Death by a Thousand (Paper) Cuts

Today was a day of small annoyances. I must confess, I kind of let them get to me, which I blame on a) not feeling well and b) just having had a week off making me ungrateful. Let me lay some instances on you.

Augh. Now, I have one more, which is that my craptacular internets combined with WordPress to eat half this post as I was trying to publish it.

You all know by now my feelings about the stapler. Students who don’t have staplers wanting me to produce one out of my ass, students who staple dead ducks to their essays, students who take my stapler without asking: sometimes teaching is just one giant carousel of stapler madness. This being week, I dunno, 6 or something, of semester, you would think my students who have lab classes once a week, would, after 6 of them, during which they write assignments on computers, and then print out 2-3 pages, which extrude from an ordinary printer, and not some kind of magical machine which puts their pages in the correct order and staples them… Hem. As I was saying, you you would think that these students might also be getting the hang of the stapler thing. But no. Every time they come up to hand in their papers, it’s a string of “do you have a stapler”s. “No,” I say. Every time. You would think after, like, 4 times, they would get the message that I am not going to produce a damn stapler. Dude, if you care that much, bring your own.

Today was no different. I had a string of stapling requests, which were fraying my already headachy nerves. I think I might have started to look a little bit tetchy, because the next student who came up tried a variation on the theme. “It’s okay if we don’t have a stapler, right?” she asked. At this point, I kind of lost it. “Look,” I said “we go over this every week. We are in a lab; you are printing out papers; there is no stapler in the lab because every time we put one in here, some bastard steals it. So yes, it is okay if you don’t have a stapler. What is not okay is this constant harping on about your stapling desires. I have had enough. The next person who says the word ‘stapler’ will lose a whole letter grade off his or her mark for the assignment.” I know: crazy and harsh, and possibly also crazy harsh. But the thing is – it worked. Not one further peep did I hear about staplage.

My next annoyance came in the form of a rather grubby student, hereinafter referred to as the Unwashed. It’s not so much her person that is revolting, though it is, it’s that her work is constantly grimed over with a slightly sticky film of dubious origin. (I could speculate, but some depths are better left unplumbed.)

Today’s offering was partially typed, although single spaced (a paragraph formatting choice guaranteed to raise professorial ire, saying, as it does – “your comments, I have no need of them”) slightly crooked on the page, and after the first two paragraphs, suddenly transitioned into an off-kilter, handwritten scrawl. The paper was also crumpled and slightly grubby, as if the Unwashed had been holding it in her sweaty paws, or possibly had shoved it into her pocket, along with unpleasant substances of a dusty nature.

Previous work from this student have included an assignment which was typed but had had the citation scrawled on in crayon, and a handwritten assignment on what appeared to be slightly greyish, lined toilet paper. This latter, mind you, consisted of questions and answers painfully transcribed because they had all been initially provided in electronic format. “Wouldn’t it have been easier just to copy and paste?”  I had asked, incredulously.

So you see, today’s effort was not without history, and I had commented on the importance of the impression given to the instructor by work that looked like the student gave a shit (this comes under the “dead duck” rules, really). It was 10 minutes in to a lab class, and I suggested that the Unwashed might like to use some assigned class time to have a stab at cleaning this mess up. “Oh, no. I have to be somewhere at 1,” was her reply. Class was scheduled to run until 1:50, but because WTF guy has so schooled me on the unreasonablness of expecting students to spend all 110 minutes of class time actually in the classroom, I let this one go by with scarcely a raised eyebrow. I was, however, goaded into being petty. “Well, since this is not the first time I have mentioned the importance of presentation, it will affect your mark.” Her only response was a glance of withering scorn and a “Whatever” thrown over her begrimed shoulder as she left the room.

In other news, not all my students are this rude. Hulking Ethnic Guy #1 raised his hand in class to ask a question. “Excuse me, Miss,” he said. “What did you say?” I asked. “Miss. I wanted to ask a question,” he replied. “I know you wanted to ask a question, but dude, did you seriously just call me ‘Miss’?” To me, “Miss” conjures images of 19th century urchins in charity schools; well, either that or the opening of Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch. “What do you mean, Miss?” “I am sorry, I have a cold.”

HEG#1 (as I will refer to him, rather than giving you a clue to his ethnicity by giving him a name like Hakeem, or Dimitri) went on to explain that he was trying to be polite. Much as I appreciated the impulse, I suggested that there were perhaps better ways to express it. I turned to the room for support. “Room,” said I, “how might you address me if you were trying to be polite?” Thinking, as I did so that it seemed rather a gratuitous conversation to be having.

