One of the things that I truly enjoy about my job is helping students do research. It’s not just the variety of topics, it’s watching a student learn how to turn something they care about into a research paper. Of course there’s the boring stuff, like teaching them how to cite in the proper format, but into every job a little boredom must fall, right? And I know that the students don’t believe me, but in all my years of working with them on research, in all the papers I’ve read, I’ve always learned something.
This year has been no different. One of our US History papers was done by a student who confessed that history wasn’t his favorite subject. He was hoping to play D1 sports and was able to do a paper on the history of the NCAA’s rules for students and how colleges were making millions off this unpaid labor. When I checked in with him after, he’d gotten a great grade and told me that this was one of his two favorite projects in his time at the school. I don’t need to tell you how happy that made me! (Because, of course, it’s all my doing, right?)
It’s also fun watching a student really get into the research piece. One of the reasons I love research is knowing that there is a resource out there and then hunting it down. A few years ago, a student was quoting a poem written by Baldur von Schirach in honor of Hitler – but who had translated the poem? Over thirty minutes later, we had an answer and she later said, “that was actually fun!” I’ve had other students get equally determined to find a source, quote or resource. My hope is that they continue to have that type of fun as they do other research, either academic or personal.
The unfortunate thing is that Research Season here means nearly three months of non-stop classes; last week we had between 20 and 23 classes in during our 8 period day. That means we don’t get to spend as much time with each student, that the shelves are amazingly out of order, and that by the end of each day we’re exhausted. Having lived through this last year and the year before, I know that come early May, when all the papers are finished, we’ll be able to breathe again. And by next February we’ll have forgotten and actually be looking forward to it starting all over again.