My Little Snowflakes

So it’s not like I teach at the most prestigious university in the state, or even have a very prestigious position. I’m just grateful, honestly, to have a full-time teaching job with an M.F.A. and no book.  I’m working on the book in tiny bites between grading. 

I’ve been publishing little essays. I keep telling myself this is progress.  So please don’t interfere with my wee fantasy. Besides, I have a decent excuse, don’t I? I carry 12 hour teaching load every semester. That’s a 4/4 for those of you know the lingo.  I write so little because I am running around after snowflakes most of the time. 

I can’t claim the phrase, honestly.  A friend of mine, Ancarett, uses the phrase most often for her own students in Canada.  I don’t know where Ancarett got it, but as another mutual friend recently pointed out, she knows several academics who use the term.  I like it because it conjures up the image of students as little delicate beautiful creations that are also fragile and very hard to keep around, or focused, or interested. 

The semester is coming to a close now, so I have the usual line of snowflakes wanting to know if I’ll wipe those 14 absences off their record. Or maybe I’ll just give them credit for not turning anything in all semester.  

I honestly believe that I’m a little bit insane when it comes to this ritual of academic life: students begging professors to pass them.  Someone said that insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result, or something like that. This applies completely to how I feel every semester when snowflakes start piling up outside my office door.

I am always shocked when a snowflake thinks they can catch up in a reasonable amount of time after missing a month of class and due dates.  The number of illness and athletic excuses I have to juggle is astronomical.  I’m required to keep attendance for the University’s records, so I can’t pull the old “you’re adults come or not, it’s your grade” routine.  

Every single semester I keep expecting some different outcome, searching for some system that will inspire the tepid and enliven the minds of the engaged.  I can’t find it because it isn’t there, of course. 

Nationwide, roughly half of all college student drop out in the first two years.   There’s a group of snowflakes that drop out because they can’t afford tuition or their personal situation changes. They sometimes come back later in life.  Then, there’s the group of snowflakes that drop out because they just don’t really care about reading, writing, or discussing anything. 

When I require my students to buy and read a novel for Composition I, it always inspires a veritable drift of snowflakes around my head, at my door, in my e-mail box.  It’s not an expensive book. It’s not a long book (roughly 130 pages with relatively big type and very short chapters), but most of the time only roughly half the class will buy and read it. 

Still, I am shocked.  I don’t know why I persist in my personal myopia on this subject.  Maybe it’s because I can’t imagine sabotaging an education so blatantly.  I never had a strategy of “what can I do to pass” when I was a student. My strategy was “what does the course require me to learn”? 

The students who do this aren’t dumb, they just don’t get the point of literature.  Maybe I need to do a better job of introducing the idea of reading.  All literature really is are stories and every single one of those snowflakes loves a good story. 

Maybe they just assume that my little 130ish page $10.00 novel will necessarily be horrible and painful to read because an English teacher picked it out? 

I hereby vow to try to not be surprised by all the snowflakes in south Arkansas in May. I don’t think I’m going to do a very good job. I’ll keep you posted.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Carlo Scannella said,

    You might be interested in reading this, from Michael Wesch:

    He addresses some of the same things you’re describing, so I’m not sure how much of this is you…it seems to be a much broader issue and problem.

  2. 2

    Tipper said,

    Love the snowflakes term. I’ll have to share that with my brother who is a middle school Language Arts teacher. I have a great love for reading-to the point of desperation sometimes (reading the back of cereal boxes while I eat breakfast) and hope my girls catch the reading fever. So far they haven’t. I can’t speak for college, but in my girls school one of the stumbling blocks (in my opinion) to reading is the AR Program. It started out many years ago as an incentive reading program, but somewhere along the way it turned into a “extra homework for a grade”. I believe it has made all but the obessed readers-hate reading. Sorry to get on my elementary school soap box. Enjoyed the post.

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