Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Office hours

A week to go until the official end of the spring term. Having been displaced from my office, I'm holding office hours -- those weekly hours when professors must be available for students outside of class -- at a coffeeshop close to campus.

Kortney calls. I'd dub her one of the Ashleys -- those plastic girls tottering on $500 sandals, clutching their $1500 handbags -- but try as she might, she'll never quite fit the mold. Her weight for one thing. Girls on this particular campus hover at near-skeletal levels. Kortney is on the chunky side. My generation's parents called it "baby fat." She's not really fat, not in the real world that doesn't measure by Paris Hilton standards, just fleshier than most of her classmates. Rubenesque, you might say. I think she's pretty and will only get prettier as the years add up and her baby fat melts away.

I meet Kortney for nonfat lattes. She's worried about her grade, not in my class but in the class of one of my now-former colleagues. "She hates me!" says Kortney. "Everything I do is wrong in there!" She pulls out a sheaf of papers that the teacher has marked up during the semester. The mistakes are little ones -- odd spacings, misplaced modifiers -- but for each one, the other teacher has deducted 10 points. Every paper is topped with a big red "F."

I don't know what to tell Kortney. What I'd love to say is that it's not all her fault, that this other professor has had a shitty life lately. She's freshly divorced, bitter that her kid has sided with the ex. She's also packed on about 40 pounds over the past two semesters. My amateur psychology says the teacher sees herself in the student and is punishing herself by proxy by failing the girl.

What I say instead is, go talk to Professor X. See what you can do to salvage your grade. Be calm. Don't tune up to cry.

And take her a box of Godivas.

Couldn't hurt.

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