The beginning of the semester always means a trickle, or even a parade, of students who have to come tell me about their disabilities. Or rather, they don’t actually tell me about their disabilities. Instead, I get a laundry list of all the accommodations they need for some mysterious disability they don’t have to disclose. Because, as one student once said to me, I am not qualified to assess their learning. Yeah, right.
I am torn on the subject of giving students accommodations. There are some, like the hardworking and bright blind student I had, who have clearly identifiable issues, and it is often the case that the students with the most obvious disabilities are the ones who are working hardest to overcome them. Plus, you know, it is a lot harder to be coy about a missing arm than some kind of alphabet syndrome.
Students with identified learning disabilities fall into a couple of categories, I find: students who know they have ADD or whatever, and have a decent level of self-knowledge and do their best to get their shit together, and those whose disability might best be described as “whiny and entitled”.
Feckless is currently dealing with one in the latter category. This student came to all of 4 classes over the course of semester, and then, during the last week, said that the reason he didn’t come to class was that he had some kind of social anxiety disorder, and could he be accommodated for it? Apparently, this means that he now wants to be excused all the classes he didn’t attend, and get 10 out of 10 for participation in the class he never went to. When Feckless declined to be that accommodating, the student filed a grade appeal that argued, among other things, that he should get good marks for attendance because he got an A for his essay (NOT a logic class, can’t you tell?) and that Feckless was a big fat liar. Is being a jerk really a social disorder you can get academic accommodations for?
I have a student who is shaping up to be a pain. It’s only the second week of semester, and I can tell, because in the last 2 days, she has sent me 8 emails, most of which are asking for basic information already given in class. After reading about the 5th one asking how to send me an email asking me a question about something which is clearly described in the course outline, I must admit to wondering whether she was retarded.
She might be, apparently, but of course the request for me to do all kinds of cr azy stuff like giving her my notes from every class (what notes? I make this shit up as I go along!) doesn’t specify what her actual problem is. See, as the person attempting to teach her, this is none of my beeswax. As a matter of policy. Do I sound a bit tetchy about this? That’s because it is fucking ass-backwards and recockulous.
Because of privacy issues, though, that’s how it works in higher education. The only people who actually know what the student’s particular learning problems are are not her teachers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think a lot of the people working as advisors or whatever to students with disabilities are doing a great job, but they are hampered by not knowing exactly what is going on in the classroom. And when the student’s disability includes being whiny and entitled (see above), this can mean that there’s a whole lot of room for students to play mommy (the prof) against daddy (the disability advisor). Unless, of course, they talk. Which is my secret weapon.
I put my foot down with today’s snowflake on the issue of recording the class. Well, that and not sharing my invisible notes. Not because I am shy about being recorded (DUH, FYCL), but because I run discussion-based classes, and I honestly believe that there are students who will be discouraged from participating in a discussion if they know (as they must be informed) that it is being recorded. I don’t think it is reasonable for one student’s needs to be met if it disadvantages another.
This, of course, makes me like kryptonite to the Speshul Snowflakes, who don’t understand this at all.