Thursday, May 04, 2017

When defenestration feels like a reasonable option

I get to a point during every finals week when I can't reliably distinguish between coherent prose and gibberish. I see stnzs in a student paper and I pause to search my memory, wondering whether it's an acronym I ought to know or an esoteric term I've long forgotten. Maybe stnzs is the name for how my brain feels during finals week, like an elastic waistband stretched to encase the entire world and unwilling to bounce back: Watch out for that one--she's suffering from stnzs.

Or maybe stnzs is supposed to be stanzas, which would certainly make sense in the context. My inability to immediately recognize stnzs as a non-word is certainly a symptom of something--but it's not the only symptom.

Today I'm suffering from repeatitis, an increase in blood pressure caused by the necessity of repeating the same inane comments over and over again. I don't know how many times today I've reminded students (in writing) that conscious and conscience are very different words or that one criterion multiplies into many criteria or that rhyme and rhythm aren't alternate  ways of spelling the same concept.

And at the same time the exhaustion that accompanies end-of-the-semester demands leads to a bad case of atrophy of the emotional cushion, when the thick layer of patience and good will that once kept anger in check has worn to a thin, fragile membrane easily pierced by the least effort. Yesterday afternoon it took every ounce of self-control I possess to refrain from yelling at a student simply because she had mistaken me for a phone book. 

But then I'd been proctoring exams for five hours, which takes a little something out of me. The students are the ones doing all the hard work, so why does exam-proctoring make me feel as if I've run across the Sahara without a water bottle? In the last half hour of a final exam, when only two or three students remain at work meticulously crafting their responses to the prompt, I have to fight off attacks of the finals fidgets that make me want to grab all their papers and toss them out the window.

But that would be bad. So I sit on my hands and hum silently to myself, or I go back to grading student papers that present me with stnzs and other evidence that someone isn't thinking straight. I just hope it isn't me.

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