Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The End of the Semester
Classes at Wheaton end on Friday, and the collective insanity of the campus is in full career. It's both a good and a frustrating time to be a professor. Good, because for many students, only the pressure of the looming final deadline will motivate them to do their best work. And it really can be their best work, because they've had a semester of preparation under their belts. At this point in Anglo-Saxon, the students are mostly (I think) cursing me for assigning too much work. But we translated fifty lines of Beowulf in class today and they got it. They just rolled through syntactic constructions that would have baffled them two weeks ago. Because they're tired, frustrated and a little surly they didn't recognize how well they'd done, and because I was trying to push as hard as possible for one more day, I didn't yet let on how proud of I am of them. But my take is that out of the 35 students in the class, there are a good 25 who could successfully complete a Beowulf seminar (i.e., translate all 3181 lines in a semester).

Of course this time of the semester is frustrating when you're dealing with students who have let things slip too long and now want to try to overcome the handicaps they've set for themselves. And there's also the rash of illnesses (most probably real, due to stress levels) and family emergencies (most probably faked, but I don't push it; I give students the benefit of the doubt) that comes with the end of the semester. Add the fact that there are so many students at even super-extended office hours that you pretty much don't get ten minutes to think in the course of day, and it's tiring (add the often-waking, always-hungry one-month-old and it's really tiring).

But there's such a heady air on campus among the students that your pulse quickens: they are excited, scared, energized, spring-fevered. It's the end of the year, and so much life must be crammed into a couple of weeks. A great feeling.

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