The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the category “Semester”

Students Make Me Sick!

I managed to avoid the worst of flu season in December, despite having a small child in daycare where “personal space” has no meaning.  While those around me were falling, I was pleased to have no sniffles, no sore throat, no earache – nothing.  All through the holiday season, when I was off and had nothing but time (granted, it was time I used to chase a 3 year old around for 12 hours a day – G*d bless naps and early bedtimes).

College has been back in session for a whopping 3 days.  And not fully in session at that.  I’d estimate that about 80% of the students actually showed up in class this week at all.  (Apparently, there’s a misconception that “syllabus week” is optional.)   And sure enough…by Friday I was getting sick.

Pack 30+ students in a classroom and at least 20% of them are coughing and using tissues on their noses and touching everything!  I’m not a germophobe by any stretch (refer back to 3 year old boy who has his mouth and hands on and in everything and thinks hand washing is a punishment), but ewwwwwww.

Put this many people this close together and they are going to spread cooties.  No way around it.

Put this many people this close together and they are going to spread cooties. No way around it.

I blame faculty for this (including former me).  We require attendance, we grade on attendance, we admonish when they don’t show up for class.  And so they come, wagging their germs behind them.  To excuse their absence, they must have a doctor’s note.  Seriously?  Do you go to the doctor every time you get a cold?  I don’t.  I avoid the doctor’s office like it’s ground zero for bubonic plague, going only when I am absolutely sure that death has knocked on my door.  (No offense to my awesome nurse practitioner, Angela, who is a delight).

So why do we require this of students?  By bringing their germs to class, they make other students (and professors) suffer.  Why not treat them like the adults they are (supposed to be) becoming?

Well, I blame students too.  Students are creative creatures.  The excuses I’ve gotten for absences!  Wow, some doozies.  I once had a student give me a very elaborate and tear-filled excuse for having to miss an exam because her father died.  It was a heart-wrenching, tear-jerking story.  Of course, I excused her.  So imagine my surprise when I met (you guessed it) her father at graduation.  What a miraculous resurrection.  Not.

So I tell my students: “Come, don’t come.  It’s up to you.”  There are consequences for not showing up (missing my scintillating commentary on the material is one, of course), but there are also consequences for stressing your body and mind when you’re sick.  You be the judge of how sick is too sick to come to class.  If you are throwing up, please don’t come.  If you have a headache, maybe you need to suck it up.

I tell them they don’t need to tell me why they are out.  I don’t need to hear that they are hungover or sleep through my class.  Of course I care if they are sick, in the hospital, or have a death in the family.  But unless I can help or they need a shoulder to cry on, they don’t need to tell me.  They need to take care of themselves.  I would rather foster the traits of honesty and critical self-management in them than…whatever giving strict rules on attendance garners.

Perhaps we (faculty) are also contributing to the work environment that gives workers the idea that they can’t take a sick day from work, either.  Many people believe the company will surely fall apart without them (it won’t).  But that’s a rant for another day.

Instead of going to bed, I’m off to catch a plane to attend a conference, cold germs and all.  Well, I can’t miss it!  They need me.

Uh-oh.

Carpe germ avoidance therapy.

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They’re Back! They’re Back! Students, That is.

Squeeeee!  They’re back.  The students are back.  Walking through the rain (without umbrellas) in their winter uniforms: exercise pants and a ginormous sorority/fraternity sweatshirt for the girls, jeans and a hooded sweatshirt of any ilk for the boys. (As I don my grown-up clothes for the first time in weeks, I’m jealous of their comfort).

This morning I’ve already gotten one excuse for missing class today, one request for directions to a classroom (not mine), heard of one student who registered for a course this semester that he’s already taken, and seen at least a dozen Starbucks cups.  And that was just driving in and putting my stuff down in my office.

Of course, I also had a nightmare about the first day of class last night.  Remember in college how you’d have that anxiety dream that you’d signed up for a class but forgot to attend until well over halfway through the semester?  (Oh, maybe that was just me).  For me, it was always a history class.  I’m terrible at (and decidedly disinterested in) history.  Unless it’s fictional history and involves murder and mayhem like my favorite book of all time, Devil in the White City.  But I digress.

