Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Some hope amidst the exhaustion

Sorry I've let the bar get so cobwebby - it's been (and continues to be) a week of craziness. I don't have a lot of committee work overall, but the whole year's worth of tasks allotted to me somehow has concentrated itself in this single week. This in turn has driven away any hope of posting or commenting with any sort of cleverness or even sense.

Looking on the bright side, though, as I am wont to do (one friend used to describe me as "gratingly cheerful" for my abuse of this technique), one of my tasks today was to coordinate the formal presentations made by students who are completing research projects for departmental honors in a variety of subjects. Some were confident and polished, some were shaky and nervous, some a little arrogant, some shy, but all of them had at least one moment during their brief presentations where their sheer joy in what they were doing showed through. Two of them in particular impressed me, partly because they were in fields (biology and accounting) both far from my own and difficult to communicate well to a general audience. Chatting with me afterwards, they both had moments where in the middle of describing the enormous amount of work and thought and time they'd put into these projects, and the corresponding dead ends and frustrations they found along the way, they'd crack a huge grin and say "And it's been so much fun!" Not in the way of students who want to suck up, but in the totally genuine way of students who have really engaged in the process of research, know that they've accomplished something unique and valuable, and discovered how genuinely fun that can be. (I've never seen anyone light up that much about the fun of accounting, and so contagiously!)

Many of my students are lazy and unmotivated, and operate with a powerful sense of entitlement that the world will simply hand them whatever they require. I worry a little bit about our future when I think of them. But these kids I worked with today? They can definitely run the world when I'm old, every one of them.

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