My students are, officially, wigging. Today I met with five students, and when I say “met with” I don’t mean I had a revolving door during my one scheduled office hour – I mean I met with them, in time that added up to about four hours (I schedule 4 office hours total a week: this week I did about twice that between Monday, Tuesday, and today). I barely was able to eat lunch today (and ultimately had to scarf it down during the student meetings). This was on top of teaching three courses today – three different preps – for time totaling 3 hours and 45 minutes. And then I had to go to this drinks and heavy appetizers reception, related to grant-seeking, even though it was doing the winter rain/sleet thing outside, and all I wanted to do was to go home and curl up into a ball and moan. It was a long day.
It is worth noting that these were not mandatory meetings with students. Nope, they were at the students’ requests. And it’s also the case that I’ve met with probably 8 or so other students over the past week in the same circumstances – they just wanted to meet with me. So have I far exceeded my listed contact hours outside of class. Yes I have. And it’s only freaking October. And the reception thing… in theory I could not have shown up, but it was a grants thing, by invitation only to those who had submitted grant applications in the last year, and I am one of the only people in the humanities (if not the only one) who actually applied for a grant last year, so I couldn’t bail on it. People needed to see a humanities person there, and I was it.
So I’m exhausted, and I’ve had a little wine, so this post is likely to be a bit rambling, but I have some things to say.
First of all, exhausted as I am, I like the fact that my students come to see me. Sure, they do that partly because I scare the hell out of them, and I’m tough. But they also show up at my office because they know that I am there to help, that I want them to learn. And I’d much rather have a line of students waiting to see me then to have the Office Hours Wasteland that some of my colleagues complain about, and which I consistently fail to understand. I mean, dude, my students won’t leave me alone, and so I don’t understand the option that faculty would sit around during their office hours with no students. (Funny aside: on Tuesday, a former student of mine, who is now the “student worker” in our department, came by to ask if she could post a sign outside my office door about a department event because “your office seems to get a lot of traffic.” Yes, yes it does.)
Today’s meetings with students were especially grueling for two reasons. 1) During a few of them, a group of my colleagues were yucking it up outside my office, which, yay for collegiality, but our hallway is about 18 inches wide and if you’re right outside my office bloviating and cackling, I can’t do my job effectively, and ultimately I had to close my office door, which for a host of reasons – all authorized by HR sorts of things about safety and sexual harrassment – I don’t prefer to do, but my students couldn’t actually HEAR me (and I have a loud voice) over the collegiality, so. Sure, I could have told them to shut up, except I couldn’t do that without being all, “I think collegiality is stupid,” which would not have been well received. 2) I had my first crying student of the semester, and damn, that’s draining. (Note students cry every semester, and I get why it happens and I’m cool with it, but I don’t like it. Students crying make ME feel like crying, and that is not productive.) I did all the things you should do with a crying student – referring them to counseling, giving advice about strategizing for success, etc. – but having a person cry at you is draining, no matter how many things you do that are the things that you should do and no matter how normal the breaking down is.
The reception was… awful. I was the ONE humanities person there who wasn’t there as an administrator, which was actually the reason I had to go on this cold and dreary night, to demonstrate that humanities people really do seek grants, however small, and it was good that I was there for that reason, in that I was the ONE humanities person who is an active grant-seeker, but WOW how much does that suck that I am the one and only? (To be fair: there are a handful, out of dozens if not hundreds, of other people who are actively trying, but they didn’t submit applications last year, so they weren’t invited to this shindig, so if I hadn’t gone, there would have been no representation.) Did I manage the reception in spite of my exhaustion? Yes. I’ve got lots of friends in the sciences and amongst administration, from all of the ridiculous committee work I’ve done across the university, so it was ok that I was the token humanities person. But on the whole? It sucked.
And I am exhausted. And I wonder why I do all the things I do – grant applications, research, committee work, pushing my students to the extent that they beg to meet with me, teaching 11 different courses in my two year rotation – when so many people do so much less.