My unhappiest semester at Madison included having a graduate student in my methods course allegedly express a desire to kill me that was sufficiently convincing that one of the student's peers reported it to the department. I don't think I would have been bothered about it if I had not already, for still the only time in my career, started a file about this student because their classroom and other behavior was so aggressively peculiar. Even then, it's not like I moved that file to the front of the drawer and wrote "READ IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH" on it. But I do remember feeling enormously disenchanted that I was teaching graduate students and had to deal with something like this, the same disenchantment I felt with the two plagiarism cases I had to handle over my four times teaching that course.* Oh, and also that time a graduate student raised their hand as I was in the middle of explaining something about sampling theory to ask, "Will this be on the test?"
Chris posted some advice to graduate students in response to Drek's advice, which was itself inspired by Fabio's excellent series of posts of advice. Chris's #3, though, is part of a lesson I've found especially valuable as a faculty member. Faculty often make broad assertions about "the graduate students" in their department--or about "the undergraduates" or "my colleagues"--but those assertions commonly reflect less the overall distribution of students than what part of the distribution the person chooses to focus on. In other words, assessments about "the graduate students" in a department reflect whether one chooses to focus on those students who are most rewarding or least rewarding to interact with. In retrospect, and as per Chris's advice, I should have focused more on the fun of teaching the most rewarding students and done better about not being made surly by the least rewarding students.**
In general, I let the disappointing part of the distribution of things influence my attitude more than it should, including of sociology itself. I am getting better about this, although, as with so many things with me, progress is uneven and slow.
* The first of these was the paper at the top of the stack of the first assignment of the first time I taught the course. In other words, when I sat down for the very first time as a professor to grade graduate student work, the first paper I read had several paragraphs cut-and-pasted from a book review online.
** I taught over 100 sociology students in those four years--not to mention students from other departments--so of course there was going to be variation. Madison's cohort sizes have shrunk the last three years, but there was an incoming cohort of 39 one year when I was there. Northwestern's typical graduate cohort size is 8. For someone teaching a required course only offered once per year, I'm much more happy with the idea of a cohort size of 8 than 39.