Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wild Animal Safari

Given the last blog entry, perhaps it’s not so surprising that earlier this week I found myself hiding in the aisles of the toy store, clutching plastic animals to my chest and wondering how to escape without being seen by a particularly annoying student. Most people, if they have moments like this, do it for something more dramatic: ex lovers, estranged husbands, bill collectors. But not me.

In my defense, I’ve had a bad week, involving a lot of university politics, a rejected sabbatical proposal, and failed attempts to dial internationally so I can say hello to Z, who has gone to his native land for the holiday. And also, “Jeffie” is on the list of top ten most annoying students ever. He failed the class last semester, but even with his prior knowledge of how my classroom operates, he still manages to hand in virtually every assignment late with a host of excuses, comes to class late, contributes excessively to discussions about readings he has not done, and always, always relies on his dumbness as if it is the key element in his arsenal of charm. Maybe it works with some people (some really drunk people, perhaps?), but it doesn’t work with me. His latest sin is that he SWEARS he handed two papers in via email that I never got. I don’t believe him, but I also want him to pass the class so I never have to see him again.

I’ve been trying to figure out why he gets under my skin, when any given semester provides at least two students with similar characteristics. The best I can come up with is that he has come to represent everything that is wrong with the United States: a) the thought that being “dumb” is an admirable characteristic b) the thought that every opinion matters no matter how ignorant and uninformed c) that an untested/unquestioned belief system makes passing judgment on other people okay as long as a pastor says its okay e) that it is acceptable for a grown man to refer to himself with the nickname an aunty gave him when he was still wearing diapers.

And yes, yes I am passing judgment on Jeffie but it is not uninformed or untested and is therefore valid.

When I saw him, I was already stressed out because I was buying animals for Leibovitz’s seven year old and I couldn’t remember the differences between Indian and African elephants and somehow I felt my choosing the wrong (i.e. Indian) elephant would disappoint Z, though he will likely never see it. Also, I felt stressed because I couldn’t justify buying any single animal, but had to buy in pairs, Noah style, since I attribute human emotions to virtually every inanimate object, including lumps of molded plastic, and I knew an elephant alone would be a sad, miserable elephant. Ditto the zebra and giraffe. I had just made my final selections when I turned around and saw Jeffie talking to someone, and I almost did a Starsky & Hutch style roll into an adjoining aisle because I did NOT want to have a conversation with him about whether I would accept those papers and I did not want to hear again all the reasons why the papers didn’t come thru as attachments when the real reason they didn’t come thru is they weren’t written yet. I hunkered down so he couldn’t see the top of my head, and lest the store clerk think I’d gone mental, I pretended to be really interested in a magic set on the lower shelf. Finally, when I was brave enough to peek around the shelving unit to see if Jeffie had moved on, I saw the back of his head and had the strongest urge to pelt him with the animals clutched in my hand. Oh, it would have been the perfect ending to my semester, if only it wouldn’t have resulted in my arrest and subsequent community service. Also, terribly unfair to the animals.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Spirit

It’s that time of year where I should be full of love for my fellow humans, but instead what I am is feeling heaps of loathing for my students. Not all of them. Just the ones who handed their papers in late, which forces me into three days of soul-searching while I try to figure out how important deadlines are in the grand scheme of things. Am I teaching them survival skills when I refuse papers after 6:00 p.m. on deadline day or am I just being a bitch? (The polls are still open.) I’ve been teaching 13 years now, so I shouldn’t let that slackers and procrastinators put me thru these paces every year, but I do.

I’m thinking I should write a book for beginning college students called What Your College Instructor Really Thinks When You Say Your Paper is Finished But Your Hard Drive Exploded. The only thing holding me back is that I know the students who need it wouldn’t read it. Also, there could be legal action.