Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Trapped in a Zombie Nightmare

It’s getting close to semester’s end here. And close to graduation. Some seniors are starting to panic; everyone is a little tense, including faculty members who hate this time of year when some students try to make up in a week for a semester of laziness. I had a sudden vision today of being trapped in a zombie movie, but instead of zombies stumbling around after “brains, brains,” it was students scrambling after “grades, grades.” Such students are a lot faster than the typical zombie, too. And they know how to use telephones and email.

I always have to remind myself that most students do what they need to do. Most haven’t waited until the last minute, or they got their shit together anyway. I’ve got many good students. For my Comparative Psych class this year I had students keep journals of observations on the animals they saw. Almost everyone did a good job, and I think some even had fun. Unfortunately, it’s often the problem students who make the biggest impression. And their crazy expectations!

One student handed in their journal this morning, two days late, and by 1:00 had already come to see if I had graded it. Seems you wouldn't want to harass the teacher over a grade for something that you missed the deadline on and are hoping they’ll be kind enough to look at anyway. Another of our 280 or so majors emailed me to see if I had a copy of their “FEP.” That was it, the whole email. It took a couple of exchanges before I learned that they'd sent an FEP page with their resume for a recommendation letter.

Of course, students don’t realize how many other students a teacher will work with. I’ve done at least 30 letters of recommendation in the past two months. I’m not likely to remember every sheet of paper sent to me, especially since I’d done this recommendation in early March. Honestly, though, I see faculty members do the same thing on occasion. I get emails assuming that I'll remember off the top of my head something about a faculty study submitted to my Review Committee months before, as if I’ve only had the one instead of the thirty I average a month.

Well, this post has rambled nowhere, but that’s partly because I’ve been grading, and meeting with committees, and writing letters, and grading, and responding to tearful phone calls, and grading like a banshee, and sleep is only a misty, half remembered dream. Makes me pretty close to a zombie myself. And, yeah, tomorrow I get a truckload of new papers to grade. I likely won’t post again until the weekend, and then won’t post at all the first three days of next week when the grading actually intensifies. I’ll try to get around to some blogs each day—-as a needed break—-but won’t be regular for a bit.

See you on the other side. Unless I get dragged down and eaten. Of course, I might see you anyway in that case. I might show up on your doorstep moaning for "grades, grades." Just shoot me in the head if I do. Don't make me suffer.



Lisa said...

You and I must be on some kind of tandem work nightmare ride! I was just taking a break from the heinous proposal I have to have to an east coast customer by the time they get in tomorrow. This is the time of year my federal government customers suddenly realize they have money to spend, but they need proposals and detailed project plans literally at the last minute so it's do or die.

Oy! Hope you make it to the other side and wish me luck I don't get taken down by a pack of government bureaucrats mumbling "do my job for me, do my job for me".

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Dude! I think they have eaten half of my brain out already! I hate this time of year. It is so frantic and panicky. They come at you, clawing, begging, crying, yelling, screaming. OH wait, those are my children. My students do everything but claw, at least not yet!

Heather said...

Oh, I don't know how you're feeling but wanted to say hang in there! It sucks to be overwhelmed by work :)

Rachel V. Olivier said...

Board up the windows and lock the doors. Ophelia reminded me that machetes work better than chainsaws because you don't need to have gas to operate them. I think Christina suggested heading for the hills.

the walking man said...


"piss poor preparation on your part does not delineate a priority on my part"

A standard answer for the late comers and C students who beg for a grade change. I know if nothing else, after years of practice Charles, you are a zombie killer. This is the time of year I feel for all of the college Professors I know...I feel for them to the point that it makes me glad I never educated, nor attempt to educate in that way.

Beer and a walk in the woods is better than blogging to relax for the moment, cya on the other side.



Sidney said...

Good luck. Unlike a zombie plague, I predict this has an end. You won't sail to a safe haven only to find it already infested or anything.

Reading your point that you have a lot of good students but... made me think there's probably a group in everyone's life and work that you could say that about.

For me it would be: "I know a lot of very cool doctors but there are one or two..."

laughingwolf said...

hmm [filler is ok here] the idea of being 'dragged down and eaten' has a lot of appeal! :O lol

but i promise to shoot you tween the eyes should you end up on my stoop, regardless...

g'luck w/the grading and other academic proclivities

Heff said...

Three words that would probably help you save some time and sanity - "Generic Recommendation Template" !

