Living the Thug Life: How Being a Professor is Like Hustling

The past week I hit my mid semester slump. The point where working three jobs catches up to you and all you want to do is hide in the back of your closet eating ice cream and being surrounded by your shoes.

(This size of ice cream sans the friend and hidden in shoes)

Unfortunately you can’t because the immediate guilt of wasting time sitting and eating fatty food feels as bad the the crushing pressure on your chest to finish all of your assignments for the week.  If I sat there and ate that ice cream,  I would reprimand myself for not going to the gym (which I really haven’t been doing lately).

In the midst of this, I decided you know what, I need to cancel some classes. I made sure to choose the ones where we were reviewing already covered content. I posted power point slides to help with review. I made myself available for office hours. I felt like I found a time continuum that would allow me to catch my breath for a brief second.

And then my students came in. They came in droves lining up in the hallways waiting to speak with me. They asked about their grades. They asked about how to get an A for the semester. They asked me why I was just so darn difficult.

This may seem normal, but it gets a little tricky. As these students came in, I started to hear a rumble in the hall. They all started to compare grades. They started to notice that the class average was a C. They started to accuse me of “fixing” grades.

While this is very untrue, there is always a moment where you ask yourself, “Do they realize they out number you?” Think about that a moment. In a classroom there is only one teacher and anywhere from 20-200 students. It is TERRIFYING to realize that. More so when they are starting to complain.

Then it hit me, I have to be a street thug with these kids. I have to sell them on my product, make them feel like they gotta have. Make them believe that if they mess with me, I will bust out my brass knuckles and mess them up.

I am not saying I work in a tough, seedy community college in a sketchy neighborhood; I am pretty lucky to work in a WONDERFUL four year university, but you still get those classes that just want to fight.

That is when I put on the game face. You put your highest heels on, slick your hair into a bun, and put the trunchbull face on.

(Mrs. Trunchbull from Roald Dalh’s Matilda)

I am not the only professor that does this. In fact, I was speaking with a colleague recently and she told me about a situation she was going through.

She said that she has a student from a different school who wouldn’t stop singling out the professor (herself). He would wait until all the students would leave in order to talk to the professor alone, he felt it gave him the best chance to force her hand to raise his grade. Instead, what she did was bust out her Latina roots and set him straight. He sent her harassing emails stating she was not doing her job as an instructor, etc. My friend made sure to let her student know where the boundaries are and once crossed, you can never go back. She joked about wearing hoop earrings, lip liner, and fake nails (playing on the stereotype).

It may seem like an over-exaggeration of our situation as professors, but it’s not. Like any street thug, we have to remain two moves ahead of our enemy. We have to anticipate student reaction and lay the law out. You either adhere to my regulations of the hood or you are bounced.

You don’t take lip. You let them know that they give you lip they better be prepared to get this bull’s horns.

I have to say, that this may seem harsh, but it really isn’t. When you break it down, the facts are these: I am one person in charge of 148 students. When one starts a fire it creates havoc, and you can’t have that. You gotta come prepared.

Watch out for me, I come packing.

**P for Pocket Owl Press**


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