As my student, you should know that I am not perfect. Moreover, you should know that I know that I’m not perfect. We’re going to be working together for a while; I want you to know what you’re getting into.
Here are some things that I suck at.
Remembering. Really: I don’t remember anything. If you talked to me about it half an hour ago, there’s a decent chance I’ve already forgotten it. I don’t mean to; it’s just the truth of me. If you need me to remember something, or to do something for you, email me. Just talking to me will do pretty much no good.
Planning ahead. I am writing this on July 11, 2012, and by my standards, that’s an absurd amount of foresight for a Fall semester. Whether with my classes or with my life, I am generally no good at planning ahead. Sometimes this is because I’ve let time get away from me (see below), but a lot of the time—at least in the context of my classes—it’s because what I’m doing on any given day is determined by what’s happened in class in the days before.
The upshot for anyone more future-oriented than myself, though, is that if you ask me a question like “What are we doing in class next Friday,” I probably can’t answer, because it likely depends rather a lot on what happens in class next Wednesday.
Estimating time. OH MAN do I suck at this. I suck at this so much.
“You can’t,” she said. “It’s a full time job.” (I already have a full time job, of course.)
“I can’t do it full time, sure, but maybe I could do it full time during the Summer, and half time during the school year.”
“Do you think you have twenty extra hours a week during the semester?”
And, until she said it like that, I did. I’m just awful both at judging how long things will take and at judging how much time I have to do the.
For this reason, in class, I try never to say things like “I will have X ready by Y,” because one or both of those problems will likely make me wrong. I will usually say “I should have X by Y,” which leaves me a little room to be wrong.
Tackling things piecemeal. Let’s say today is Monday, and I have 50 student papers that were just turned in, and I want them to be back in student hands by Friday. What a normal person would do is try to tackle 10 papers a day, so that by the end of the day Friday, they’re done. Yay! Reasonable.
I will probably not do this. Instead, I will try to orchestrate things so that I have an enormous block of time so that I can do them all at once. This may or may not work, and because it’s harder to get ten hours or so at a block than it is to get two hours together five times, it’ll likely end up meaning that I don’t accomplish things according to my own deadline.
Prioritizing. Broadly speaking, I have no idea what is important and what is not. If I have five tasks I need to complete, I have a lot of trouble deciding which I should approach first, even if one of them is “exit the burning building.”1
Being mean. This is a tough one. As a teacher, sometimes it’s my job to be mean. I’m good at that when it matters. If you need to fail my class, you need to fail my class—and while that sucks for everybody, you’re not going to be able to sweet-talk me out of it.
The times when I suck at being mean, though, are the little times. I set out my policies pretty clearly on my Syllabi, and I hold to those policies pretty clearly. So when someone comes to me and says, for example, “I need to leave 45 minutes early today,” I’ll likely say “Okay,” and mean it.
The problem, though, is that what the student hears is something like, “Oh, of course visiting your out-of-state stylist for an elaborate purple up-do is more important than my class; by all means, come and go as you please and expect no consequences whatsoever.!” When what I mean is “Okay, that’s your choice; as per the Syllabus, I’ll be marking you absent. Ta!”
These are all things I’m trying to get better at, but they’re also things that I struggle with as a teacher, and I think the better you understand my limitations and my strengths, the greater the likelyhood that you’ll succeed in my class. I will work on these things. You should know that I’m working on them.
The thing that initially prompted me to consider the possibility that I had ADD was when, in the middle of writing a sentence, I stopped because I had to clip my toenails. Had to, right then. Nothing had changed about my toenails, mind, nor were they in particularly bad condition. The two tasks just seemed equally relevant at the time. ↩