October 26, 2005

Coming home at the end of a tiring day

During late October, morale is low on campus, especially among first year students. Many are sick. During the beautiful fall weekends in early October, many first year students chose to go home and exchange viruses with their home communities, bringing back colds and stomach bugs. And they've gotten midterm tests back this week, with low grades for many of them. This is the point in the semester when some of the students realize that they are not going to make it in college, that academic dismissal is a sure thing.

I don't much like this time of year on campus. I know too much about what is going on in the lives of my students. I know that some of them have given up on the idea of college and are drinking every night instead. They are fighting with each other, roommates bickering and friendships dissolving. The couples that got together in the excitement of September are breaking up, amidst anger and tears.

Out of my sixty students, it is likely that one or two will disappear, choosing to withdraw and leave college now. Likely one will end up in the hospital for alcohol poisoning -- that is, if we are lucky and a responsible person calls 911. Many will end the semester on academic probation.

It's late October. Students are feeling tired and overwhelmed. Faculty are feeling tired and overworked. The warm weather is gone, and the trees are bare. It feels good on days like this to leave campus and return to my home community, where kids are decorating houses for Halloween. Carved pumpkins are appearing on porches, cutouts of black cats decorate the windows of the elementary school, and one lawn feature tombstones with funny sayings. Inside my own home, a fire makes the living area cosy while we begin brainstorming for With-a-Why's Halloween costume.

15 comments:

Yankee T said...

Oooh, I cannot wait to hear what he will be!

BrightStar said...

Thank you for posting this. I was just talking with some colleagues today about how difficult the end of October is. How clearly the students are drained. How the faculty are losing the energy and strength to be supportive. It's rough for all of us right now, and I like hearing what re-energizes people and gives them joy.

Phantom Scribbler said...

So unflinchingly real and yet lovely at the same time. You never cease to amaze me with what you can accomplish in a few paragraphs, jo(e).

Running2Ks said...

The sadness is palpable.

And on the other note, do we get to guess the costume?

jo(e) said...

We are still just brainstorming ideas for the Halloween costume so if anyone has any bright ideas about how we can transform a cute eleven-year-old boy who looks like Harry Potter into something other than Harry Potter, let me know ....

Sophia said...

I'm glad it's not just us over at Big Prestigious University.

My work study kids really start to operate on empty around this time of the semester. I start to get calls about studying for midterms or recovering from hangovers instead of coming to work. Sometimes I wind up calling house deans or referring to psych services. Ugh.

I hear ya.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

We haven't lost our leaves yet here. The trees are nearly fully clad.In fact, only a small percent have lost their green.

Graham's going to be a robot. He made his own costume out of boxes and aluminum foil. We're proud of him for not wanting to buy store-bought.

I remember that time of year from being a student and a teacher--both quite horrid.

Wishing you well, Mary

listmaker said...

Oh, jo(e), it's so true. Yesterday I had one work/study student with her head on the desk, one who's so stressed she's pale as a ghost and one who informed me she's going to be in the hospital for 2 weeks. I'm very worried about the latter one. The first 2 will perk up, but missing 2 weeks in the middle of the semester will make it practically impossible to catch up. Of course, given the confidentiality rules, I can't even ask what's wrong with her. As a mother, I worry about all of them. But, it's also nice to go home and get away from all the craziness.

jo(e) said...

Mary: That's funny -- a robot is one of the costumes With-a-Why is thinking about. I hadn't thought of aluminum foil, though. That would work .... I'll have to give him the idea when he gets home from school.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

LOL! I'll send you a picture--He's so cute! We have one of those rolls of extra wide. XOX

susan said...

My students are similarly dragging--so many are sick, or have parents or children who are sick, or relationships ending (one student included some journal reflections on how sad it was to have to read literary works dealing with love as a theme in the wake of a broken relationship--not exactly what I'd assigned, but it did make sense of the affect I was getting from him in class).

But in my upper-level class this term, I have two students who have gotten married during the semester, so that's added a bit of good energy to all the personal doldrums that seem to be going on.

chichimama said...

You're an amazing writer. You transported my right back to campus.

You also just made me realize that I'm not ready to go back to that yet. I can't handle toddler logic and young adult angst at the same time. Thank you.

chichimama said...

Sorry, me, not my. I have a huge issue with self-editing in th blogger interface for some reason. Or maybe it is the one hand typing with toddler on the hip...

chichimama said...

I give up.

halloweenlover said...

How about tom cruise? He could wear a suit jacket and carry makeshift scientology pamphlets with vitamins?

Is that too old for him?