Ah, yes: the end of the semester. It's always such a heady time. Combative students are all of a sudden compliant and friendly, even. They ask for their grade sweetly, gently, apologetically, sensing (not irrationally) that one misstep now could send their C- plummeting south to "D" territory.
It is a lame, lame, lamer-than lame time for any teacher--the end of the semester. Like your students, you can taste the sweet relief of a single day off... Just one! Or TWO! Or--OMG--THREE! And that promise makes focusing all the more difficult.
Compounding the mental stress of making it through intact is the real stress of getting beloved and struggling students through, intact. For composition teachers whose students have a proficiency exam to reckon with, the end of the semester is a terrible time, indeed, and yet we are expected to hold it all together for our kids--all however many of them--as if we are superhuman (or inhuman, really.) It's rough, and I don't want to hear any tiny violins because it is, dammit. It is.
So today I am in my office, staring at this pile, realizing how bad off some of my most beloved students are, when I hear a French teacher from down the hall cry, "What is my grade? What is my GRA-ADE?!" She was mocking her students, who, during finals, are less present on the faculty hallways--more focused, more determined, more on the ball than they have been (in spite of our many admonitions) but then, of course, simultaneously more concerned about their progress than they have been all semester. Another hall mate responded, "You'd better tell them or they may just shoot you!"
Her colleague was referring to a proposed Louisiana state bill that recently made it one step closer to passage. That bill, House Bill 199, would allow all Louisiana college students 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon to class. And, sadly--although not unexpectedly--there are many Louisiana (ahem) sportsmen who think this bill is sweet as sweetness can ever sweetly be. And I mean, there are many of them. It is vomitous.
I would like to go on the record, as a faculty member at a major Louisiana State University:
If this bill is passed, it will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for me to rationalize staying at my pathetically-salaried position. I would just come right out and say, "If this passes, I'm out of here," but we've got a mortgage to pay, and one must be real. Still... guns in the classroom?!?! And sanctioned by the proverbial principal? Pshaw! I just can't see how I could do it. How could I teach knowing that my students are packing? How could I do my job? How could I assess my students--give them the grades that the standards warrant--knowing what I know about their widespread inability to accept responsibility for that grade--knowing what I know about teacher-blame and teacher-targeting and the supposed "subjective" quality of writing assessment. (Don't get me started...)
I mean, my job is tough as fuck (and Mom, lord knows I try not to cuss on this blog, but fuck! My students carrying GUNS to class?! And my employer SANCTIONING IT?!?!? FUUUUUUCCCKKKK!!!)
Right now, I need sleep so that I can grade papers fairly, be supportive, and not see my students as potential killers as I award them the grades that they earned.
What I do know: we are one angry nation, and an angrier state, and an even more seriously angry city, and I see evidence of this anger in my students' responses to me (I have a file... trust me... it's scary.) And until I have seen evidence that my students are able to handle their anger rationally (fuck: I know I can't!) I just will. not. sleep. easy. knowing that Bill 199 is out there.