The Rebel-Scholar’s Guide to Midterm Meltdown


I saw a New Yorker cartoon today; a small dog was addressing its master (a balding bearded man positioned between a bookcase and a desktop). The line? “I love you … But I’m through getting slippers for someone who hasn’t published since 1997.”

Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of the academic. At this blessed time–half way through the second semester–we begin to wonder where we left our sense of balance (and our sanity, our keys, our wallet, the tickets to Tuesday’s lecture and the pattern for that afghan we were going to knit for Christmas 2007).

We find ourselves singing limericks about tea pots, asking the leftovers rhetorical questions, and accusing our domestic pets of unrealistic expectations. (Fluffy, can’t you see how hard I work? And I do it all for you!)

If we are lucky, we take out frustration on inanimate objects–cursing the door jamb, threatening the humming fridge, making demands of the ice trays (which acquire that smell on purpose to annoy us).

Well, beleaguered compatriots deep in the denial stage of grading, there is hope. You need but follow these steps to find greater freedom in time for the approaching spring break.
1. Stop grading on the merit system. Instead, assign marks based upon astrological alignment.
2. Write all your comments as haiku or–better yet–Chinese cookie fortunes.
3. Try teaching your class in pig Latin, all the while claiming it is conversational French.
4. Whenever you are asked to take on a new committee assignment, respond by quoting Alice in Wonderland. Sample: “we would like you to head up academic affairs” …answer… “yes, and when I was your age, I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
5. Take personal offense at the color of your office carpet. Call off work until the problem is fixed to your liking.
6. Instead of spending hours on research, borrow incomplete facts in the wrong context and passionately defend your position as ideology. (Be warned, however. You may be mistaken for a political candidate and accidentally elected).
7. Send rejection letters back to unsympathetic journals marked “return to sender.”
8. Write to journals you have never sent to and thank them for accepting your manuscript. Take personal offense when they don’t know what you are talking about. (See number 5–repeat).
9. Tell your students to teach you something instead. Then sit in the back and text your colleagues about lunch options. If asked the point of the exercise, call it experiential learning.
10. Go home early. Eat chocolate cake for dinner. Refer to yourself as a member of the royal family…and basically:
Give yourself a break. We work hard. Let’s laugh a little, and rest a lot.
Happy Midterm to all.

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