the burden of reputation

It's so close to being over, I can practically taste it. In case you're wondering, freedom from the end of the semester tastes like rum and lime and sleep and a clean apartment for the first time in weeks (if you don't think that's a taste, well, you're probably in another line of work). And now, it also tastes a little bit like exhaust fumes, which are surprisingly delicious.

I have one last round of (light-ish) grading tomorrow morning, then I'll be ready to submit grades tomorrow. Just under the wire. I'm already bracing myself for the inevitable tempest of emails from students begging, pleading, accusing, threatening the imaginable with regard to their grades. I have a bit of a reputation as a hardass, you see. From the perspective of my superiors, this is a good thing, and I'm lucky to be in a place where I know that I will be supported 100%. However, (some) students have a different perspective, and it grows tiresome having to answer all those emails--especially when I really want to put the semester behind me and savor the above-mentioned blend of herbs and spices.

Being known as a hardass has its pros and cons. On the plus side, the best students think I'm the bees knees, and actively seek out my classes. This is a great feeling, because of course I want to be liked, but also because I know that I'm pushing them to develop their analytical and writing skills, and these are students who genuinely want to learn. To the point where they're willing to risk getting a lower grade than they're accustomed to. That's kind of a big deal in this environment (not just here, I know from both personal experience and talking to colleagues elsewhere), and I admire them for it.

On the other hand, aside from the hassle of dealing with whining, sometimes the whole situation depresses me. I honestly don't think my expectations are excessive or unreasonable. I think that if you are earning a college degree, you should be capable of writing grammatically correct English, use proper punctuation, be able to construct an argument. I think you should be able to take abstract concepts and apply them to real-world situations in a meaningful way. I think you should know how to distinguish between substantiated argument and opinion, avoid meaningless generalizations, and be capable of critical thinking even (especially) about topics you feel strongly about.

It makes me sad to discover that many of my students have never been asked to do some of the above, even if they're college seniors about to graduate. I can barely fathom it, as a matter of fact. But I've learned to accept that it's true, even though I continue to demand that students be able to do these things in my classes. And if they don't, their grade will reflect it. Hence my reputation.

I don't typically think of myself as particularly (or at all) tough, or badass, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. But I seem to have earned a reputation as such. I can't say I'm entirely unhappy about it; I just wish it didn't come with so many headaches.

Happily, the best cure for those headaches? Rum and lime and sleep and a clean apartment...