Thursday, July 26, 2007

It ends with a whimper

During the course of my graduate studies at FU, I have had the opportunity to teach several classes. I originally welcomed the opportunity to teach strictly as a means of enhancing my curriculum vitae, but in the process, I have found that I enjoy teaching immensely. Regrettably, I won’t have the privilege of teaching beyond this semester, so today marked the end of the Professor Jorge Era. I’m never good at predicting my feelings, and today was no exception. I expected to feel sadness owing to the fact that it was my last class, as well as bitterness owing to the fact that my teaching days should never have come to an end (that’s a story for another day… probably after I’ve graduated so I can excoriate the powers-that-be at FU without fear of reprisal – the bastards might steal my good pocket protector). What I ended up feeling instead was a jaded ambivalence.

It’s funny how even something you love doing can unknowingly become routine, but that’s exactly what’s happened to me with teaching. I gave the same farewell and good luck speech I’ve given the last day of the four previous semesters, watched a different but remarkably similar group of students struggle with my unbelievable easy exam, and my way of savouring the moment was to do typically mundane things like making a grading key for the exam, entering a few last-minute grades, and checking my e-mail and cell phone messages because one of my students didn’t show up for the exam. Before I knew it, the students were finishing up the exam and beginning to file out. Most of them made it a point to say farewell (I will forever insist I lucked into getting mostly really nice students every semester, especially after hearing the horror stories from other professors who teach the same classes I have taught), bust my chops about the myriad struggles of The Holy Quaternity, or laugh at/with me regarding my obsession with puns and anecdotes that deal with cheesy 80’s music, and that interaction made me feel kind of happy and sad at the same time. Be that as it may, the cynical ambivalence won out again thanks to a couple of whiny jewels.

Whiner 1, whom I’ll call Ditzy Queen, complained about how difficult the exam was, tried to convince me that I hadn’t covered the material in some of the questions, then tried to convince me to drop the lowest exam score, and then actually had the temerity to ask me whether there were going to be any extra credit opportunities. That’s right, Ditzy Queen – I scheduled various extra credit opportunities after the end of the semester! How some of these kids got into college, I’ll never know.

Whiner 2 earned the nickname “Sleeping Beauty” because I constantly had to wake him up throughout the semester. Apparently, Sleeping Beauty slept through every important set of instructions I gave for assignments, because he turned in a paper without reference citations after I spent approximately 30 minutes covering the importance of citing sources and how not doing so was plagiarism. It goes without saying that Sleeping Beauty earned an F for his paper, and he came up to me after the exam to whine about how hard he had worked on the paper, and how he didn’t understand why he got a bad grade. When I explained to him AGAIN about citing sources, he nodded vacantly, then asked about a particular paragraph I’d underlined. The paragraph in question had obviously been cut & pasted from an internet source, because the ink colour was grey instead of black. I pointed this out to him, and his answer was, “It’s grey because the printer was running out of ink.” (I swear to God this is true.) I answered that if this had been the case, the lines below the paragraph in question should also be grey, not black. His answer: “I guess the printer was acting funny.” At this point, I pulled out my wallet and made it a point to squint at my driver’s license until he asked me what I was doing. When I told him I was checking my license to make sure I wasn’t born yesterday, he finally gave up the ghost and left. Priceless.

And so endeth the Professor Jorge Era – not with a bang, but with a whiny whimper.

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