The world fell on me today, as I had the mother of all bad Mondays. There’s nothing interesting about someone’s bad day, except this particularly egregious fact: I lost a student’s paper. An in-class exam, in fact, so there’s no copy saved on a computer somewhere. I felt like the biggest fraud. Here I am telling them I’m some kind of teacher, when in fact I slept through a class of my own that morning and then lost one of their papers. I feel like a high school student in a class full of grownups.
I think there’s a solution, one recommended by my friend Glenn: I did get to take a look at the student’s notes for the in-class, so I can tell him that I’m willing to give him a good grade based on those unless he wants to take the test again for my comments. And the day looks less terrible now that it’s in the rear-view mirror. But the problem with grad school is, when a bad day is over, I’m not off the hook. Sure I survived the immediate crisis–an essay and a presentation today–but I’ve got another presentation on Friday, and an abstract due Monday, and my final papers due in three weeks, and I’ve done fuck-all on all of them. So if I want to relax I can only due it by ignoring the facts and selling out my self of tomorrow or next week.
Yes, yes, I knew it was going to be hard. Yes, this is what I want to do with my life. But only because of two saving graces: summer breaks, and tenure. If I can make it out of here without an ulcer, I’ll count myself on the right track.
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I do have one redemptive teaching milestone to mention (and even this is sort of macabre): I had my first Dead Grandmother of my teaching career. It happened over the weekend, on Sunday evening to be precise: a student e-mailed me to say that her grandmother had died, and so she wouldn’t be able to complete a homework assignment and might not be able to make it to class. (She did, as a matter of fact.)
I am suspending my disbelief as much as I can, because it’s not fair to doubt her without good reason. And it’s not like this was a major assignment. Still, I can’t help but be skeptical. Using a dead grandmother as an excuse for missing a test or assignment is like getting out of sex because of a headache, or saying that you have this friend who needs information about herpes. Sure, it’s possible you’re telling the truth, but that doesn’t matter–the excuse has become so cliche as to be a parody of itself, just a notch above a homework-eating dog. (Look here for some research on the subject.)
Anyway, genuine or not, I’m starting a tally. No, better yet: I’m going to play Excuses Bingo. I’ve marked off Dead Grandmother, and I’ve already had Car Trouble and Indeterminate Disease; I just need Traffic Jam, Computer Crash, and Didn’t You Get My E-Mail, and I’ll have the row.