Friday, October 07, 2005

The joys of students

It's times like these where anonymity is a bit restricting...then again, if I were blogging under my own name, I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable sharing the story anyway. So I wish I could tell you the story of the week I've had, but everything that happened was just so bizarre that, if my colleagues were reading this, they'd know it was me just by these stories.

Suffice it to say that it was an "interesting" week, in terms of my dealings with students. Or, to put it more bluntly, it was a week in which students that I work with or whom I have in my classes royally screwed up one thing or another, leaving behind big messes for me to clean up.

I can't put all of the blame on the students. In each case, if I had been more vigilant, I may have been able to prevent parts of what happened, or at the very least minimize the damage. So I screwed up too. But it doesn't really matter who screwed up, because I'm the one that has to make things right.

It is so easy to forget sometimes that these bright, talented, and eager students are still learning how to be adults. You get to know students, you feel comfortable with them, and you trust them. You have to, especially the ones working on projects with you. Part of the learning process is giving them the freedom to excel (best case) or make mistakes (worst case). The problem lies where their learning intersects with your professional development, or your fair evaluation of the students' work. Sure, they learn a valuable lesson from the big mistakes...but sometimes at a very expensive price to the faculty member. Part of the reason I'm working 80 hours this week is because I'm trying to fix what students have done, and I'm under a tight deadline to do so.

It would be so much easier if I could be mad at the students, but I really can't. They just screwed up; in none of the cases was it malicious. And they're good kids; they won't do it again. But geez, I wish there was an easier way the cosmos could have taught them these lessons, one that didn't so intricately involve me.


What Now? said...

Oh dear, sounds like a bad week indeed. So sorry to hear it, and good luck in cleaning up the messes. You're very generous in the way that you're discussing your students.

Jane said...

Thanks, WN. It's definitely risky to treat students with the amount of freedom that I sometimes do, but as a student I learned the most from faculty members who treated me the same way, so I look at it as a worthwhile risk. Most of the time, anyway.

(that said, the discovery of these screw-ups is often followed by a closed-door session of swearing and throwing things!)