28 May 2010


I didn't go to commencement after all.  I wasn't feeling welll when I woke up today.  It wasn't dread or anxiety:  It was an actual physical ailment.  To be precise, I felt woozy, even a little tipsy.  It seems that I have had a low-grade infection in my left ear:  the one in which my eardrum ruptured from another infection some years back. Since the infection is viral rather than bacterial, the doctor couldn't prescribe an antibiotic.  Even if he could have, he might have been reluctant (and I wouldn't have been thrilled, either), as I just finished a round of antibiotics for my vaginal infection, which has cleared up very nicely.

I wish I could have gone, if only because some of my students were scheduled to graduate.  On one hand, I'm happy to see them ascend to the podium, especially because some of them had to take such hard roads there.  Many of them are the first in their families to earn degrees.  I can well understand how they and their families feel, because I was the first in my family to earn a degree.  

On the other hand, though, I'm sad to see them leave.  Of course, there always comes the day when one must leave, for whatever reasons. Still, it's hard not to feel a little sad when someone with whom you've developed a relationship in which you and that person feed off each other, at least intellectually, is leaving.  And, of course, I always hope that they'll be safe and well, especially if they've confided something or another to me.

If any of you want to teach at any level, listen to what I am about to say:  Students are the only reason to do it.  Any satisfaction you derive will be from what you and your students contribute to each other.  Everything else about being an educator, from the condition of most facilities to the low (at least in proportion to what you must do, and the time and resources you expend, to get the position) salaries, is very unattractive.  

Sometimes, though, I wonder what I am accomplishing when I teach.  I occasionally get the feeling that I'm helping to form personalities rather than to develop minds.  Sometimes I think that's the real goal of education.  Why else is there so much emphasis on class participation and group activity?  My current department chair, and others I've had before, have said that I should mandate participation by making it twenty percent (or some other significant portion) of the student's final grade.    

I actually did that for a time.  The result was always the same:  some chatterbox would make comments, no matter how irrelevant they were to the subject at hand, and expect to receive credit. 

Worst of all is that such a system is unfair to shy students.  What the powers-that-be want us to do is to make those shy kids talk more.  I am willing to help them, and any other students, achieve their goals.  

On the other hand, I think of that shy young man whom i mentioned in a previous post. What if I were to make him--or any other shy person--more ebullient.  What about the equally shy young woman in another of my classes?  I have not heard her in all the time I've known her.  But she is one of the most perceptive readers and most engaging writers I've seen. Would she lose some of that if she were to become a more outgoing person?

Oh well.  I probably won't get to see how either of them progresses.   But it's nice to know that they're graduating and moving on to other things.