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Classes from Hell — in a good way

6 April, 2005

Classes from Hell — in a good way

My students are kicking my ass. Actually, only one class is. As with last quarter, the enrollments are abysmally low. I’ve got 13 in one section of the modern survey, 6 in the other. And I have 7 in my Modern China survey. They are killing me. Seriously. In a good way. These students are all over the document book. Forget the textbook — we need no lecture, Dr. ADM. We will just sit here and blow you away as we link the documents to what’s going on at the time. We will discuss them in terms of bias and evidence and anything else you wish, and we will do it well. I now have to work twice as hard, because they are really good. Thank goodness, I’m still able to find things in the documents that they haven’t, and can put together a big picture just to remind them, but man, oh man. I’m now revising the entire damned syllabus.

Morning survey is not too bad. I really like the students, and they seem to be willing (mostly) to do the prep. They need a bit of nudging in the right direction — we had awkward moments today when I attempted to build on yesterday’s discussion and no one had taken notes. I think they’ve realized they need to do more than just spew. They are also one of the most wholly smart-assed groups I’ve ever come across. They make me laugh.

Afternoon survey. Makes me want to cry. 5 students, and 3 not the kind to do the work and contribute. Yesterday (third day of class) only two showed up, one a non-native speaker, which meant it was pretty much a two person conversation. I have to cut them loose half an hour early, because it was just too hard.

Lots of work tonight, so naturally I’m blogging. Must get together for the next couple of days, so that I can really prep for Friday’s EIGHT HOURS (including two 15 minute breaks) of interviews. I’m exhausted already and really want to do well. Which leads me into my next piece of advice for those of you considering a career in academe. Do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today (big picture). Do not assume that it will be easy to jump the track and come back. Once you start the diss, finish it and get in your practice on the conference circuit when you are relatively fresh. Because you do not want to be the sad person who took time off for personal reasons only to realize that you will always be an academic at heart. By the time you do, you may have put yourself in a position where it’s very hard to get back on track. And you might also be older and have less energy. Or maybe not. Maybe you should just make sure your significant other really understands what it means to be a working academic (the successful kind) before you make a lifetime commitment. And yes, for those of you who are curious, ADH is soon-to-be-ex-ADH.* Let’s hope I’m still good enough to get that job!

*But please, not a discussion for the comment section. I’m only saying this because a very nice one of you e-mailed to ask and I felt obliged to be a bit less cryptic. And because I think (especially having read Ms. Mentor and any number of articles on women academics and the pressures they sometimes have to deal with) it’s a conversation worth having in a more abstract way. But not here at the present.

Must. Go. Prep. China class has posted an average of 4 comments each, and it’s only Tuesday! These students are just so damned cool!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 April, 2005 2:57 am

    I promise, no discussion, but I’m very sorry. But glad to read about your good classes – and I so sympathize with the small silent class issue! I’d really rather teach 30 students at once than 5, if given the choice.Good luck with the hours of interviewing!

  2. 6 April, 2005 11:28 am

    Are you using the Spence text and Cheng/Lestz doc set for Modern China? I’ve been addicted to them ever since they came out.Though I’m finding them both a bit bloodless this semester, as I work through some of the 20th century’s lowest moments. But that’s what I’ve got supplemental texts for.

  3. 6 April, 2005 1:14 pm

    Yep — They are fantastic. Thanks for recommending them!

  4. 8 April, 2005 1:33 pm

    I’m a historian of China too – Gernet’s History of Chinese Civilisation is still pretty good for an overview.

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