Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Bad Students

Yes. I teach a super-basic English course. I teach you how to correctly put words into sentences, how to put sentences into paragraphs and how to put paragraphs into an essay. I've been doing this for a long time. Longer than you've been here, and I will probably still be doing it long after you've gone, whenever and however that may be. I work hard to make a very dry and usually boring subject somewhat interesting. I know you think this is a stupid, easy, fluff course, but you would not be in this class if you didn't need it. You took a test for placement and failed badly enough that you are mine. 

And so here we are. You on your side of the desk and me on mine. And guess what? No matter what, I win. For the time you are in my class, I am the most important person in your world. Or at least you should act that way. Why? Because teachers aren't stupid. When we're in the lab and you're tap-tapping away on your keyboard or clicking away at your mouse, I KNOW you aren't paying attention to me. And believe me, I know who you are and I will call you out on it. If you're sitting there, slack-jawed with your book closed next to you as I am lecturing about a chapter, I know it's not English you're thinking about. And it adds up. 

You start as a blank slate in my class. By the end of the first day of class, I have identified the students who are going to be most difficult. You know who you are. You are the student who thinks you're so damn wonderful that you can be all cute with the teacher and she'll fall all over herself to give you an A because you're just that amazing. If you think that, think again. Because, in conjunction with me being the most important person in your world while you are in my room, I also have little to no patience for your "cuteness". Your cuteness is not awesome, it is not amazing, and your winning personality will not get you an A. I don't care if you know this; I don't care if you don't want to do the assignment. If you want your grade, you have to earn it. You do not pay my salary. I earn it. You pay for the amazing opportunity to be in my class.

You are also the student who keeps a notebook of excuses. I'll let you in on a secret... I don't care if your dog's uncle's cat's brother ate your homework. I don't care if your car caught fire and burned all your books inside it. If you didn't call me, email me, or leave me a message, it's an excuse. And, if you do this at least once per class session, I probably don't believe you anymore. If you cared about my course, you'd find a way to make those excuses nonexistent. 

My patience is wearing thin. I've explained something just to have to re-explain it five minutes later because a student was doodling flowers in her notebook and is now lost, and I've done that 5 times in half an hour. When a "cute" student ignores me for the better part of a class only to interrupt me five times as I'm trying to explain the assignment, it makes me want to stab my eyes out with a pen. When I'm trying to explain a concept and a student full of excuses is interrupting me to answer a question on the lab assignment that they are doing instead of listening to me, it makes me want to unplug the computer and throw it through the window. Even worse, it causes a deep wellspring of pity for the students who do care and are trying to learn. Because while I am stuck with them for a month or two (or three), these guys will work with them in all their other courses.

I'm sorry, smart, conscientious students. I am sorry that there seems to be such a vast chasm between you and your peers. Do not fall into their trap. Do not think that because they passed, you do not need to work as hard as you do. Because, at the end of the day (or college career) you can come to me for a letter of recommendation and I will give it. I will not be "too busy" for you. If you need help understanding something in another course, I will be more than happy to sit down with you or act as a go between for you and your instructor. You have fostered that trust and you have earned your place. And it is nothing to be ashamed of, so do not fall into their trap.

The bad students are a swampy morass of helplessness and entitlement. They don't know anything, don't want to really improve their lot if it means work, and don't think they should have to do anything anyhow. They pay their money, they should get a degree. That's not how life works. And, by God, that will not be how my class works. So go ahead. Yell at me. Roll your eyes at me. Grumble beneath your breath about these "stupid assignments" and complain just in earshot about how worthless you think they are. I don't care, and in fact, it makes me giggle a bit on the inside because you'll be doing them again when you fail. Tell me how your cat ate your car and that's why you missed 3 classes in a row. It makes no difference to me. You'll take the course again and I will still get paid. I'm not going anywhere, sweetheart. Get used to it.


An English Teacher on the Edge

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bookstore dreams and wishes

We've been pushing forward on the bookstore idea pretty hard. We've got the market research survey up online and are already receiving responses. Some of the responses have been quite enlightening and surprising. Some of them, not so surprising but identify a particular hazard we will have to deal with in running the store.

I'm already establishing guidelines in my head about what used media we will accept, what condition it must be in, and how we will establish the store credit for it. We have great ideas about what we want to offer, how we want to offer it, and how we want things to work. I think we can really pull it off if we can get the funding. Big guy and I are determined and very excited about this. It's really been all we've discussed for a while. I really want this to work. I'm also thrilled that he seems passionate about doing this.

Big Guy is truly the love of my life, but he will be the first to say that there's very little he cares about enough to fight for. I'm the fighter in the house. I throw myself into everything with a sort of passionate madness that Big Guy just doesn't seem to have. This, however, has lit a fire in him. It's encouraging for me to see because I always worried that he didn't have anything he liked to do that he "loved". I LOVE writing and teaching. When things get difficult and hard to do, I can hold on to my love for both htose things to get past the rough paches and continue on working at them. Big Guy didn't have that in any of his jobs, which meant that when things got tough, he got angry, sullen and bitter. It made me sad.

And if we can pull this off, he's going to need that love and passion. We're going to have to work hard to make this take off. On the bright side, if we can get this to work, this will free us from other bosses. I'd love to get the store going and have it reach a point where we become a staple of life around town. Perhaps we can get it to a point where life isn't a struggle anymore. The hard thing, for me at least, is this dream means putting off the homesteading dream because everything is going to have to be poured into the business. All our energy, any extra money, and our lives for a long time are going to be at the whim of the retail store gods. The place we're considering has an apartment upstairs but no yard space to speak of. I'll be able to plant very little, if I can plant anything at all. There definitely would not be room for chickens. I also recognize that, should the bookstore fail, it will effectively kill our ability to do the homesteading.

This really has to work. I know we have the drive, I know we can push it out.... I just hope it takes off.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bookstore Plans and Dreams

Life is full of surprises. I think (though I am not sure) that thisis a good thing. Life changes and moves and very rarely do things ever stay the same. I am convinced that most of our lives occur for a reason even if we are never truly sure what that reason is. Our life has been moving non-stop and keeping up with the plans we are attempting is never an easy task.

Big Guy, as you know, was laid off in November. After much twisting, turning, and scrambling (and with the much needed and much appreciated help of friends and family) we made it through the holiday season, got our financials sorted out, and are continuing to march forward. I told Big Guy, though, that he needed to figure out what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go from here. To that end, we've started to look at putting the bookstore in order.

This is exciting and nerve-wracking. We've always talked about doing this, but more of a "when we win the lottery" type thing. Never very seriously. Now, we've got the business registered as an LLC and we are moving forward with a business plan and trying to get funding. I have no idea if we're going to be able to pull this off, but I would really like to. I don't even want to end up a nation-wide franchise. I just want a nice, cozy little book store that we can share with friends and family. I know the ultimate goal would be to make money on it, but we also want to do what we enjoy.

If we can do this, it would be a great opportunity for Big Guy to do something he loves. I could still teach on a free schedule, and when I'm not teaching, I can work in the book store. Little Guy can still be homeschooled and still get hands on experience with math and reading. So, we'll bust our butts getting this put together, hopefully give us a chance to move out of where we are and into a better place. I just have to keep reminding myself that everything happens for a reason and, for better or for worse, this is happening too.