I began thinking about this when I found myself getting all worked up about a series of emails I got from a particular student at the end of the semester. There was nothing particularly surprising about these emails - the student was upset to have received a B+ when he felt he 'deserved' an A. Of course he had to tell me that this is the ONLY class in which he got less than an A, and pointed out that based on his performance on exams, he clearly knows the material (he did have very high scores on his exams). But he was missing a couple of assignments and had missed enough classes (i.e., had clicker scores of zero) that his overall score for the semester was an 89%. The student insisted that he actually did those missing assignments, they just weren't recorded by the computer (one was a Blackboard survey from the beginning of the semester and one was an Aplia experiment). To be honest, if the student's attitude were not so entitled and demanding, I would probably have been happy to make an exception and be done with it. Instead, every time an email from him showed up in my inbox, I found myself getting very anxious and annoyed.
How does all this tie into my belief in the Perfect Professor? Well, I began to wonder why I was letting this student - and others like him - get to me. I mean, sure, his attitude is immature, but he's also 19 and used to getting straight A's without working very hard, so what do I expect? But I couldn't just shrug it off, and something about my reaction felt personal, like I was taking this all as a personal affront. And the more I thought about it, the more I kept coming back to one thought, "This would never happen to B." B. is a professor who is known for being an amazing teacher, the kind that gets the highest ratings in the department while students tell other students that his class is the hardest they've ever taken but they learned a ton. I'm not saying he's the perfect professor I described before but I realized that every time I encounter difficult students, some part of me thinks that if I were as good a teacher as B., I wouldn't have these problems. And so every time I encounter difficult students, I do take it personally - I take it as an indication that I am not the teacher I want to be.
Now, is this realistic or logical? Of course not, on many levels. But it's there nonetheless, and I've realized that this may be one source of my high levels of stress this fall. However, now that I'm more aware that this is part of what's been driving my stress, maybe I'll be able to do something about it. At least that's the plan - we'll see if it lasts past the first week of classes...
Happy New Year!