The complete and utter silence with which my question was greeted suggest that in fact it was a conversation that we needed to be having, much to my chagrin. I have heard several of my colleagues going on about how they have to give lectures on classroom etiquette and manners, and I have tended to dismiss them as partronising and fuddy-duddy-ish. Although, given recent events, it may be that I have just had my head in the sand. In any event, the discussion eventually came around to the conclusion that since I had said they could call me by my first name that it was actually okay (even polite) to do so, and that they could, for special occasions, bust out a “Professor Whatladder.”

A few moments later, Hulking Ethnic Guy #2 entered the room. “Sorry I am late, Miss,” he said.

9 thoughts on “Death by a Thousand (Paper) Cuts

  1. willfulmina

    You would think after, like, 4 times, you would just bring one to class with you so you wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore.

    1. whatladder Post author

      Why? Why add a stapler to the pile of books and papers I am already bringing? I don’t care if the papers are unstapled. It’s not my issue, nor is it like I am requiring them to be stapled; I staple when I mark them, every fucking time. It’s not like I give papers back in fragments, or with pages missing. This is about snowflakes who want everything done for them, RIGHT NOW. Essentially, I am saying, I will do it, but not this second. I don’t see that as negligent, actually.

  2. Bobbie

    No moreso, What, than expecting these dears (or are they deer, as in headlights?) to meet any of our other fundamental requirements. I’m with you completely on this. And the single-space thing? Drives me to blithering, spluttering, blathering madness. Willfulmina, lines in the sand? We must to draw some.

  3. Sile

    I can’t believe you got total silence when you asked what you should be called. I totally would have busted out with a “professor ladder” right off the bat, thus showing these uncultured swine their place in the world. 😛

    I am in shock. An Unwashed FEMALE?! Usually the unwashed are male. That is VERY interesting. Maybe Canada is mirror image of USAsia?

    Most of my profs didn’t ALLOW double spacing. It was single or nothing. Mostly because kids would try to fudge the margins to make it look like their paper had more information than it did. It was always single space, Times New Roman, 12 point, margins set to default. Any deviation from this was met with scorn. And if it was Dr. Pollard, an immediate F. He was so harsh. I loved him. 😀

  4. Jessica

    I just had to chuckle at the stapler thing – when I was a freshman, I had a journalism teacher who required that papers be stapled – not loose, not paperclipped, not folded over – STAPLED. Or, you FAILED that assignment. Srsly. And unbelievably, every single class someone would come in without their assignment stapled, and then BITCH about being told that they would FAIL if they handed it in that way. I bought a mini-stapler and carried it in my backpack, and when I whipped it out one day for my moron classmates, the prof said, “See, THIS is the woman I want working at my newspaper.” I’m sure everyone hated me, but not enough to keep them from using my stapler.

  5. fillyjonk

    Yesterday I collected papers in my non-majors class. There USED to be a stapler in the room, but it has since disappeared (which is why I never take my own stuff into a classroom – you forget it after one class, and it’s gone).

    The way some of the students reacted to there being no stapler, you’d have thought I slapped them across the mouth.

    “Look,” I finally said, hoping to prevent tearful breakdowns, “I have a stapler in my office. Fold over the corner of your paper and I’ll staple them when I get back there.”

    So, neither do they have a stapler of their own – they take it as an INSULT when the faculty member does not provide them with the same.

    I’ve stopped riding people over pagination, spacing, etc. – I realize that’s giving in, but I’m tired of dealing with the meltdowns over “but I don’t REMEMBER your having said to double-space it!” Even when it was on the assignment sheet. I’ve had far too many students who cry too easily.

    I’ve also had those “I ran out of printer ink” papers that are done in cyan or magenta or some crazy color. I’ve never had one written on tp but I’m just waiting.

  6. MelindaKnits

    willfulmina said,

    You would think after, like, 4 times, you would just bring one to class with you so you wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore.
    I’m going to assume you’re kidding or taking the piss here, because you know that favourite saying of secretaries–“Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part”–well, substitute “a stapler” for “planning” and “obligation to bring one” for “emergency” and that is how I feel about THAT.

    Anyway, in prior semesters I did bring a stapler to class to avoid the whole issue but then I found I was stapling about 500 papers per semester because more and more students decided they didn’t need to take care of petty things stapling since, hey, the instructor would! Yeah, no. This semester I don’t accept unstapled papers. At all. It’s awesome.

  7. cq

    i hate it when my students try to improvise for the lack of a stapler by either doing that tearing-the-left-corner-of-the-pages thing to give the appearance of “attachment” or, WTF, using their spit as some kind of gross-me-out glue (which i don’t even touch let alone accept)

  8. sam

    “…and a handwritten assignment on what appeared to be slightly greyish, lined toilet paper.”

    The Prison Notebooks of Unwashed?


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