Every teacher reaches a point where their patience is starting to wear thin. About this time of year, in fact. It’s cold. Spring break is too far away; Christmas is a forgotten memory. We’re back to the grind and it’s, well, grinding

Shiny-cheeked students have started to annoy us and classroom school supplies have crossed over from new to gently used to how am I going to make this last until June. Backpacks are getting trashed; I see frayed ends on the straps of my daughter’s packs already. Lunch bags officially smell like rotten baloney. 

We don’t even eat baloney. 

A compressed brick of wrappers, scrap paper, pencil shavings, half-chewed erasers, graded worksheets and teacher memos now inhabits the bottom of each backpack.  My backseat is full of crumbs, a stray glove, a broken shoelace, empty Mugby Junction cups and a half-rotten apple.

Ugh, February. How I hate thee.

About this time of year, teachers are thinking spring. More specifically, we’re thinking June. Where are my darling students who began the year on a cloud and are now annoying little vagrants? Quoting Rory Gilmore, as any good Gilmore Girls fan will do, they are pretty much a bunch of butt-faced miscreants. <love

I’m going to let all of the non-teachers in on a little secret. 
All teachers, regardless of grade or tenure, have some version of a Good Stuff book.



In the midst of grading frenzy, meetings, professional development workshops, continuing education classes, class prep, meetings, technology training, academic affairs curriculum committee, advising, and (did I mention) meetings… we often resort to the Good Stuff book out of raw ego-driven desperation. 

p.s. I named it the Good Stuff book because I literally am that creative all the time. <lame, I know. I need a good Rory name for it.


Let me give you some examples of situations that have caused me to dive into the Good Stuff book over the past decade. 




A group used this picture of Consuela from Family Guy to depict a fictitious female Senior Vice President of Marketing in a professional case analysis presentation to an upper-division management class. I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like, “She’s on the phone with work while making dinner for her family. This shows her ability to multitask.”

They were serious. I protested. 


We’ll call it a teachable moment. 












First sentence of a group presentation about Alan Mulally and his leadership at Ford Motor Company: “Mulally must wake up every morning and piss excellence.”

<sigh> [hang head here]






 


These examples were just from the past week.

 
Last semester I had a gentleman ask if he could facilitate a final exam review session in class. “Not for points, just because we’re learning stuff like leadership, motivation and teamwork in [another program I’m involved in].” I figured since he was actually failing the course, sporadically attended, and had bailed on his group, it was probably not a good idea. 

I believe my actual statement was something akin to, “You want me to turn over my class to you the week before finals so you can facilitate an exam review over an assessment you don’t know the content of, nor will pass yourself? Plus, I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you.” 


<uncomfortable pause> 


“I’ve got other students waiting. There’s the door. “


A few years ago I was grading my first set of business plans for an Entrepreneurship class. I spent an entire semester painstakingly walking students through the business plan process, paying special attention to the financial section. When I sat down to grade one particular plan, I was pleased to read the marketing, sales and product/service description, only to find the financial section M I S S I N G. He’d been talking about this business as an actual idea after college and planned to pursue it soon. I figured this was an oversight, so I called the student into my office. 


“Yeah, I didn’t really do it. I’m more of a word-guy,” he chuckled with mock humility. 


<pause>


Psst. Teachers, lean in. Imagine I’m whispering in a confession-like manner into your ear when I say this. You know when you’re in that moment with a student and time stops? You feel your anger rising and then, because you’re a professional, push it down, back into place, where it’s safe from exposure to the rest of society – and your boss


This was not that time. 


I sat back in my chair, still gripping the now-damp plan in my hand. I threw the stapled mass at the sheepishly-grinning student and said, rather loudly, “this is the biggest piece of s**t I’ve ever seen! Get. Out.” I had not yet renewed my Faith, hence the *language*. We made up, but I don’t think he ever completed the financial section. More on him later. 


Early in my career I taught Introduction to Accounting. I was reviewing submitted homework, which consisted of hand written journal entries showing appropriate debits and credits and using t-accounts. One student, obviously fed up with accounting, wrote this lovely tome after giving up on the second half of the assignment. 


