I have to be a bad guy Monday through Thursday to at least…at LEAST…one of my students. I don’t like it, but it’s part of the job. Today, for instance, was an exceptionally bad day in class, one of those days when I have to hand back a graded essay assignment. Many of my students are still in high school, so they expect kindness, coddling, hand-holding, easy A’s, and do-overs. I wish my school had a better orientation that informed incoming students of what to really expect, that we fail poor work, and the only ones we tend to forgive on occasion are often those who’ve suddenly, inexplicably sunk due to tragic events beyond their control.
Anyway, today, I told a whole classroom of students that they’d greatly disappointed me. There’d been only a few of them who’d actually followed the written instructions, a novel concept. It wasn’t that the ones who didn’t couldn’t understand. It was all out of pure apathy and procrastination. I gave them all my standard midterm chastising, letting them know I wouldn’t hesitate to fail them out of the course should I ever see that sort of sloppiness, that carelessness, ever again. I told them since I am, essentially, a gatekeeper of sorts, I am obliged to make certain they are more than ready for the next required English course, and if they are not, they WILL remain in the course until they are, if they are. They all hate hearing that, but I realize I must play one of two extremes in order to get their full attention: Nutty Lady Who Makes Fun of Herself or Mean Hag They Will Destroy on the Twittersphere.
Because it drains me to be so harsh with them, I have to find my kindness again. I recently started doing something that brings me back momentarily from the depression, the annoyance, the occasional disgust. Every once in awhile, when I’m in line in the cafeteria, I buy my lunch and the lunch of the random student standing in line behind me. I’ve treated about six or seven students so far. I don’t know how unethical this is, and I don’t particularly care. I don’t do this all the time, only when I’ve the extra cash to spare. When I am able to though, if it brightens someone’s day, I feel a bit better for the rest of the afternoon.
I think it makes up for the mean in me.