It’s Monday. Unusually for the weather here in the Armpit of Canada, instead of being fucking cold and sunny (bearable), it is overcast, foggy and frosty. While this means the temperature is slightly warmer than brass monkeys, it feels colder. The dull greyness is making people irritable, and, apparently, bringing out the crazy.
Do tell, I hear you say. I have four instances of nonsense today.
Nonsense the first. A student who has been to only 2 or 3 other classes this semester turns up, collects her essay, and then is irritated that she failed. I have to meet with her immediately to explain myself. “Well,” I say, “you have written a plot summary rather than an essay; you have no supporting quotes, and no MLA citation. We went over this a lot in class.”
Actually, I did this new thing where I spent about 10-15 minutes in 5 classes on specific things I wanted to see in student essays, and the vast majority of students actually managed to follow directions. Of course, they went to class.
Little Miss Absent pouts. I try the direct approach. “You have been to 3 classes, 4 tops this semester, right?” She grudgingly admits that this is so. “It seems to me that you don’t really want to be in this class. You don’t seem invested.” She replies, “I DON’T want to be in this class,” and stomps out.
I foolishly assume this is case closed until later in the day when my Chair calls me into his office and asks what was up with the student who got the F. “I asked her if she had quotes and citation in her essay, and she said no,” he says. I ask if she also told him she has only been to 3 classes out of 17. “No, she didn’t mention that”. She asked, instead, to change sections. Because clearly some other professor is going to be happy to have such a dedicated student turn up half way through the semester.
Nonsense the second. The Cheater from Friday is back with a bigger apology. She wants to apologize more. I thank her, but before she can go any further, I tell her I have already mailed the report to the Cheater Police. She sits for a minute or so, trying to get some tears going, and then storms out.
I later hear that she has been down to the Cheater Police to pre-emptively complain about my injustice. Apparently she asked them if giving an F on the course for the first instance of plagiarism was not too harsh. The Cheater Police, who are diplomats, say it seems rather unusual, but that they need to have more detail on the circumstances. I say “Five assignments,” to the Chief, and she says, “Well, that certainly puts a different light on it.”
Nonsense the third. My chair, while talking to me about Little Miss Absent says some other student wants to complain to him about me. I assume it is Friday’s Cheater, but he says no, it is someone who is complaining that I attacked and humiliated her in class. When was this? (See, I do it so much that I can’t be expected to remember every instance.) Apparently it was during a class last week about medieval women. The only thing I remember from this class is some nice discussion, so I have no idea what he is talking about, except that there was one student who said something wacky about breweries, and I said that her opinion might not have been entirely fact-based. “She hasn’t talked to you?” he asked. “Nope.” Stay tuned for updates.
Nonsense the fourth. In Children’s Lit today we were talking about Fairy Tales in general, with Paul O. Zelinsky’s Rapunzel as a specific example. There was a lot of quite thoughtful discussion of adult themes in Fairy Tales (pregnancy, death, kidnapping, getting blinded by falling out of a tower, wolves as seducers, that kind of thing), and I was talking about whether one of the reasons we as a culture still like to read them is that they let us explore deep-seated fears and cultural taboos. This is about as Freudian as I get, but it’s pretty hard to discuss Rapunzel, with the locking up of the girl in the giant tower shaped like a penis, without at least a nod to psychological interpretation.
If you see what I mean.
There’s some giggling, but generally the students take it reasonably seriously and we have a good discussion. Until just before the end of class, when King of Flakes puts his hand up and says, “So what you are saying is that this is a story encouraging children to have sex. I don’t get it. This is not a good moral for a story.”
How was your Monday?