There has been more than one instance where I wanted to quit teaching. There was the day a student, who had been disrespectful to me for weeks, nearly drove me to tears in front of all my students. There was the time another student screamed at me (it got so bad that male instructors who were nearby tried to intervene to make him calm down) because I didn't give him the grade he thought he "deserved". There are also the days when I struggle with my dissertation and the less-than-positive feedback from my committee. I know that if I can't make it as a scholar, I cannot continue being a college teacher; professors are teachers AND scholars.
On days like those, I find myself thinking, Maybe I should quit. I'll drop out of graduate school, give up teaching, and pursue a different career, like professional wrestling. I also occasionally think, If I give up teaching, maybe then I can get a large tattoo that says, I eat scholars for breakfast.
But even after everything I've been through and even after all the sacrifices I've had to make, I still can't bring myself to quit. When I was on campus to teach the other day, I looked at the undergrads chatting with each other as they walked to class. I went into my classroom, looked at my students, and thought, This is where I want to be. This is still what I want.
Teaching is the one job I've ever had that I am truly good at (though I know I still have a lot to learn), and it's the one job that I can see myself doing until I get too old to work (other than writing, of course). (But I'm hoping that by the time I get old, they'll come up with some kind of "workaholic serum" that allows old workaholics to continue working, so that we don't have to - gasp! - retire. Because what would I do when I retire? Spend the rest of my life not working? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Why not just take chocolate away from me, while you're at it? Why not just make me move in with Joan and Melissa Rivers, too?)
The connections that I've made with some of my students are also why I don't want to quit teaching. When I taught high school students, several of them confided in me about how they were bullied by other students or showed me the poems and stories that they had written for fun, which they hadn't shown to anyone else. It touched me that they trusted me like that, and it made me try to do everything I could to help them.
A lot of college students are less open about their feelings than the younger students were, but some of them have confided in me about their dreams for their future. Several of them have come to me to talk about the books that we're studying, and they often bring up questions and issues that I hadn't even considered. They talk enthusiastically about the characters as if they're real people, which shows that the books have come to mean something to them. And that gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that I helped them to recognize the value of literature, and it also makes me proud that they developed their own insight.
Recently, a former graduate student sued her school because she received a C-plus in one of her classes. She demanded an apology from her professor and that her grade be changed to a B. She also demanded more than a million dollars, because she claimed that that low grade kept her from completing her degree; the money was what she would have earned from her career as a - wait for it - therapist.
Never mind that she had gotten free tuition because of her father's job as a professor at that school, and never mind that she got another graduate degree and found a job in a different field. She claimed that she had been discriminated against and graded unfairly. It apparently didn't even occur to her that her grade may have actually been based on her own work and her own mistakes.
When I heard about this lawsuit, it made me think of the students who have blamed me for their bad grades, though none of them have sued me, thank God. If this student won this lawsuit, it would have set a dangerous precedent; then any of my students could sue me for giving them grades that they didn't "deserve". Every time a student complains about his or her grade and blames it on me rather than his or her own mistakes (it doesn't happen to me that often, because not all the students are like this, but it happens), I lose a little faith in teaching; it makes me wonder whether these students see me as just a grade distributor or an educator.
The judge ruled against this student, and her grade remained a C-plus. When I heard that she lost, my first reaction was to march up and down the street singing Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" song.
I also wanted to thumb my nose at her and say, "Maybe next time you'll realize that you have to earn your grades! Ha!" I know I shouldn't take pleasure in other people's losses, but I couldn't help myself this time.
The judge's ruling made me think that maybe people do realize that educators' jobs are important, and that they really are qualified to make judgments on students' work. It made me see that for once, the educators won, which was refreshing after reading so many articles that blame the teachers (though I do acknowledge that there are teachers out there who shouldn't be teaching) for everything the students do wrong. Reading about the judge's ruling also came at a good time for me, because I recently read an article about a professional basketball player who was paid more for playing one game than I (or any other teacher, for that matter) would have earned in several years.
What about you? What keeps you from giving up on your work, whether it be your day job, your writing, or anything else that you're passionate about?
My Boyfriend Is Gonna KILT Me - I am so looking forward to summer. To rooftop bars, outdoor movie screenings, beach days. To gin and tonics and mojitos becoming my drinks of choice. To bl...
5 hours ago