I am able to craft this entry because only 10 of 22 students came to class this morning, so I’ve given them busywork. We’re in the 9th week of 12. I’m beyond frustrated with this group, and there’s seemingly nothing I can do to motivate them anymore. Attendance keeps dropping, grades keep dropping. I don’t understand why, considering I’ve even lightened up the workload.
This is the most frustrating teaching experience I’ve had to date. I know I joke about it, I post crazy things on Facebook, but the truth of the matter is, I find this infuriating. I find it infuriating, mostly because I don’t understand the problem. I know that many of these students have come from difficult backgrounds, or school systems that haven’t held them accountable for anything. I know all of the “answers”. What I don’t know is how to fix it. I’m tired of hearing that I can’t fix years of habit in 12 weeks. So what am I supposed to do, then? Give up? Right now, I really want to. I want to tell them they are wasting my time and theirs. I’ve tried good cop/bad cop. I’ve tried sympathy. I’ve tried incentive, bribery… Now, I’m just trying to ride out the rest of the semester.
It also makes me crazy that they seemingly don’t care. The ones who are here today can tell I’m not happy. The assignment I gave them is based on the reading they were supposed to do over the break. Almost all of them are furiously trying to read those chapters in order to answer the questions. They think it’s funny. It’s like “oh shit, ha ha ha, I didn’t read.” About a month ago I made them a deal. I told them that if their grades improved in a month, I would drop their lowest assignment. I thought this might be incentive. I gave them two chances as a group and countless individual chances so far to make up missing work. Most of their grades got worse. When I mentioned this to the 10 who are sitting here today, that only two people managed to get their grades up, a few of them were snickering.
I don’t want to hear “just teach to those who want to learn.” I don’t want to hear “Well, you don’t have to go back next semester.” That isn’t the point. You can’t expect someone in my position to be okay with this kind of behavior or these solutions. No one should expect an educator to just lay down and accept mediocrity. Maybe that’s part of the larger problem. Maybe too many people in my position let them get away with this stuff. Dummy and water down the curriculum to inflate students’ grades and make them reflect more positively on the instructor/institution. I’m not willing to do that. It’s a lie. Academic integrity doesn’t only apply to students.
These are the times when it is so hard to do this job. I’ve had so few moments of brightness in this semester with this group. I just wish I understood what their problem is. I’ve asked. I’ve literally begged them to tell me what they need, what they expect. I am met with blank stares, indifference, smirks…
I don’t want to be told not to take this personally. I’m not taking it personally. I’m taking it professionally. If I stop caring, then I stop doing my job. I don’t know how to turn it off, and I don’t want to. I just hate living with this level of frustration every day when I’m supposed to be helping these students achieve a better life. But if they don’t want better, if they refuse to believe that there IS better, then what am I doing here?