for.
First of all, college is NOTHING like high school. My university gets the best and brightest students and they come from being big fish in a small pond to small fish in an ocean. They don’t get it that a “C” grade means average when in high school that same “C” grade meant you didn’t even try. They equate effort with a grade, so I often hear, “But I tried so hard. I spent so much time on this essay [though they never mention how much time], how could I have received a “C”?” They have never been average. They will almost all realize that they are going to get the lowest GPAs in their entire school career fall quarter. And it’s everyone’s fault but their own.
They aren’t used to the quarter system, which goes by so quickly that they can barely keep up. They dream of sleep. They wish they had more time. They just don’t understand.
They are learning balance. Their parents just dropped them off 9 weeks ago to one of the biggest parties of their lives. The dorms are non-stop GO. There is so much to do: from the parties, of course, to exploring this new town to staying up late and just talking about life with new friends.
They are addicted to social media, so that’s a huge time dump.
These are the reasons I hate teaching in the fall. By winter quarter, not only have freshmen figured it out, but I usually have more sophomores, juniors, and even some seniors and they really have figured it out. Most are pleasantly happy with a “C.”
But believe me: I sympathize with these students. I remember how much I fumbled my first year of college, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give them an “A.” That’s no longer my job, just as it wasn’t my professor’s job 20 years ago.
My task is to stay strong and steady in the face of the ever-increasing sour looks these students give me: because it’s my job, especially since I teach a G.E.
I mean really, why would writing ever be important?
If I sound a little bitter it’s because I am. But today I had a girl in my office just break down crying because of all the pressure she’s under. She was in my office seeking out help for citations, but then everything just fell apart for her.
And to be honest, I almost started crying with her.
Because as a teacher, I too am overwhelmed. The quarter system doesn’t give me any time to take a breather either. I don’t like giving out “Cs” and “Ds.” I too am overwhelmed with work, and being a mother, and trying to squeeze in a small social life. I want to cry out, “It’s not my fault. It’s the system. It’s your high schools that babied you. It’s your fault for not coming to class or not paying attention because you were too busy instant messaging someone while I gave that lecture. How many times do I have to say ‘it’s on the syllabus!’ I want a nap as well!”
So, to be honest, the students and I are in the blame game together. And in a weird way, that makes me feel better and more connected to my students.
We’re in this together, crying girl. It’ll get easier. I’m sorry school is so difficult right now. I’m sorry my life is complicated. But we’ll get through this. We always do.
And when I think about the 50 essays I have left to grade, I just try t remember that I’ve done this before, felt like this before, and every quarter I come out alive. I’m thankful for that.