Shauna Roberts said...

What a nightmare! I'm sending my husband this post—he can SO relate.

Shauna Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
writtenwyrdd said...

Wow, Charles, that kind of work pile up sucks!

Rob Windstrel Watson said...

My son is struggling with his finals at Birmingham Uni in the UK but I've been on your end of things too in past lives.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of keeping batting the balls up in the air in the education industry.

Small consolation perhaps but the job you are doing is important to many people and, in the long run, probably remembered with appreciation by many.

For years after I moved out of further education, young men, women and parents were coming up to me with updates on their or their off-springs careers.

I hope they took my welcoming smiles and vague comments for recognition ...

If not, well I did my best :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Lisa, apparently the infection is spreading rapidly.

Ello, I keep praying for blessed summer.

H. E., yes, unable to do what you want to do because of piles of paperwork. Not fun.

Rachel, good point about the machetes. I'm buying one today.

Mark, saying that "Poor preparation" thing, which is accurate, still doesn't stop the tears.

Sidney, each year I fear that it WILL become permanent.

Laughingwolf, make sure you use a hollowpoint when you shoot me so there's no chance I'll walk again.

Heff, I actually have several of those, depending on the level that I'm recommending a student at. It does save time.

Shauna, ah, the joys of academe.

Bernita said...

They sound just like some authors that agents complain about!

Thank you, Charles, for your words of concern. He's rebounding quite well.

And oh, my prize arrived today!
Thank you again!

Josephine Damian said...

Charles: Just be glad I'm not your student. lol

With my forensic anthropology professor under investigation for criminal wrong doing - her grad students ratted her out, went to the police and rightly so (the medical examiner has already fired her and banished her from the MEO), with my grad school mentor and advisor announcing his sabbatical (leaving a whole bunch of thesis writing forensic psychology grad students to twist in the breeze - including me), and this semester's forensic dentist prof too busy traveling, doing training seminars for the FBI so that he rarely even came to class - well, I'm not feeling particularly charitable toward profs these days - well, at least not mine.

I'm convinced my forensics profs started a master's degree in order to create grad students to have someone qualified to pass off their undergrad papers and tests to grade, so that they don't have to.

But seriously... letters of rec? My profs say: Write it yourself and if I agree, I'll sign it. I've done it a few times and it really forced me to make an honest assessment of myself. Plus it's less work for the prof having the student write it!

Late with course work? My prof's say, unless you or someone close to you is dead, it's one point off for every day late, no exceptions, no excuses.

Josephine Damian said...

PS: Charles, I used to date a college prof (Engligh Lit, of course) who gave it all up to have a successful plant nursery.

He'd tell people: I'm a recovering academic! (comparing himself to I'm a recovering alcoholic concept) lol

Just noticed you don't take anon. comments. I sure don't, not anymore. I wish those agent bloggers would also ban anon. comments - keep the trolls at bay.

virtualjourney said...

Black comedy. Phew....all the best with this, and hope you and lana get to enjoy a really decent break on the far side of it.

I'm in the process of moving over to WordPress, which has some features which make it more manageable for me. Posting in categories is a bonus by bringing unsolicited interest.

I've enjoyed being on blogger - great crowd of people, and I'm hoping to keep a foothold here for the time being.

Tyhitia Green said...

LOL. "Grades, grades." Too funny. My cousin is a professor too. I've heard the stories. :*) At least you'll get a break afterwards.

Sarai said...

This cracks me up. I remember those college days but dang I never bothered the professor about grades. Maybe b/c I was one of those straight A's students who just didn't worry???
I work as a legal assistant and it amazes me how many clients will call and just start asking me for things? Um sorry I have close to 75 case working right now all different be a little more specific and of course tell me who you are? It's almost over!

steve on the slow train said...

Sadly, I was one of those zombies back in the early 1970s. I reformed only after I got married--and even then, there were some lapses. I did learn to drop any course that required keeping a journal. That was just coming into vogue when I was at college, but it seems to be pretty much standard now. My son at high school has to keep journals for a few classes. I can understand the point of keeping a journal in your class, since it's a form of scientific observation, but history classes are another matter.

Britta Coleman said...

Charles, sorry about the workload. As someone on the flip side (working on my Masters) it was enlightening, and frightening, to see your perspective. Hang in there, man, and we'll see you in a few.

