Thursday, February 12, 2009

Attitude adjustment

I'm struggling with my attitude at work right now. No, I don't have a problem with negativity or cynicism. Quite the opposite. I find myself in the rather lonely position of being too positive and enthusiastic.

Over the last couple of years, I've become completely amazed at the initiative, skill, and depth of the student body with whom I'm fortunate to work. They schedule, create, and attend presentations on their own time and for no academic credit. They fight to help us teach. They show such appreciation when we help them with their projects, or demonstrate that we care about what they do. And in all frankness, I'm both inspired and instructed by them.

But this puts me in the minority of college professors, I think. As much as we all care about our students, it's hard to see them outside the classroom as anything other than a timesuck. When we have to go to student presentations or performances and sit in the audience, we tend to think about all the productive use to which we could be putting our time. And so if we can get out of going -- or if we're reasonably assured that other faculty will be present -- we tend to demur.

I think two factors have led me to look forward to student presentations, and to find the general faculty avoidance (which I shared several years ago) moderately bewildering. First, the students are just plain good most of the time. I learn from them and I get a peek into what they care about. It's genuinely interesting. And second, I don't sit and twiddle my thumbs. I knit while I listen (as I encourage students to knit, crochet, sketch, color, tat, or make chain mail while they participate in my classes). If it's a great presentation, I enjoy myself and I get some knitting done. If it's not so great, I get some knitting done.

I've learned something quite astounding. If you're making progress on a project that is important to you, no time is wasted. Maybe what I ought to do for my faculty friends is show them how good the students' work is and how much our presence means to them. Oh, and teach them to knit.


Eric B. said...

Also, know that it means a lot to the students, both those presenting and those attending, that you've taken extra time out of your day to spend with them.

the secret knitter said...

I'm struggling too, but it's with the problem of getting students to do what they're required to do for class and credit. Fighting to get them to care can be highly frustrating.