Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wrapping Papers

Well it’s that joyous season of the academic year when papers are due- blah blah blah, bah humbug. Students grumble and feel pressured and harried even though many of us professors tell them from day one when the papers are due. I even provide an on-line list of possible research topics, model outlines, writing guidelines about style and citation and plagiarism etc. I also offer to go over to the library and help students find information; some take me up on it, but many don’t. I even offer to read rough drafts a week in advance—you can imagine how many of those I receive. Is this guy nuts or what!

Christmas is the season for cramming everything in: food, parties, plays, concerts, more parties and socials, carrolling, Christmas shopping, so why not cramming in research papers as well? It’s the one season of the academic year I get to do theatrics—standing on top of the desk to get everyone’s attention and making explicitly sure students don’t use the on-line version of the Catholic Encyclopedia from 1918, that is NOT the New Catholic Encyclopedia from 2003 that they need to use as one resource. I also rail at them about Wikipedia not being a valid academic resource. I likewise lovingly “snarl” at them about plagiarism and how I have an almost photographic memory and keep electronic copies of papers to check for plagiarism and do internet searches as well. Bottom line, it’s the one time of year I get to play the part of Scrooge so that when Winter Break does come around they really enjoy it and celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever they wish or don’t wish. Unbeknownst to them, I’m really providing a service: by making something so “painful” and dour that they’ll later experience pleasure and contentment.

But every now and then there’s that bright student who shines like the Star the Wise Men followed who is excited about their research topic and comes in ahead of time and bounces things off me and then eagerly awaits to see how I receive their research project that they’re so proud of. And thus I receive small Christmas gifts in advance and this makes my job worthwhile and gratifying. Happy Holidays!


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