Erik Larson's awesome book about the Chicago's World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Erik Larson’s awesome book about the Chicago’s World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Anyway, as a professor, that nightmare is usually that I was supposed to be teaching a class and forgot until mid-semester.  (I’ve come a long way, huh?).  But last night I had a nightmare about the first day of my meeting planning class.  The scary part is, it was probably a pretty accurate portrayal of what’s likely to happen.  So apparently I’m just scared of the way I’ve changed the course this semester.  They’re planning a real conference.  For a real non-profit group on campus.  And that terrifies me.  But that’s a post for another day.

It’s SO boring around here without them.  Students, I mean, not murdering psychos.  I’m glad they’re back.  All is right with the world again (nightmares notwithstanding).

Carpe the first day of school!

First Week of Classes…Do They Remember?

Classes officially start at my university on Wednesday.  I am guessing, however, that my students aren’t even thinking about that, despite it being two days away.  Why?

(1) Because it’s still two days away.  After using the college-student-to-grown-up conversion formula, that’s roughly the equivalent of 732 days.  Do you know what you are doing in 732 days?  I thought not.  It’s all the time in the world to remember what classes they’ve registered for, check with their friends to see what they registered for, check Rate My Professors to see if they got a “good” (translation: easy) professor and besides, add/drop is for another week so classes don’t really start until the end of that.

(2) Because (a) its their last semester and they are totally freaked out about college coming to an end and being thrust into the real world or (b) its not their last semester and they are dreading slogging through another one because it seems like graduation will never come.

(3) Perhaps most importantly, the BCS National Championship is today and the world doesn’t continue past that.  Even my 3 year old son knows that.  So who am I to argue?

Roll Tide, Roll.

Carpe 15!

Can I get an itty-bitty Roll Tide?

Can I get an itty-bitty Roll Tide?

Ding Dong, The Semester is (Almost) Dead

When I was a meeting planner (many moons ago), I was affected by a phenomenon I call “post meeting blues.”  After much anticipation leading up to the meeting and the chaos of the on-site experience (which invariably involved excitement like presenters not showing up, catering snafus, and 28-hour work days), there was a “let down” feeling after the meeting was over.  First came the relief, then the inexplicable down-in-the-dumps-depression.

Me with two of my favorite students (yes, professors have favorites...shhhh)

Me with two of my favorite students (yes, professors have favorites…shhhh)

Now that I’m a college professor, I find the end of the semester follows a similar pattern.  As I type this, I have one grade yet to come in (c’mon, kid, turn it in, turn it in, turn it in).  Once it’s in, I will feel jubilation as I submit  final grades to the great and powerful Oz.  I will dance and sing (where no one can see or hear me) and feel the knots in every one of my muscles relax.  Then I will walk that fine line between relaxation and boredom.

Then it happens — boom! — post-semester depression.  I start feeling aimless (even though my “aim” should be prepping for the next semester).  I even start missing my students.  They’re all at home and not missing school at all, of course.  But I miss their faces (or more accurately, the tops of their heads, which is all I can see some days as they look down at their phones instead of at me while I facilitate class).  I miss their witty repartee, the words from the ones who make valuable contributions to class, and even their “deer in the headlights” facial expressions when they are called on or busted for looking at Facebook instead of their notes.

So this semester, I have a plan.  And I’m not ashamed to share it.  This year, I’m planning a one day vacation from my brain.  The plan is simple.  On one day (after  the great and powerful Oz has released me from his grasp), I’m going to leave my pajamas on all day, plop my already generously sized derriere on the sofa at home, and watch something mindless on TV…all day.  Just for one day.  I’m thinking sappy Christmas movies on Lifetime or the Hallmark channels.  Other props for the day include the gallon tin of Garrett popcorn (Chicago Mix) that I plan to order for myself, a 2-liter bottle of root beer, and three cats to keep me warm.

One of the three cats

One of the three cats

So there.  That’s my plan for a one-day vacation from my brain.  Before my toddler son gets out of daycare for 12 days (heaven help me), before the official Christmas festivities start, before I start panicking over how much I have to do to get ready for next semester.  One day that’s mine.  All mine.

Carpe brain rest.  And Happy Holidays.

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