Now, like everyone, I've got a cache full of awful stories. A quick bullet-point-list:
- There's the young man who left threatening messages on my car, physically blocked me into an office and indirectly threatened my life, while filling me in on his ongoing accessory-to-murder trial.
- There's that young woman who called me a Nazi and stalked out of the final meeting.
- There was that strange man who reported to my superiors that he couldn't learn from me because I was "goth." This oddball claim was based on my fondness for black clothes. He reported it to my superiors who were, on that day, also all in black.
- There have been all those who go missing at the halfway point, and then turn back up the final week, angry that they cannot drop and are not longer able to pass the class.
- There are all the many students who turn in half of a final paper, or less, and then complain that they didn't pass and it's all so terribly UNFAIR.
You know, the usual.
But, this semester, I think the worst of it has really been me. I've been having one of the most absurdly complex semesters I can imagine. At the start of the term, my best friend of several decades died at 40. In September, I delivered a project to the city government--a first for me, and one which ate up my energy and attention for weeks. In October, I was hit by a car while running my dog. A few weeks later, my sister eloped with a man none of us knew, and who we later learned has both cancer and two strikes. Then, my mother died. That was two weeks ago.
To say I've been distracted would be kind.
In this case, I think that the nightmare scenario is just having life go haywire, and trying to do my job. I want to be here for my students; I want to provide them with guidance, information, and a safe space in which to build their skills and find their voices.
I also just want a damn nap, and maybe a few margaritas. Finding balance is a struggle.
I do not currently have the answers. I have never had the answer to the awful-student question, other than commiseration and frequent low-level ingestion of fermented grapes (or agave). But, in lieu of answer, I offer you one more worst-case-scenario:
Yesterday, one of my students informed me that they couldn't complete their final paper because they couldn't reach out to me or seek any assistance or do any work on it because they were...wait for it...too upset about my mother's death.
I think that one is my new horror story. It even beats the indirect death threat for "NO YOU DIDN'T" factor.
Happy holidays, everyone. Maybe next year, we'll all be brilliant, our students will all be highly prepared and eagerly involved, and we'll get pay raises commensurate with what any of us could make as bartenders. I think I'll prepare for it by making some margaritas.