Thursday, April 1, 2010

Just Say No

I can't do it.

I hear that phrase everywhere--and though I could certainly turn down somebody offering me drugs, I can't seem to say no to students.

They poured into my classes this semester, too, hoping desperately to get any free chairs in my classroom. I had 15 waitlisted in one class, eight in the other. I'd prepared myself, steeled myself against the onslaught. I'd told myself that I'd had two very hard terms already, and spring needed to be easier or I was going to go insane. I had to just tell them all no, tell them all to wait until fall and try to take one of these classes.

Did I tell you they were desperate? Don't believe me? Think I'm just a softy?

Well, I am, and I don't deny it. But never in my 17 years of teaching have I encountered such desperation. Students cried, in person and on the phone. One student offered to pay me per class session if he could just be let in. Another got on one knee and pleaded with me.

I do not joke. I do not exaggerate. And I couldn't say no. So now I have 5 over the class limit in one course, and six over the class limit in the other. I am going to be swamped, but I can't help it. How can I turn down somebody who wants to be in my class? I know the truth, too, that these students who got in will try so hard, will attack the class with as much energy as they pled to get in. My classes will rock with energy, and these students, though adding to my work load, will make the semester spectacular.

I just hope I don't drown under all the papers to come. Why, oh why did I not become an art instructor?


  1. Hope I'm not to blame, as I recommend you to students. But while you can't say no, I think that is more proof that you are a great teacher, as the stricter teachers are no fun. The more fun you have in class, the more you will learn.

  2. There are worse things than being in demand or students anxious to learn.

    Passion over apathy any day.

    However, I don't envy your future workload. Don't bother reading the book I sent you. I'll probably have a new draft before you'll get a chance to look at it. Which isn't all bad.

  3. It's because you want to help... you want to teach... you want to be wanted. From my experience people who get buried by too much responsibility end up there because the love to be wanted/needed.
    You have a heart of gold; you couldn't crush a student in needs dreams.

    I applaud you for it, a teacher who cares is worth more than a money can buy... not to mention a student who wants to learn from you--is a student worth teaching.


  4. I'll be your TA. Just send me the papers and let me grade them and I assure you Shakes that next semester , once word got around you'd have ten empty seats.

  5. Anonymous-- So you are the one responsible! I knew some unknown person was going around handing out fliers telling everyone to pick my class. Oddly, it is true that over the last two semesters, my classes seem to have the biggest waiting lists... but it might be the time slot, and not me at all.

    Stephanie--I probably won't get to the book... but I have a better idea for us. The writers conference I went to was a bit of an eye-opener, and I think we might start something soon. I'll call you or e-mail you to talk to you about it. And I'd take passion over apathy ANY day.

    Jeff--You are right about these students. They will be work, but the joy these classes will give me will be immeasurably worth it. And at least I'll have the summers off to rest up and write...

    Walking Man--Have I told you I was ethical? Besides, there is a payoff to being popular... and I don't mean the Barbie-Doll-Cheerleader kind of popular. I've seen the effect of a teacher who is dreaded. For one, the teacher begins to question his own abilities and skills, and usually he should. What is most ironic about all of this is that my students are going to work SOOOO hard for this class. My classes are not easy, and to get a good grade, the students will have to come every day, read a ton of stuff, and write until their hands feel like they are going to fall off. And think. My students are going to have think deeply and constantly. Not an easy task for most people. However, I appreciate your thoughtful gesture, even if I would not dream of troubling you with some of my own responsibility.

  6. It's not me specifically nor the time, it's that great teachers like you are in such high demand. I merely told a bunch of people where to find one.

    Yes we had to read tons; however, you pick very good books. We also did daily journals on those books, but it was very entertaining. None of the work we had ever felt like homework except that final 12 page paper.

    Plus as a bonus, the environment is very stress free so learning is easier. The environment actually resembles this blog actually ^_^.