I Only Made One Person Cry Today

Being a teacher is really, really tough. It’s not hard to fail the students who don’t do the work and don’t care about the class. But these days, I have more and more good students who show up and hang on my every word. They do all the reading and do all the work. The problem is that they just can’t write.

Today I told a single mother who’s a second-language speaker that she should really think about taking the class again. She couldn’t stop crying, even though I hugged her and told her that I wasn’t trying to tell her she was a bad student. She’s going to pass the class, but she can’t turn an essay in on time to save her life. That is not going to fly at the next level.

By the end of the quarter, about all a community college teacher is doing is fielding panicked requests/excuses from students, and dreading the moment we have to sit down in front of the gradebook and figure out whose Christmas we are going to ruin.

I did get my evals today, though, and I did receive some super nice comments from students. (“You are one of my all-time favorite teachers!” I’ll take that any day!) I sure wish I could make those nice comments erase the crummy feelings I’m left with whenever I have to crush someone’s expectations, though.

We had a beautiful freezing-fog day today–even dead weeds look Christmasy with a layer of glimmering frosting, and ice crystals are sifting right out of the very air. Of course it’s beautiful mainly because it’s the first truly foggy day so far this year. (I will go slightly insane as soon as we have one of our three-weeks-without-the-sun stretches–hopefully this is not the start of one.) I bought myself a little blue therapy light that I have next to my laptop, and I think it really does help.

My poor duck will have to wait until we get one of those famous pineapple express fronts and her pond thaws out–she was standing on the ice and looking at me beseechingly today. She did allow me to pet her, but I could tell what she really wanted was for me to turn the hose on. Sorry, sweetie.

The mares were nickering loud enough this afternoon that I got the hint–tomorrow I will start feeding twice daily. I have never had them wait this long for 2x feedings, but all three of them are on the overweight side (still are) and I know they haven’t been hurting with nine acres to forage all day.

Olive is tossing around a fake mouse under my chair. She’s hoping I’ll notice and throw it across the room for her. She and Scout are trying to work out a successful play style–difficult since he’s about five times her size, and he’s also pretty aggressive. Just like horses who are gelded late, I think tomcats tend to retain some of their “stud” behavior if they’re neutered after they mature.

Anyway, I’d like to share  a Joseph Campbell quote that Kathleen posted on her page today:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ~The Power of Myth

Being an English teacher surely does make one feel alive. A little too much alive at times, thank you, but I don’t think I’ll ever be bored doing this.

More as it happens.



Filed under Posty post

17 responses to “I Only Made One Person Cry Today

  1. Oh, I feel so sorry for those students who really try, but can’t make the grade. I hope she takes your advice and takes the course again and gets better. And I am not surprised at all by the nice comments from your students as your empathy and caring about your work have come through across the internet.

    Glad you like the quote. I feel bad that I didn’t acknowledge that Jill Outside put it in her blog about racing across Nepal. The quote so resonates with me. The older I get, the more I realize that the physical plane of running and riding are all I really want to do, especially as I get older and realize that I no longer bounce back from injury like I did 20 years ago. Fie on the lack of a money tree that prevents this dream. ;p

    Enjoy your weekend with your mares.

    • A college-level writing class can be difficult even for a native speaker, but some of these ESL students really have problems. I wish college wasn’t so expensive–few students will voluntarily retake a course because they feel they need to. Yeah, when you find your money tree, let me know! I need one of my own!

  2. horseideology

    Hubby teaches part-time with University of Phoenix online; before he taught part-time with Okla. State University. Both of his parents are professors with doctorates who have tenured retirement from their universities… just giving some perspective before I go forward with my thoughts here….

    Every class he has a cheater. One famous class, half the class cheated. His first response is an email informing them they cheated on their program (he teaches programming classes) and what is their explanation? The ones who admit they got caught, he gives them time to turn something else in – and depending on the severity of the cheating, may/may not get reported. This class someone denied it, but guess what? He has disappeared from class. Two reports of cheating and they get kicked out.

    While I can have sympathy for your student, college is not a free ride. I just wrapped up classes in Biology (for majors), Chemistry and College Algebra and if another student had been given a passing grade who was only marginal while I worked my butt off… well it wouldn’t, as a student, make me happy. It also marginalizes community colleges when this happens (the sniff and sneer that your education isn’t as good as a four year).

