Monthly Archives: September 2008

Tales from the start of semester.

Students are getting dumber, I swear. They are moronic in flocks, like the 25 who turned up to a 3 hour class in the second week of term without a book. It’s a lit class. What did they think we were going to DO for 3 hours, if they hadn’t done the reading? But this is just common or garden stupid. I have a couple who are already standing out from the herd.

Yesterday, I had an series of emails from a student (let’s call her “Precious”) who had missed both of last week’s classes for “personal reasons” she “didn’t care to explain”. Newsflash: I don’t CARE about your personal problems. Anyway, apparently, when she got to the classroom we were not there, and there was “no way” she could find out where the class had gone.

Let’s examine this premise, shall we? There was the info in the Course Outline about the fact that we were doing an in-class assignment in the lab. There was the fact that I had mentioned the room number of the lab in both classes the previous week. There was the option to go upstairs and ask the Departmental Secretary who booked the lab where it was. There was the “wander 3 doors down the corridor to the room marked ‘English Lab'” option (okay, that one might have required some dumb luck). And there was, of course, the giant not written in large letters on the board, which said “ENGLISH CLASS MONDAY, WE ARE IN ROOM XXXX”.

Because of my pathological need to keep the room number of the lab secret, Precious was instead forced to “guess” what the assignment required, and then she handed it in to an unknown location.

Here’s my dilemma: do I enforce my policy which says if you don’t excuse your absence before the in-class assignment you get a zero, or do I read (assuming it ever turns up in my inbox) her 700 word “guess” and give her a grade? The argument in favour of the latter is that it seems like I am doing her a favour while actually pwning her because she wrote a pile of crap, but there is a 1000 to 1 shot that it merits better than a D.

Either way, it seems I am doomed to have to hear about Precious’ personal problems because now she suggests that since this assignment was for marks, she supposes that she ought to give me an actual excuse for her absence. Please.

Then there is Muscle Boy. Muscle Boy is devoted to the gym, and has giant muscles all over his body. They don’t seem to be arranged in any particular order, and I think one of the biggest ones is in his head. He comes to class with a 4 litre container of water, and at least one protein shake. During the class, which lasts a little under 2 hours, he has to break out at least one tupperware meal, presumably because he has to eat constantly to maintain his bulk.

Constant eating does not restrain him from talking, though, which he does at volume. Does he say anything interesting or worthwhile? You know he does not. Generally he is either talking about something with whoever is unfortunate enough to sit within his food spatter zone, or he is asking questions about stuff we moved on from 15 minutes ago.

The other day, I had all the students come to my office in the second half of class so that we could caucus about their topics for their term projects. These meetings lasted approximately 90 seconds each. Muscle boy, who cannot go without sustenance for such a prolonged period, enthusiastically sprayed me with pineapple as he outlined his plan to write about how body-building helps him stay off drugs.

Free Bristol, too.

I know, you thought I was dead. I just checked out, intellectually. No promises, but I’ll try to get back into it. Assuming you are still out there.

Anyway.

Someone just linked me to this. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally gripped by the potential trainwreck that is Sarah Palin, abuse of power, enquiries into book burning, horrible policy choices and all. It’s times like these that make me thank the goddess I am not a USian. No offense.

But the Bristol thing hits home in a personal way.

Some years ago (not saying how many, and pbbbt to you, too) a 17 year old girl I know personally was pregnant and got pressured into getting married to the father of her baby, even though what she wanted was to keep the baby and raise it herself as a single mother. The father of the baby was her highschool boyfriend; he was kind of good looking in a geeky way, and had a sensitive artistic streak that somehow appealed to her, even though she was an ambitious, grade-grubbing over-achiever who was doing an accelerated High School program in order to get into University a year early.

Her father was pushing her to be an academic success, while her mother was just happy she had a nice boyfriend. The pregnancy couldn’t have been a more spectacular accident, happening, as it did, just before she went to Germany as an exchange student.

She got home from Germany, decision made, to face predictable pressure from his parents, who were Evangelicals with strong family values (read “fucked-up weird-ass wife beater” for the father in that scenario), and surprising pressure from her own family. It was too much, even for a strong-willed smart-ass. She married the boyfriend a month before the baby was born. The day after, the girl’s mother and father confessed to her that they wanted her to get married because her younger sister was pregnant, and there was no question of her marrying the father. Woah. Nice betrayal.

She made the best of it, writing to her best friend cheerfully about what might have been seen as grinding poverty. With the help of a sympathetic (childless) aunt, who did a lot of child care, she went to University, kept up with her courses and graduated with grades good enough to get her into a graduate program at a top-flight University.

The baby – a daughter – was happy and healthy, and the aunt and grandparents pitched in to help raise her in the early years.

Meanwhile, her husband was on kind of a downward spiral. He didn’t do so well in his classes, and eventually became resentful of his wife’s academic success. She had an affair. He started hitting her. Don’t judge him too harshly; it was behaviour modelled in his home during the time he grew up – his dad used to smash his older brother’s head into the pavement and call him stupid and a failure. Maybe, in other circumstances, the boy might have been able to see the pattern of abuse for what it was, and transcend it, but pushed too early into an adult role, he was emotionally handicapped from day one.

Eventually, the girl – well, let’s call her a woman – told her husband that she had had enough and she was going to leave him. They were walking down the street with their daughter, who was by that time around four years old. The boy – man – lost it. He punched his wife in the face, breaking her glasses, then picked up the broken shard of glass and dragged it down the woman’s nose. Blood dripped down her face, as she stood, stunned.

That’s my first memory.