Dear college professors, I’m sorry I never truly appreciated you.

I was an indifferent student.

It’s true. I shouldn’t admit this, because now some of my own college students are subscribed to this blog, but I was woefully immature as a college freshman.

I grumbled at assigned readings, as if they were a punishment rather than a necessary part of a course. In-class exercises were designed to make my life miserable. Working in groups was something the professor made us do because he or she was lazy and did not want to lecture. Projects? Mid-terms? Final exams? Early morning classes?  All of these things were like Biblical plagues to me.

While my more academically-minded friends preferred tests with essay questions because they’d be able to BS their ways out of an answer they did not know, I preferred multiple choice, because I could pick the likely answer and be out of the test room quickly. I had a 1 in 4 chance of being right, which I figured were pretty good odds. You almost don’t even need to study for multiple choice. I liked True and False questions even better.

Admittedly, I test well. And I’m also a decent aural learner, so I was able to pick up information from in-class lectures. I must have been a frustrating student though, because although it was my education, I was never proactive about it. At least not as an undergrad.

What gets me now is my attitude toward my professors and the reading they assigned me. While I was freaking out because I had to read a novel in a week (no big task for me when it was a novel I wanted to read) or furiously powering through an all nighter to write the paper that would serve as my final exam, I would picture my professor relaxing at home, calmly watching television or sleeping peacefully while I wrestled with my work.

Now I know that few – if any – of my professors were relaxing while I did my readings.

I have class tonight. I just re-read my readings for the third time, completed several pages of notes and an outline,  and did a lot of supplemental research and prepped the class website for this evening’s class.

It might be said that I’m still cramming for class, but the difference this time, is that I did all my work back in November. Now I’m doing it again, but I only teach two classes. What must my professors at college, who taught at least four sections apiece, have been doing with their time before every class? And they made the lectures look effortless. They knew their readings backward and forward.

So if anyone who taught me at Trinity College between 1996-2000 – whether you were a full professor, grad student, or (like me) adjunct – is reading  this post, please know that Ann J. O’Connell, Class of 2000,  is sorry she took you for granted.


Me, planning next semester's syllabus.

It’s finals day here at Fort Davis. This means that although I don’t really have that many students this semester, I’m spending the day surrounded by final projects, two copies of my class’s final student newspaper, my attendance book, a collection of pens, two cold cups of coffee and random pieces of paper that have been living in my bag this semester.

I don’t post much about my job as an adjunct professor at a local community college, mostly because I don’t want the kind of trouble that comes from writing about the workplace online. But I don’t think any harm can come from posting my feelings about the end of the semester, which are always bittersweet.

On the one hand, the semester always ends exactly when it needs to. Right when the pressure is the highest, and people start getting the flu, and everyone’s motivation has flat-lined, bam! No more classes. We have finals and then we’re outta here! Woohoo!
On the other hand? I always end up missing my students. Especially the ones who are going off-campus for good, graduating or transferring from community college to a four-year institution. I’m happy for them, but I’m sad to see them leave.

I was unprepared for this feeling when I started teaching three years ago. When I was a college student my own reaction to the end of the semester was a big, unmitigated YAY! Granted, things were busier for me then –  I was taking five and six classes a semester, working two on-campus jobs and working as a college newspaper editor at the time. I used to say good-bye to my professors with abandon. I cut them loose the moment I walked out of the final. My thought was that they would never remember me anyhow – they had so many other people to teach, why would they remember who I was? Until I ran into a former prof and he remembered me. Moreover, he was pleased to see me and interested in what I’d done with my life. And now, when I run into former students, and they’re happy to see me, or when one of them emails me with a question, I find that I am always ridiculously pleased. If I knew what an awesome feeling it to be contacted by a former student, I would have contacted more of my teachers. Actually, it’s probably not too late for that.

All right. Enough blogging from me. Back to the finals. I’ll be writing more about teachers  – although not college teachers – tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’m writing about nuns.