After 27 years, I’m hanging up my cleats. It’s time. No more papers to grade. No more syllabi to develop. No more textbooks to examine or agonize over. No more papers to publish. No more committee meetings. No more hiring or tenure decisions. And more recently, no more competing with text messaging by students during class.
I am now Dr. J, Professor Emerita. Thanks to my nephew, Z, who takes Latin at New Trier, he pointed out to me that a woman is not an “Emeritus,” since that is the masculine form for “Retired.” I love it.
Now that I am a Professor Emerita, I can confess to the world several “behaviors” during my academic year that only my family and a few other professors know about, along with my last group of students (what was the university going to do, fire me?)
Confession #1: I graded papers while watching Bears and Sox games. I tried once during a Bulls game, but the action was so fast, that I barely got through one paper for an entire game. Honestly, I averaged only 6-7 in one Bears or Sox game, but I graded the remaining papers after the games for the following few days.
Now the only way I could get through some fairly awful Chicago teams’ years , was to follow the teachings of the famous 16th Century French philosopher, Professor Nurghie, who said, “he who expects nothing is seldom disappointed.”
So that was the frame of mind I took. If the White Sox or Bears lost, they lost. And if they won, fabulous. TV always showed replays anyway, so I could take a moment, look up for a few seconds, and break my concentration to watch Walter rushing for another 10 yards, or Frank hitting another home run.
Honestly, there was a method to my madness. I was able to concentrate well enough, to at least make my comments and notes on their papers, for the 1st run through. Then I’d do the 2nd run through the next day in my office, with more comments, and ultimately the final grade. Some papers required a 3rd reading on day #3, just so I’d be certain I did not miss anything. I’d average around 1.5 – 2 hrs. / paper at a minimum.
And truly, I was lucky to teach only graduate students for 22 of those years. So for the most part, graduate level papers were of A and B quality, with some C’s here and there. I actually enjoyed this part of my job. You see how I definitely MADE it enjoyable.
It probably wired my brain for being able to take multi-tasking to new heights: knowing what the pitch count was, while reading about a student’s discussion of her differential diagnosis between Bipolar disorder and post-partum Depression.
Due diligence, right?
Re-wind to October 12, 1997. Bears v. Packers in a see-saw game. Of course it’s Brett Favre, and of course the Bears are driving for the tying TD in the closing minute. Eric Kramer somehow makes the 6 pt. TD and all the Bears have to do is kick the extra PA for a tie. But no, Head Coach Dave Wannstedt stupidly calls for the 2 pt. conversion. In Soldier Field. At Home. They fail, losing 24-23. The once roaring crowd goes silent. And so does my younger son, running off to his room and slamming the door behind him.
Of course the phones are flying off the hook in my house, from various family members. There’s the usual four-letter words blasting between land lines and cell phones among everyone. My husband is no where to be found, since he knows what kind of mood the household will be smothered in for at least another 4 days.
And I go back to grading my Group Therapy Midterms. 10 more papers to go till I'm done that Sunday. Gotta keep truckin’.
Monday, October 13. Time for the 2nd grading process. What the…? Look at all these negative comments on these papers! Look at all these B’s, C’s, and even several D grades.
This can’t be right, I tell myself. This is one excellent class of 20 graduate students who participate in class, and in their own designated Support Groups. They work hard. What is this about?
Then my mind wraps around Favre’s grin after his TD pass to Chmura. And more grinning after the Packer defense stuffs the Bears’ 2 point conversion attempt. Memory and association. And mood. And grading papers after the game.
So I start all over, and white - out nearly all the comments I made on this set of papers, and work OT to “do these students right.” Because that is what they deserve.
They don’t deserve a sports-crazed professor like me grading their hard work. They don’t deserve their professor’s mind sub-consciously wandering to Soldier Field, or to the Chicago Bears’0-7 record.
So how did I get this done? How did I get in my “right mind” to concentrate? I went home and put on the Bulls 1997 June championship games over Utah that Monday and Tuesday. And graded their papers while listening to the “Best, Ever, Anywhere.”
And SWRK 225 Group Therapy students got their well-earned A’s and B’s. I listened in the background of my family room TV, to the right team at the right time. It was the only way I knew how to screw my head on and concentrate, as I should. Not for me, but for them.
In conclusion: after I told this story to one of my last classes in October, I got a text message from a student who is a die-hard Oakland Raiders’ fan, after the Bears blew that game v. the Raiders, 25-20. He begged me not to grade his paper for at least 3 days.
I texted back, “With Hanie, I expected nothing, so I wasn’t disappointed.”