I like my job.
I like. My. Job. I do. I like the subject-matter. I love that I get to spend all day hanging out with my favorite composers and their biggest hits.
I worry a lot about being bad at it, or being one of the insensitive jerk-face instructors you guys sometimes complain about. Balancing the needs of the many against the needs of a few (or single!) student is ... tricky, especially while maintaining some semblance of organization or work/life balance. I'm definitely getting better at it, but there are definitely missteps. I think (read: hope) I do ok.
All of this is to say: I like my job. I'm grateful to have a job adjacent to my field, in the same state (and city!) as my husband, at a real university with real university adjunct rates.
But sometimes. Sometimes!
I gave an exam last week, and I have spent the last two days grading non-stop, attempting to get feedback to the students in a timely manner. Like most large, crowded classrooms, there were 2-3 versions of the exam. They cover nearly identical material, but things are asked in different formats, or in slightly different orders.
The exams look very similar. Indeed, in a lot of cases, the multiple choice answers are the same but they've each been rotated one response to the right. This is a thing I do for ease in test-creation, and for ease in grading. There's a little symbol by the exam title so that I know which one goes with which key, but other than that, they look very similar.
Normally, I let the class know that there are different versions of the exam in case they had any ideas. I've been trying to seem less ... I don't know, wary? of students. I've been trying to work on the friendliness of the classroom environment. (I got called condescending in an eval two semesters ago, and straight-up rude last semester. I'm trying to improve.)
That, and it slipped my mind. Whatever. No big deal, right?
I've been grading exams these last two days, and so many people are failing. That is to say, they're doing so well ... on the wrong version of their exam. In one particularly egregious case, a student with a matching section (match the term to the letter of the corresponding definition) managed to get through the entire section using roman numerals (see: version 2). They didn't even look at their own answer bank.
This same student managed to - verbatim - provide the correct answers for the short answer questions on the alternate version of her exam. Not the one in front of them- the one to their left or to their right.
Who do you think stayed after class to complain about the difficulty of the exam? The number of hours studied? The failure to cover some material in class? (We had two snow days. I made a list of vocab terms and possible short answer questions and emailed them to students as a catch-all.) These are complaints I take very seriously, and which I try to take to heart under normal circumstances.
I waited patiently for the student to finish and then flipped their exam open to the matching page. I pointed at their responses, and then at the listed responses. Saucer eyes, but still the words "unfair" and "too hard."
I took a deep breath and asked if we should look at the short answer responses. (Which, for the questions actually on the page, made zero sense. This was not volunteered, as other students were present and I respect FERPA rights.)
The student called me a rude name that I don't care to repeat. In front of other students. Because that's cool. I asked if they'd like to discuss it further in my office. They declined and grumbled some more choice phrases.
Technically, I should report this to the academic integrity board, but I know that my boss will not appreciate the extra stress, and I suspect that there will be more blowback for me than for the student. I also anticipate hearing about this, my "moodiness" and my "coldness/rudeness" on end-of-semester evaluations. Again.
My soul is weary. I need a nap.
All will be well tomorrow. Right?