    I’m a bit tired of students who think college and graduation is a given. And students who think cheating or kissing the teachers’ butt means they get a good grade. I’m not saying this student’s heart wasn’t in the right place but if you are barely making it, you work even harder, hire an outside tutor (I did for chemistry and that was grocery money!), join a study group etc…. And if the subject isn’t your strong part you will have to accept a lower grade.

    • Yeah, I’m all for high standards. The majority of the problem is that a lot of these folks never should have graduated high school, but the public education system is more interested in graduating folks than making sure they’re educated. About a third of the students in my 101 classes can’t reliably compose even at the sentence level.

      Another part of the problem is that our college won’t pay to have someone screen writing samples so we can better identify the students who need the remedial courses. Right now, students take a multiple-choice proofing test on the computer to test into the class, and it’s too easy. I’ve complained bitterly about this, but since I’m an adjunct hired on a quarter-by-quarter basis…well. I may as well go spit in the wind.

      • horseideology

        The local CC here is rather tough. They have competency level examinations you must pass before being allowed to take a for-credit class in English or Math OR your ACT must have a certain score. Each of those core classes has a post-test that if you do not score 60 or above on you will not be allowed to pass even if your class grade was an A.

        It’s why I went immediately into a study group when taking College Algebra and why I studied every night for 2-4 hours until that class ended. I also paid a tutor for Chemistry and studied 2 hours a night for that class. People have to take responsibility for their own failures and work harder when they know the class will challenge them.

  3. College is fo’ real, yo!

    I feel for folks who are struggling with trying to get a higher education these days… the stakes have risen dramatically, cost-wise and future prospects-wise.

    I’m sure that even though it sucked for her at the time, you did that student a favor not sending her on without the proper skills. I’m equally sure you deserved the “best teacher ever” comment – congrats on that. 🙂

  4. I’m sure you deserve the “best teacher ever” comment too. It’s hard to have to tell someone who is really trying that they need to be a little better. Even though it’s not the end of the world it can be hard to hear. If she takes your advice and she probably will then she will be even more ready to move on to the next level with greater skills.

    Our horses are looking slightly annoyed about having to graze from their hay nets. They’ll get over it the colder it gets though. Your poor little duck sounds very cute.

    • We’ve all complained bitterly about the lack of a good screening exam, which causes about 80% of our headaches. College will no longer pay for professors to grade writing samples, so students take a multiple-choice proofing exam on a computer to ‘test in.’ So probably a third of the students in our classes really shouldn’t be there in the first place.

      I’ll fill up dog bowls for the duck so she can clean out her nasal passages (we have a poultry waterer that’s heated, but she can’t get her whole bill submerged). She is indeed a cutie.

  5. You have a good heart to care for those students, but it sounds like you did what had to be done. I’ve been both students–the non-serious one (when I was young) and the straight A’s, know-it-all, ask for more homework student that makes all the other students sick, when I went back for a second major in my 30’s. I was surprised at how ill-prepared the students were just in the brief period between my first graduation and returning. Either that, or I have a selective memory.

    So, you think tomcats who are neutered late retain those characteristics? A tomcat adopted us a few months ago and I just had him neutered two days ago…do you think he’ll still spray?

    • In my experience, males will only spray under certain circumstances. A) They smell urine from another animal (I had a male cat that would spray over dog pee). B) They have some health issue. C) They have a really dirty litter box or another cat is denying them access to it. I’ve heard that neutering late is a bad idea for this reason, but I’ve neutered two cats late, and they both prefer to go outside rather than use the litter box–they have a cat door. I think where you run into problems is if you’ve got two or three cats getting into an (ahem) pissing match!

  6. I never thought about the side of things, and apparently neither did the school system that passed these folks up the chain. Did no one any favors. CC are short sighted – you can’t keep customers who flunk out early because you didn’t assess their abilities and make sure they had the best chance to succeed.

    Ironic that they’d be deaf and dumb to the need to educate.

  7. The sad thing is, even native English speakers can’t write these days. Grammar education has been sliding for a long, long time. The education system just isn’t putting emphasis on it any more- which is ironic considering that most communication nowadays is done through the written word (texting, anyone?).

  8. Merry Christmas to you and your family – human and non. Wishing you all a healthy, happy New Year!


  9. Just stopping by to wish you a very Happy New Year!

  10. horseideology

    Hope all is okay with you and yours..

  11. Just checking in – hope you are doing well. 🙂

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