Phoning it in.

So, I am teaching a Spring class, and we are about halfway through, and there is one student who is not doing well. Most of them are motivated keeners who are asking how to make their B+ an A, but this one guy is just not engage. You know, comes to class with his iPod in, can’t always be bothered to take it out, never contributes to discussion, hands in half-assed work days late, that kind of thing.

Last night I had the chance to chat to him, and I said “I am a little concerned that you are not really engaged in this class, and that’s going to be reflected in your grade. Are you okay with getting a C-/D+?”

His answer was “I am in theatre performance so I don’t see the point of any academic class, and I am fine with just passing.” Then he offered to pretend to care. Because, you know, acting.

There are a ton of things I could get worked up about over this little exchange, and I did kind of gesture at this by saying to him, “are you so sure there’s nothing of value being offered in this classroom?”And it vaguely crossed my mind to suggest that if, in the unlikely event that the the whole acting thing didn’t pan out, he might want some literacy skills to fall back on.

But then I thought, I have 20 people in this class who care about how they do, and who want to learn, why expend any effort on this guy who doesn’t give two shits.

Which is freeing and depressing both at the same time.

4 thoughts on “Phoning it in.

  1. C Rader

    Having been the theatre performance guy in an academic class that I had to be in to graduate, I know where his head is. Having said that, not engaging is a basic sign of disrespect and does not serve him well in anything that he does. You did him a favor by cluing him in that you had noticed the basic deficit in his attitude. I know I had to motivate myself to work in areas that were outside my forte and comfort zone (if I was good at expressing myself in writing, I would have taken writing classes) but really, the guy is only hurting himself, and that attitude will not win him attention other than those whose fragile egos need to be stroked to get a part. All around competence lasts longer than whatever looks are working for him now. Good on ya for making the effort, now he has to sink or swim with the consequences.

  2. fillyjonk

    Sadly, I find many times it’s the people who either don’t have a clue or who don’t care that require the greatest input of effort on my part. The engaged students sort of motor along under their own steam; it’s the divas and the burnouts and the people with really horrible time management who drive me up a tree.

    That said, I find I can emotionally deal better with a student who really doesn’t give a shit, than I can with someone who puts turns in stuff that’s shit and expects me to gush over it and act like it’s made of solid gold. Writing a 10 page research paper in 2 hours is not going to earn anyone an A.

  3. ladysquires

    Holy shit, yeah. I had 4 graduating seniors in one class that pretty much phoned it in. Thing is, I semi-respect the “I’m just here to pass” attitude enough to point them toward the minimum expectations on the syllabus and let them take care of business. I do not badger individual students to turn stuff in. Two of those graduating seniors failed the class because they didn’t turn in the final essay.


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