“F**k this s**t! I’ll just hire someone to do MY books!”


Because I was a new teacher and my pregnancy hormones were raging (it’s really Emily’s fault, you see), without hesitation I penned the following response above the zero-point score that read, “And when your bookkeeper robs you blind because you can’t read a financial statement, don’t blame me.”


Not my finest educational moment, folks. It’s in time like these I find myself gravitating towards the Good Stuff book. 


I see a bunch of thank you notes from former students and Delta Sigma Pi brothers who brought me into their fold as a faculty initiate in 2008. I remember the story of one of these brothers, David. He struggled to complete high school and, against all odds and the advice of his academic counselor, ended up at WSU. After class one evening, he shared the story of one of his high school teachers saying he’d not amount to anything. He was about to graduate with his bachelor’s degree. He struggled, don’t get me wrong. But he didn’t give up. It’s served him well, this tenacity, as he’s ascended in his career, now a director of manufacturing operations in South East Asia for a global supplier of industrial goods. 


I remember a former student from California sitting in my office, his college hockey career derailed by injury, describing how he had let his grades plummet that semester and seemed to be in a deep depression. If he wasn’t an athlete, what now? He was smart. Super smart, in fact. Great with numbers and a passionate speaker with a riches to rags family story. I remember sitting across from this young man, seemingly perched on the cusp of major life decisions, unsure how or what to think. 


What could I say? I silently prayed for the words as the silence descended around us. As the words came, so did a welling of emotion – not typical for me in this role. I took his hand – again, not typical. 


“Look, we’ve got this. You and me. Together. I’ve got your back.” 


Gentle reader: never in my professional career had I ever uttered these words to a student, not to mention a male student. But those words were not of my doing. They were the right words for the right person in the right circumstance. And they worked. We did figure it out together. He thrived the next semester, and the next, and the next. Eventually pulling out of the funk and helping others the following year in a similar situation. 


All I did was obey and trust that the words that dropped into my head were not of my doing, but of His. 


It was the first time I really heard God speaking to me and it was for another person. And it was perfection.


Or, how about that time when a student completed the final exam and made his way to the front. Odd, because the test was electronically scored to facilitate a speedy grading process. They usually just waive and head out the door. This young gentleman, for they are all young now, stuck out his hand. “I like to shake the hands of the good ones.”


How about last semester when another young man, for this always seems to happen on final exam day now, made his way to the front. A quiet student, but thoughtful and artsy, I was surprised he was coming to speak to me. He said, with hand outstretched, “Dr. Craft, it was a pleasure.” Just like that. Totally smooth and articulate. Blew me away.


Perhaps the best letter, for there have been many, was from my a fore mentioned financial statement business plan slacker. Towards the end of school he bopped into my office and excitedly spilled his plans for after graduation. Yep, he was (and still is) a bopper. He’s a dreamer and a visionary. That person who has lots of ideas and little follow through, or so I thought. As he manically took me through his business ideas and his impending fortune and fame, complete with magazine covers and venture capital money, I said:


“If you land on the cover of a magazine in the next 5 years, I’ll eat my sock.”


What the heck? Who says that? It’s not even a thing! How about, I’ll eat my words. I’ll eat a grasshopper. Sock? Seriously. Lamesauce. 


The five year mark is upon us and no cover, but plenty of interviews and some decent funding of his start up venture- not the one without financials, mind you. He keeps in touch often, but it was the first email after landing a large contract with a national trucking company that reduced me to tears. Some of my favorite excerpts are below. 


Subject: Get your socks ready 🙂

I hope you don’t hold it against me as I’ve been waiting until I had something to update you on. I know you hate fluff. <insert numerous accomplishments with a fore mentioned business venture here.> 

Now, this is not bragging because I am sharing this with you for a very important reason. I never could have done any of this without you believing in me and you deserve to know what your efforts as educator produce. 


So, thank you.


Good. Stuff.