I'm off to work on my three portfolios, due in two weeks...aaaggghhh.

"Grades, grades..."

Lana Gramlich said...

*Kicks blogger for losing her original comment.* Stop driving yourself crazy, baby. Cut off the letters of rec & any other, unnecessary, extraneous things. Make your life easier. If you don't, no one else will. *huggles & love.*

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

Hang in there, buddy! I'm so tired of the school year, I could weep openly. Here's to summer soon!

Steve Malley said...

I'll spare a thought for you, Charles, as I slog my way through the horrors of my three-day, fifteen-hour workweek.

Danette Haworth said...

Ha! Poor Charles! See you on the other side (if you survive).

Travis Cody said...

I can't remember how to defeat zombies! Is it fire? Chopping them into little bits?

Good luck with the grading!

X. Dell said...

I taught at the university for over twelve years, and am about to go back into it. So I've shared your zombie vision.

The recommendations I never minded. The politicking and negotiating for grades, however, really dug into me. Back when I taught, there really wasn't that much of a difference between an 'A' and a 'B.' A 'B' every now and then wouldn't keep anyone out of grad school or a decent job. I hear, though, that things have changed in this respect.

Then again, there's this whole subject of grade inflation, which sounds fine and dandy until you realize that your students are competing with more well-heeled students from other universities where grades could be bought in a number of different ways.

What gets us as teachers, I suspect, is that students often feel that the grade is the purpose of the class, not the learning that goes into--i.e., what the grade is supposed to reflect.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernita, glad your hubby is doing better and that your prize arrived. Yeah for both.

Josephine, wow, some rather weird profs you've got there. Doesn't sound like they're really doing their job, and I know there are some profs at my university who don't halfway hold classes, and it's just as ridiculous. As for letting students write their letters? I think that could only work with grad students but I'd still never do that. If I could be a successful writer I'd give up the academic life myself.

Julie, I hope we'll still be able to access your stuff.

Demon hunter, I'm looking forward to the break for sure.

Sarai, I guess there are people everywhere and in all walks who behave this way. Kind of scary.

Steve, I don't typically have students keep journals but this one is particularly relevant to their studies, and in a way it also helps a lot with their grade if they take it at all seriously.

Britta, But see, you're actually working on your portfolios so you're doing what you're supposed to do.

Lana, I know I should, but I feel like it's my job.

Michelle, indeed. Weep, or strangle someone. I'm still undecided.

Steve Malley, you are a cruel, cruel man.

Danette, I've lived through over two decades of it so I'll probably live through this one.

Travis, Giving them all "As" would help but I find that pretty hard to do.

Charles Gramlich said...

X-Dell, we must have been posting at the same time. The main thing that bothers me about recommendations is that students seldom give you much lead time before asking for them. A few "Bs" still won't keep you out of grad or med school but students are convinced they will.

the walking man said...

Education is a business so where are there tears in business except in piss poor preparation...{;P softy.

Whoops, do you so openly show your kind heart to your students?



laughingwolf said...

no need, bro, i finish off the procedure with a swift shinken cut across the back of the neck! :O Lol

Chris Eldin said...

And I always thought professors threw the pile of papers in the air, then graded based on which way they fell....

Good luck with end of term/year stuff.

WH said...

I've "been there." This is a crazy time of year. The trade-off for academic freedom. Go in peace, brother :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, I'm afraid I'm sometimes known as a soft touch.

Laughingwolf, you are indeed too kind. ;)

Christine Eldin, I have so been tempted.

Billy, It's just nose to the grindstone time.

Erik Donald France said...

Good luck, man. Nightmare, indeed.

I'll be dealing with similar in about a week. Break out the crucifix and holy water and hope for the best.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I've had students/prisoners come in late and demand that I give them a pencil and paper. I deliberately ignore them, and when they make an issue out of it, I respond, "You came in late and expect me to be on time. Ain't gonna happen."

laughingwolf said...

hey, what buds do! ;) lol

Monique said...

How do you do it? I would have gone crazy by now.

Anyway, good luck and see you later

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, take some hip waders as well to keep your shoes out of the....

J.R. yeah, but your students don't have access to your car.

Laughingwolf, lol indeed.

Monique, I was close to going crazy last night adn finally decided to stop for the night and watch a movie.

Miladysa said...

Take care - any holidays coming up?

RK Sterling said...

Aw, Charles, I feel your pain. Hope it gets better soon.