I am really struggling with how needy my students are, and how to try to set boundaries with them, and how to try to teach them what behavior is appropriate, when I'm just utterly exhausted by the whole thing. I don't remember my students being this way - or maybe, to this extent - at my former institution. It's wearing me down to the point that I'm seriously reconsidering if being a college professor is what I really want to do with my life, when before I've always been convinced that this is my Life Calling.
I write policies in my syllabus, and they still come to me and ask. I don't allow makeups on quizzes. It says so, they see that I don't let other students do it. But still they come and ask, and force me to say no. It seems innocuous. They try, hoping maybe I'll give in once. What's the harm? But when you have 100 students, and you end up having to say no 100 times, it's bothersome.
I explain to students that I have 10 minutes between lecture and lab. This is not enough time to erase the board, shut down the Powerpoint and eject my thumb drive, and make it to the lab in time to begin there if I also have to answer questions. I can understand you don't want to hang around for office hours. I understand it's "easier". But when I'm trying to focus on what I'm doing, and you ask me an
But these things make me feel bad.
A student comes up saying "hey, my kid is sick, can I have your permission to stay for Wednesday's lab instead of today?" It shouldn't be a problem for me. Am I letting them do it or not? If I don't, I feel like I'm being unreasonable. But what if it's a lab exam, and I say yes, then I end up with 10 of them making excuses and asking the same question. Do I say yes to a person whose kid is sick, when I've been there too? Or do I say no because it's not one individual person. Do I use them as "an example" so the rest of them don't ask? And feel guilt in my heart about it? (Hint: don't ask me in front of the whole class and it changes my dilemma.)
It's not that the request is unreasonable. It's just that there's one of me, and 100 of them, and if I let them, I'll die a slow painful death one bite at a time.
From a student's perspective - what's 10 minutes of a professor's time? From the professor's perspective: that's 17 extra hours a week if every one of my students wants 10 minutes of my time.
From a student's perspective - she's got a kid, she should understand. From the professor's perspective - (a) I can accommodate no more than 2 or 3 makeups in the second lab exam. Who do I choose? The first three that come to me, the three with the best stories, the three that are crying, the three that sound reasonable, the three that are making good grades, the three that I trust? And (b) all of this is taking time. And usually time between lecture and lab when I don't have time to make these evaluations. (Again, if you're in this situation, EMAIL is better.)
So I either say yes to that-and-all-the-other-requests-that-follow, which creates a logistical problem to be solved in the second lab exam with too many people, or I say no and feel bad about it.
And that's the root of it. I can enforce policy with the best of them. Then I feel like a heartless bitch. But the first exception I make, and it snowballs.
Tenure plays into the thought process, although I don't like to admit that. I'm up for tenure and promotion to Full Professor in two and a half years. I need student evaluations that show excellence in teaching. Every moment, I'm wondering if I piss off this student, will they write a bad evaluation. If I enforce my policies effectively, will my evaluations say that I'm a heartless bitch. If I say yes to this student, and make endless accommodations for them, will my evaluations reflect that I'm an understanding teacher?
It's endless. "Are you going to give a study guide? How many questions are going to be on the test? Can you tell me what I need to get on the final to pass your class? Are you going to give a study guide? How much is each question going to be worth on the lab final? Will there be extra credit?"
Little bites. Tiny bites. By this point in the semester, there is nothing of me left. And I have two weeks to go.
Notice I'm not complaining about the number of students showing up to ask questions about content, or legitimate course questions. Noone is asking "hey, can you help me understand hydrogen bonds here" they're asking "can you let me take a test late" or "are all the slides from the whole semester going to be on the cumulative lab final." (Side note: I have never met a group of people this large that all seemed confused on the definition of "cumulative/comprehensive lab final". That's a separate rant.)
I am actually looking for suggestions. Any professors have effective strategies for the Death By 1000 Questions problem? Anyone else have thoughts on how I can effectively answer or deflect inappropriate or inappropriately timed questions. Hint: mentioning repeatedly that I don't really have time to answer questions between lecture and lab only quells the onslaught for a class or two. I've tried that one. Also, yes it's in my syllabus, yes I've explained why, yes I've been late to lab and cut time off their lab quiz because of it.
Keeping in mind that I do want get tenure in 2013, rather than a terminal contract. I think.