Monday, June 06, 2005

The Beginning of the End

Today is the first day of "Final's Week," which means that students are scrambling to get all their papers finished and exams studied for. A good portion of the papers come in to my office, so I often get to see these students in the height of their end-of-quarter panic and stress. This is exacerbated by the fact that I do not take all papers, but only some, and so I have to tell students where else on campus they might need to go. By college standards, the seminary isn't very large, but by seminary standards, we have a reasonably large campus comprised of three different schools. Each one has different instructions, and each one may have more than one place that takes papers (the school I work for has at least three). While most professors (but not all) give fairly clear instructions on how students are to get work to them, any class will have students that either missed this information when it was given out, or simply forget in the midst of this stressful time. The room numbering in this hallway doesn't help matters, since it follows a pattern that originated with a layout that is no longer quite what the hall looks like now, so even the most diligent student may not be able to find the exact room their professor told them to find. This makes for a fair amount of chaos on the campus this week.

I've been here for five years now, and we keep trying new methods to cut down on the confusion where possible. For example, I put a big sign on the back of my door with my room number on it. Since room numbers tend to be on the fronts of doors, and my door is always open while I'm in it, the room number would never be seen to assure the student that they have, in fact, found the right place without the extra sign. I also hang a sign with an arrow from the ceiling toward the end of the week. I'm fortunate enough to have a neon hall light right in front of the door, which gives this sign a nice glow.

I've tried other ideas over the years which have fared less well. I've put up signs saying exactly which classes I take papers for, but find that students won't read signs containing this kind of detail. In another effort, since I only serve full-time professors and not adjuncts, I've had signs saying that adjunct papers go to another office (with appropriate directions to the office in question). But not all students know who is an adjunct, and who isn't.

The only thing that seems to work well is just to ask all students with papers who their professor is, and then to tell them whether the paper is one I take, or if it goes elsewhere, to give directions to the most likely place (I'm not always certain, but generally know where such papers go after so many years). Unfortunately, this time of the quarter gets to be stressful for me as well, especially when twenty students are waiting outside my office at the end of the day trying to get papers on "on time," and I'm not always good at hiding my own frustration. I can only ask for understanding, as I in turn try to offer that same understanding to the students who are ready for the quarter to be finally over.

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