Sometimes being really available to your students means putting your own life on hold. In most ways, I really never missed having children of my own. I have had students for over 20+ years of teaching. It is like the best part of being a grandparent. You can teach them things, spoil them in some ways, enjoy having them around, and then send them home again.
In other ways, it is like being the parent I never wanted to be at all. Nag, nag, nag. This semester, I had three students who asked me to be their thesis adviser for their Masters degree theses. Each of the students were people I enjoyed having in class, respected, and knew I would enjoy working with. However, what I did not realize was that I would have to chase after them to do the work in order for me to enjoy working with them.
One of them had put off her thesis for a year. She finished all of her class work and this was the only thing holding her back from graduating. The deadline for turning in the thesis was yesterday. Although I require them to meet with me weekly and e-mail me what they have written as they write it, it was an exercise in nagging. One student who still had not written a sentence, just her title, went skiing for a week before spring break and then I was gone for spring break.
Although their thesis only has to be forty pages, the department requires that they use twenty-five books and four journal articles. This translates to a whole lot of books on American topics that they cannot find in libraries in Hungary and wind up having to order from the States. Then regardless of how wonderful the book sounded online, if it is a total wash, they still have to find at least one sentence to quote from it in order to include it into their Works Cited page.
Then there is the MLA issue. The thesis has to be according to MLA guidelines. Until this teaching position, I have only used APA for all of my years of education. That was a real learning curve for me, but I have just about every authoritative MLA cheat sheet available on the Internet either bookmarked or printed and laminated for easy reference. For each advisee, I have made a CD with all of these sources, two other theses that I have advised in the past, each of which received an ‘A’ as a guide for formatting, every resource for thesis writing I could find, and other goodies to make all of our lives easier.
It seems easier is to call or e-mail Dr. James and ask “How do I cite a quote from the bible?” or if the author of this book is citing another author who was quoting from his second cousin one removed who was reading the notes to him from his college philosophy class, can I count this as more than one citation?”
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I was swamped with reading and three hysterical students who yet again realized that procrastination is not a good thing, but only for a limited time. One asked if she could call me at 6:00 am on Friday in case she had any last minute questions before taking her work to be bound. Sure, I don’t do much at 6:00 am anyway.
The other ridiculous thing is that they have to have the work bound BEFORE they defend it. The readers/graders are allowed to mark up the bound copy. This to me is horrendous and a waste of money.
All three of them wrote really nice things about my assistance in their acknowledgments section. “Thank you for being there for me, even when I was not there for myself. Sorry, I am the cause of your starting Xanax.” Things in they vein are memories that I will treasure the rest of my life. Now it is over for this semester, but I still had papers to read from all of the other classes and students to nag who just don’t have their calendars synced with reality.
In the fall, I have six advisees. They all told me they wanted to get the major portion of it done over the summer. This translates into a title page and a presumed table of contents. What was I thinking.