Student #1: Can you just tell me exactly what to write on this paper so that I can get an A?
Me: No. You won't learn anything that way.
Student #1: But I'd have an A, so...
Me: I said no.
Student #2: Can you look over my works cited page and tell me if I did it right?
Me: There are some mistakes, so you'll need to revise them.
Student #2: Can't you just tell me how to correct them?
Me: No. I went over citations in class. I showed you how to find the information online, and it's also in the textbook.
Student #2: What if I just e-mail you at least three of my citations, and then I'll just correct the last one myself?
Me: Seriously, just look in the textbook. (rummages around in my bookbag for the bottle of aspirin I always bring to school)
Student #3: Could I set up an appointment with you to discuss my paper?
Me: No, I've already met with you twice to discuss your paper. If I meet with you a third time to discuss that same paper, it'll be like we're writing it together.
Student: But I can't figure it out by myself.
Me: As a student, it's your job to figure some of these things out for yourself. As the teacher, there's only so much I can do.
Student #3: How about I e-mail you my draft, and then you tell me what I should fix?
Me: No. Or as they say in Spain, no!
Meeting with students during my office hours is part of my job. And it is good to meet with students to find out what they're struggling with; it's better I know that now rather than when I'm grading their papers. What's not so good is when I have to set aside twelve (or more) extra office hours (in addition to my regular hours), as I've been doing almost every week since I came here, in order to accommodate all the students who want to meet with me. That means far fewer hours for grading, making lesson plans, research, and my website job, which is why I've had to stay up late almost every night to get all my work done.
At first I thought that I was the problem. I thought that maybe they kept coming to me for help because I wasn't getting through to them in the classroom. But dozens of appointments later (many of them with the same students over and over), I've realized that too many of these students want me to do the majority of the thinking, correcting, and revising for them, and all they have to do is fill in the blanks. I refuse to do that for them because I really want them to learn, and it's frustrating.
I can't keep going on like this. Because of my two jobs, I'm still working months at a time without a day off, and if I keep going at this rate, I'll have a heart attack before I turn forty from all the stress, or maybe just from all the coffee.
I've started being more firm with my students and setting more limits with my office hours. I will continue to be there for my students as much as I can, but I've finally started to realize that it's okay for me to say no sometimes, especially for the sake of my own health and sanity (and also because otherwise, I might start hitting myself with a chalkboard eraser during class and shrieking). I want to have more of a life outside of work, and that won't be possible if I keep saying yes every single time someone tries to get me to do extra work.
What about you? Do people at your job ever try to get you to do more work for their sake? Do you have a hard time saying no to them or in general?
Weekly New York Minutes #22 - Every Friday (but this week delayed until Sunday!) I feature some fleeting moments from my week that made me stop… The post Weekly New York Minutes #22 a...
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