My Beautiful Wickedness

Why April? (a prof perspective)
April 16, 2007, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

April is the most stressful month at any college. April is when all the first-year students figure out that they are going to flunk out for good. (November, it’s just probation. April is goodbye.) The second week of April is when all the projects are due. April is a huge break-up month — partly because of stress, partly because summer’s coming and who wants a lover that will be three states away for three months? April is bad weather that will not end if you are in the North or weather too fine to be trapped in a classroom if you’re in the South. April is one piece of bad news after another. If you’re applying to colleges, now you have to decide where you’re going to go and you’re getting rushed like a Grecian blonde at a Tri Delt kegger. If you’re graduating, you are having your exit interviews and you know exactly how much loan debt you will have to pay on that job you don’t have yet. If you’re in grad school, you’re either trying to file your paperwork to leave or you know it’s not going to happen again this year. If you’re on the job market and the telephone hasn’t rung, it’s not going to ring this year and you know it. If you’ve scored a job, you’re stressing about moving. There’s more grading. Tempers are short. Meetings are longer and more frequent. My tests personally kill more grandparents in April than in any other month of the school year. (6 and counting — I only have 50 students this term, so an astounding 6% of grandparents have croaked in a single month. But that is probably verging into another post titled “Bridgett, Granny Slayer”.) The last two weeks of April are one long slow-motion headlong fall for everyone. It’s like Mark falling into the hat at the beginning of Lidsville, only maybe a little less trippy.

So I guess I’m not surprised when a kid flips out in April, though clearly the magnitude of the violence was horrifying. I was giving a test when it happened, a test that roughly a third of my class is going to fail because they didn’t read the assigned book. I will hand them back and some kids will be pissed off. For several of them, failing this test will mean failing my class and possibly flunking out of school. I like my students (even those that don’t read well have other points in their favor) and I trust them not to gun me down for giving them the grades they merit. I think I do a good job of telling them that a test is not the same as a life and that it doesn’t measure one’s human possibilities. But still…

Edited to add: Go read what Kat has to say about college life.

Enough sadness. Some goofy escapism. The Lidsville visual referred to above kicks in around 1:05 of the clip below.


6 Comments so far
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Funny. I should have read this before I wrote my thing early this morning. It adds a good “Prof perspective” on the college-flip-out issue.

Comment by Katherine Coble

[…] Update: After I hammered this out, I surfed over to bridgett’s world. Check out what she has to say about all of this from a Prof’s perspective. […]

Pingback by College « Just Another Pretty Farce

We took great advantage of the tradtional midnight primal scream to burn off stress where I went to school. It was eerie if you forgot it was midnight while you were walking back from the library and suddenly a howl from the sixth circle of hell began to fall from dorm windows and bounce off the buildings.

But I’ll always take that over gunfire.

Comment by CeeElCee

That’s very true and thank you for that perspective.

I think the toughest times when I was in college was always the week between Thanksgiving and Christmas Breaks. Our schedules were set up in such a way that we’d get back from Thanksgiving break, have one week of classes, exam week, then Christmas break. That one week of classes was known as hell week because it’s when all the big papers/projects/presentations were do and it seemed to be when the professors realized they hadn’t moved through the material at quite the speed they had intended and so they crammed all the extra material they wanted to get into the semester into that one week.

Comment by dolphin

Bridgett, I knew a Jesuit who used to tell students that if they had sick/dead grandparents, he wanted to know the hospital/funeral home so he could visit.

Then there was the time a grandparent really did die suddenly…. I went into the department office early one morning during finals (though, come to think of it, it was December and not April) and the secretary said someone had just called to say that a student wouldn’t be taking a final that morning because his grandfather had died suddenly the night before. (Obviously, she fielded calls like this pretty often.) She told the caller that she would tell the professor, but that it wasn’t likely that she would reach him before the exam, and it would be his decision whether or not to allow the student to make it up. So she asked the name, and it was the grandson of a mob boss who had been murdered the night before.

Comment by nm

Funny story!

I’m usually pretty sympathetic. Two out of four of my grandparents really did die in my freshman year. A third died in my sophmore year. And if someone is so unprepared that he or she is willing to tell such an enormously personal, pitiful lie…well, they need the extra day. But I am totally inflexible on giving make-ups. These happen at my convenience, once per test, be there or do without. If we had teaching assistants who might proctor, that would be another matter, but I can’t come in at 5:15 on a Thursday because it happens not to conflict with “work and cheerleading” (in the infamous words of a student who got the stinkeye about priorities in the wake of the death of her grandparent).

Comment by bridgett

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