I don't mean all of my students, obviously, but I do mean a giant chunk of them - larger than any semester I've ever seen before. For instance, eleven students out of twenty-two in one class didn't turn in a primary source analysis. That's 50%! That is shocking! ELEVEN.
(Just saying "eleven" makes me laugh and reminds me of this wonderful skit.)
This is the same syllabus I've used for two other semesters with the same assignment instructions, so I'm 99% sure there isn't a problem with the clarity of my instructions, given that this has never happened before. Four of those eleven students who did submit the essay wrote it about the wrong primary source, just completely and entirely used the wrong source. Two of those students used sources from the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The class is a modern U.S. history class. I just. I can't.
Today alone I asked two students why they weren't taking notes and didn't even have a notebook out. I told three students not to put their heads down on the desk because it was class time, not nap time. I emailed a student to find out when or if she was planning on returning to class because she emailed me a week ago to tell me her grandfather was on his deathbed and she wouldn't be in class Friday and wondered if she could take the quiz Monday instead. I hadn't heard from her since, so I emailed her to make sure she was ok. She's fine, according to her email, just had a cold and so she hasn't come to class. No mention of her sick grandfather, who happens to be sick right before the second test of the semester. Did I mention her grandmother passed away last month, right before the first test of the semester? I also emailed two students whose group project is two days overdue.
I had a group discussion of FDR's Four Freedoms and Charles Wesley's response planned. I broke them into groups, told them to read the Wesley source, which was only 3/4 page long. And then I watched them. I watched them read the source and then sit there. Silent. For minutes and minutes and minutes after every group member was finished reading. This is week ten in the semester and the class is very used to group work and discussing and they generally do a good job of it. Today they were silent and I was fed up. After ten minutes of silence, I actually said, "Did you forget that you are meant to discuss the two sources with your group?" I gave good instructions about what to discuss; I'm just not sharing them here for the sake of brevity in an already long post. Some of the good students actually chuckled, like I'm hilarious, but they were silent, too. What the frick? After my sarcasm, they did discuss them together and I went around to each group and everything was fine, as was the eventual discussion with the whole class - better than fine, good actually, but the damage was done.
I came to the realization, as I sat there watching them not discussing the sources, that I'm putting too much effort into this. I'm enabling them even though that was not my intention and even though I'm trying to teach them responsibility. I'm not their mother. Why am I doing all of this? If they don't care AT ALL, why do I?
It's just...I hate to see students failing. I hate to see them slipping through the cracks, so I try to follow up with them when I see it happening, but now I am that professor who harps on her students to put their phones away (every freaking class with one student in particular), take notes, wake up, turn their assignments in, nag, nag, nag. I don't want to be that professor. I don't like that professor. No one likes that professor.
I can feel the students who do their work getting frustrated. They roll their eyes at students who claim they had no idea a quiz was today or their paper had to be uploaded to turnitin.com. They are fed up with those students and so am I.
Weeks ago, I warned that the reminders would end and that they were on their own and yet I've found myself slipping back into the same habit because so many of them are not doing the work or paying attention to the syllabus. My nagging ends today. I am burnt out. I have no more to give. I can't help students who don't help themselves and so I am done. I have done all that I can. I have done far more than some of the FT professors in my department would do and I am just an adjunct. So, I'm calling it. I'm done.
I'm choosing to focus on the students who do their work, who come to class, who make an effort. There will be no more tracking students down about their assignments. No more nagging. No more lectures about how to act as a college student. They've heard it from me at least twice before and I know they've heard it from other professors, too. They are on their own now.
Sink or swim, kids. Sink or swim.
*It was hard to come up with a title for this post. I originally called it "Stalking Students" because that's what I feel like I'm doing, but that's awful and I didn't want to seem to make light of dangerous situations.