Wednesday, March 28
Does anyone know where Spring Break went? I know I had it on my calendar. I dreamt about it and all that I would accomplish during five glorious, student-free days. Yet here it is, almost Easter, an indication that Spring Break is behind me, and I have no recollection of those glorious days and nothing more to show for it. In other words, I didn't get nearly as much accomplished during that time off as I hoped for. And now, like sands through the hourglass, Spring Break has slipped through my fingers. I'm destined to keep plugging, a little at a time, until summer, when I once again can work with the fervor that the tenure-track requires around here.

Next Spring Break, regardless of how much or how little I accomplish, I'm taking a day off, so that I know that Spring Break really happened. Or I could just not bother writing it on my calendar and getting my hopes up.
Thursday, March 8
Some recent a.secret posts (the thankless student, the angry student, not-helpful-my-ass) seem to reflect the findings of a recent study reported in the LA Times and the Christian Science Monitor about the narcissism of the current generation of college students.

I wonder whether they really are more self-centered than they used to be...
Friday, March 2
I teach a very small (10 students) composition class once a week. I have a student who has, from the beginning, been very argumentative, mostly trying to bait me into debates but also debating the other students. In the beginning of the semester, he completely dominated class discussion to the point that hardly anyone else had the space to speak (to their credit, several students did bother to disagree with him on a number of points, though they often had to back down). This has all been frustrating, but bearable. I gently mentioned to him that I wanted everyone to feel comfortable speaking in class, and he seemed to acknowledge that he tended to dominate and would try to let others speak more, and for a week or two this seemed to be working to some extent (though he had a condescending attitude about holding back his opinion, and would say things to me when arguing like, “I’m not trying to make you mad,” even though I wasn’t getting mad, in order to make it seem like I was overreacting or like because I’m a woman I couldn’t handle arguments without getting "emotional").

Last week, though, apparently out of the blue, he decided not to speak in class at all. Not a word. Which might have been okay, but I could feel the energy from him. It was like he was seething. It was freaking me out enough that I considered jokingly telling him that he could speak sometimes without dominating, that such a thing is possible.

Then, this past week, things came to a head. We were attempting to discuss a text which I discovered only two students (one of them being the one in question) had read (which is another problem altogether, but I can deal with that one). Early on he said, “Frankly, I’m tired of only talking about the obvious things in the text,” one of the most insulting things a student has ever said to me in class. Then later, I was giving an overview of various critical readings of the text, and after one of them he snorted, saying “that’s so typical of academics, always over-analyzing things.” (He’s made a comment like this before, but not as direct.) I told him I thought that saying something like that was simply dismissive, a comment people make when they don’t want to talk about or acknowledge something in the text. He snorted and flailed about this, we went back and forth on it a bit, then I tried to move the discussion on. He called me on doing this, so I said, “Well, it’s just that we’re probably not going to come to an agreement on this and I don’t want to make everyone sit here and listen to us go back and forth.” He said, in such a sarcastic, hateful tone, “Well, it’s clear you don’t want to talk about this; you have an agenda, so tell us what we need to know.”

I have been angry with students before, I have had disdainful, rude, and sarcastic students before, but I can’t remember having a student who was so openly rude in class and so disruptive to the atmosphere. If I’m reading the feelings of the other students correctly, they seem to find him disruptive as well. I feel like I need to talk with this student outside of class and tell him directly how disruptive he is. But I really don’t know if this is the best way of going about it. Clearly he’s bored by the class; I don’t know there’s much I can do about that. And I don’t really have a strategy for suggesting ways to make him happier. I feel like I should address his anger and frustration, but right now I just feel anger and frustration toward him. I feel like he’s just a slightly unstable asshole and frankly, I don’t care that much about reaching him. However, we have two more months of class, and I don’t know that I can just ignore his behavior. I felt traumatized by this week’s class and really don’t want to go back. And even though I really do think he’s only bored because he sees things one way and doesn’t want to talk about anyone else’s reading of the text, my worst fear of course is that my class really is boring, and that it’s my fault.

Do you think I should talk with him outside of class? And what should I say?
Thursday, March 1
I am about to absolutely blow my top.

My teaching assistant, one of the "perks" of the job here, somehow has managed to make my job MORE DIFFICULT than it would be if I was doing it alone.

You know, he wasn't great last semester. I remember handing back the first assignment and realizing that they were all graded wrong. Clearly the assistant hadn't read the reading and only graded things correct as what I said verbatim in class after the students had turned them in.

As the semester went on, though, it seemed like things were getting better, and I was certain that this semester, since it's the same class, it would be smooth-sailing. I was wrong. The first test I thought that he was WAY too easy on the students, but didn't say anything. I strongly believe that you don't contradict what your TA says on an exam or the students will lose respect for them. But this most recent test, it's the opposite. He clearly didn't read, or read his notes, and doesn't seem to possess the knowledge on his own, and so he marked one essay question wrong over and over and over again, diligently writing the "right" (read: wrong!) answer above the students' answers. Then, he miscalculated the scores, giving everyone much lower than they should have earned. I am so flipping frustrated.

My partner told me to call him in and have a meeting and tell him that his work is unacceptable. I was going to go the other approach, avoid him, and try to keep myself from killing him before May, when he's out of here. Maybe it's because he's leaving and he's not invested in the department, but he's just getting worse every day. I'm scared to see how bad it can get before it's over.