This one has been slowly building to a head. Rather like a boil.
Once upon a time in the first week of semester, I received a series of emails from a student who was “really keen” to be in my class. My class, the delightful centre of elite learning that it was, would totally complete her semester, make her erudite in the ways of literature, and quite possibly cure her acne. Could I get her in? Sadly, no amount of fairy-farting flattery could make it in my power to let her in, but she could keep checking the list, because it was still add-drop.
Well. Eventually she got in, at which point it became apparent that the real reason she wanted to be in my class was to sit next to her boyfriend, a mild-mannered young man, who is slightly, but not all that much, more capable as a student. They share books, so that is probably another reason. Nothing to do with my overall reputation for fabulousness in professoring, after all.
Having joined the class late, this little treasure then proceeded to further tarnish her attendance record by coming to class only about once a week, although class meets 3 times a week, giving her many more opportunities to join me for a little light literary discussion. When I responded to an email excusing yet another absence with a suggestion that she perhaps needed to be a little more dedicated in the class attending department, she gave me to understand that she was very busy and important, and that really, it was no business of mine what she did with her time.
The due date for the first essay came. I gave the essays that came in a cursory glance, checking for dead ducks, and found that there were several in need of duck removal. Out of the kindness of my heart, I gave the owners of these duck documents a few moments to make their adjustments. The Groomer’s essay was very ducky, but when I called her name, she was nowhere to be seen. You may imagine her reaction to receiving the designated D for Duck grade: the word “unfair” was used liberally.
I am clearly not performing up to scratch in the spoonfeeding department, as the Groomer informed me a few weeks ago, by asking exasperatedly if I was “ever going to tell us what is on the midterm, or what.” Given that the midterm was 3 weeks away, I responded that I didn’t feel the urgency, and was admonished by a huffy sigh.
I would like to say, in my defense, that while it crossed my mind to wait the short interval until the Groomer was absent from class to reveal the ultra-secret midterm information (aka “you have to write an essay on Gatsby“), I resisted the temptation. This is because I am not in any way prejudiced against her. I give you this as an insight into subsequent events.
In this class, I have a requirement for a number of mini-assignments, marked on a pass or fail basis, which, I am assured, is just the kind of asshole thing Professors like me do in order to drag down the A students who prefer to procrastinate, writing one paper (probably at 2am) and pulling out a miracle A-. These brighter, more deserving, but lazier students resent the opportunity I am giving to plodders who do all the required work to essentially get a free 10%.
These assignments I mark with a checkmark if they are decent, a few pertinent comments if they are barely passable, and with a “ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING” if they don’t manage to meet the pathetically minimal requirements. The Groomer has managed to hand in a few misspelled atrocities, which I have passed, but have also spent a few minutes pointing out the worst of her spelling and grammatical errors, in the vain hope that she would notice and try to improve.
At the mid point of the semester, then, she is scraping by, saved by the pass/fail nature of the gimme assignments, which information is no doubt making some A student somewhere grind his or her teeth.
Then we come to Friday’s class. The Groomer wandered in 15 minutes late, and proceded to do the following, from her seat in the front row for the remaining 30 minutes of class:
- check email
- moisturise hands
- giggle with boyfriend
- comb hair
- use fingernail to clean speck of something off the arm of glasses
- rearrange hairstyle
- check email again.
You will notice that a) none of these things involved looking at her textbook (which never came out of her bag), or participating in class discussion. Oh, and did I mention she sits in the front row? Most people who don’t want to pay attention have the decency to sit further back.
At the end of class, I asked to have a word, and gently suggested that she could do a better job of paying attention, rather than, say moisturising, which, while important, can be accomplished before or after class time. Her response? “Well, my hands were dry.”
I let it go at this point. It’s no skin off my nose if she gets a zero for participation, after all. Then, on Saturday, I received an email complaining about my attitude. You see, I have a “bais opinion towards” her. You know how she knows? Other people receive checkmarks on their work, while she receives comments, instead of the “proper checkmark”.
Got that? Feedback is evidence of prejudice. If I liked her, no doubt I would give her the proper grade of an A, and write no useless messy comments on her paper.
I was going to write a huge screed protesting this recockulous accusation, but then I did some soul-searching, and you know what? I think she might be right. I do have a bias opinion towards students who incompetently fail to follow instructions and basic standards of hygeine and grammar, and I express them by writing comments on their work.
It’s a fair cop.