It's been a rough-ish week. And it ain't over yet.
University classes start next week, and we're already seeing hordes of anxious first-years trying to figure out how to get around the system. ("It's not fair that I have to go into a night lab!" "I need that course for med school!") This surge of activity is expected, and (thankfully) temporary.
There have been all sorts of annoyances and frustrations this week, relating to problems with the enrollment system, miscellaneous (human) screw-ups and the odd-ball situation that has to be dealt with outside regular systems. More screw-ups and system issues than normal this week, it seems, but maybe that's normal too.
My former grad supervisor has been on my back about finishing a paper, and I have been working on it, albeit too slowly for his liking. He might be surprised to discover that the intermittent snide emails aren't all that motivating.
Worst incident (so far) happened today. I came across one of the TAs in the hall outside my office. One of her students had come by to demand additional marks on his lab reports. (It's been several weeks since the summer labs finished.) She called me over (I coordinated the lab in question) and we tried to talk to him. He became increasingly loud and verbally abusive, swearing at us out in the hall. He's also a big guy, and when he started to become physically intimidating to us, I told him that we couldn't discuss the issue that way. Luckily, a couple of male profs were nearby, and one of them helped me get the student calmed down and out of the building. My poor TA hid in my office, trying not to cry. She's maybe 5 feet tall, and very conscientious. I tried to explain that the student's anger was probably a result of many things, not because of anything she did. At the same time, I myself was a bit shaken, and some new and unwelcome thoughts about my physical safety on campus came to mind.
(Ironically, even if we had given this guy extra marks on his labs, it wouldn't have changed his final grade in the course. You have to pass both the lecture portion and the labs independently to pass the course, and he absolutely bombed in his midterms and final.)
In retrospect, I don't think I handled that situation very well. I seem to be able to handle the poor kids who dissolve in tears, but explosive anger is a different story. I feel really bad for that TA, since she is actually one of the better ones I've worked with here. Even when you know that most of the students are good, it just takes an incident like this to make you more suspicious and fear the worst in people. (After any negative experience with a student, I really have to fight the urge to become cynical and bitter. With each successive event, this gets more difficult.)
You know, I actually do like my work. It seems alien to be complaining! That kind of gives an indication of how frustrating the week has been, I guess
And I just noticed that I've spilled something (coffee?) on my shirt.
I am going on such a bender tomorrow after work