So, the crazy thoughts are starting to trickle in to my exhausted brain.  Lots of “worst case scenario” type thoughts about my job search and upcoming campus visit.  Think hostile search committee member who asks me questions that I can’t answer (and then berates me loudly and viciously) or lost luggage (where I give a job talk in pajamas).  For the most part, these thoughts are immediately recognized as completely insane and discarded.  Still, I have my moments of insecurity, as anyone on the market for this long would.

Every now and then, I have moments that remind me why I’m putting myself through this emotional wringer.  This afternoon I was reluctantly grading my students’ most recent homework assignment (to give them a chance to self-assess before a review class next week), and happened upon the paper of a student I’ll call “Dan.”  Dan is smart, earnest, and entirely terrified of statistics.  He often expresses fear or frustration over the course, but is always exceedingly respectful and shows a true desire to learn.  I’ve had at least 2 or 3 meetings with him outside of class where I work with him one-on-one.  His last homework assignment grade was pretty bad, and he seemed at his wits’ end.  I felt bad that someone so capable was struggling, particularly in my class.  As I graded his paper today, I realized that he finally gets it.  I took great joy in posting a perfect grade for him, even including a note that said, “I’m so proud of you!”  It may be a bit on the coddling side, but positive reinforcement can’t hurt when the last 3 months have been anything but reinforcing.

I love research and all that goes with it, but teaching provides a lot in the way of instant gratification.  I may not be creating a horde of new statisticians, but at least they will walk away with an appreciation and understanding of what constitutes good research and analysis (whether their own or others’).  If I can do that, I’ll say my work has been successful.