Amongst my many skills is a soupçon of ESP inherited from my maternal grandmother, who occasionally used to help the police in the smallish city in which she lived (trufax). While I have had the odd experience in my day, I have never believed in my ability to tell the future, which I suppose means that when I worked as a telephone psychic (more trufax), I was something of a charlatan. All of which explains why I am unable in normal circumstances to predict the future, or discern the unknowable. This inability has annoyed at least 3 people this week.
The first person was a student who wrote me an email in which he presented his essay topic as a sentence fragment. I wrote back asking for clarification, at which point I got a grudging sentence, which made it appear as if he had decided on a position in advance of gathering any evidence, so I sent another query. It took 2 more emails for me to understand that he did actually seem to have a grasp on the task.
Now, this is nothing out of the ordinary. Witness “child porn” girl from the previous episode. I make my students develop their own topics, because I think it is pedagogically valuable, although it does make them whiny. The reason I don’t make a list of essay questions, my dear snowflakes, is because I can.
Anyhoo, the student with whom I had the email exchange, and let us now call him Covert Genius, was apparently quite butthurt that I questioned his ability to write an essay. He came and told me so in class, saying OF COURSE he knew how to get evidence to support his point, and how dare I assume otherwise. He is a 4th year student. My response was along the lines of “given that this is a FIRST YEAR class, and all I have to go on is your sentence fragment of a topic, I was doing my JOB and making sure you knew what you were doing,” but with more ego-massaging in.
This was apparently not good enough, since he later posted a really really really long post in the class discussion forum about how he was an award-winning writer, and how dare I not know about his genius, presumably just by looking at him, since his writing is in no way remarkable so far. Dude, if you are such a genius, why did you procrastinate on doing freshman comp until your final semester?
I was contemplating some kind of sarcasmic response to him on the forum, but another student jumped in and smacked him down for being both boring and inappropriate. Awesome.
The second case involves a student from Winter semester. That’s two semesters ago, for those of you who are counting.
This student was doing well in my class, until she disappeared for several weeks. I was mildly perplexed, but these things happen. I then got an email from her saying she had been in hospital and was still very ill. She was worried about the class. I did what I could to reassure her, saying we could worry about her options when she was well.
A few weeks later, at the end of semester, she sent a bunch of panicked messages worrying about failing. I told her to come and see me, which she did. I suggested, since she had missed more than half the semester, that her best option was to take a compassionate W on the class and try again when she was well. But she had been getting an A! True enough. If you get an A once, you can probably do that again, I suggested.
She was pretty adamant that she wanted to take an incomplete and finish the work, and since she had been a good student, and since I was going to be teaching in Spring Semester anyway, I agreed. I gave her a list of the work she needed to do, and instructions about keeping in touch via email, and completed the paperwork.
I never heard from her again. I was mildly perplexed, but these things happen.
Then, this week, I got an email from the Registrar’s office saying that the student was asking for a very late compassionate W. Two semesters later? Is that even possible?
The reason for the late request, according to this email, was that I had “pushed the student into taking an I when she wanted a W” and been “negligent” since I had not seen “that she obviously was in no position to make decisions about her academic life”. Really? So now I am supposed to be a doctor and a mind reader? I suppose I should know that trying to be nice to students has a 50% chance of biting me in the ass.
The third case comes, oddly enough, from my actual life outside my job, in which I have recently taken on the volunteer duty of emailing person for my daughter’s ballet show. Now, I took this on thinking that unlike the previous emailing person (who is firmly of the opinion that the internet you use for the email is different to the internet you use for the web surfing), I had some idea of how to use a computer and an internet, and therefore it wouldn’t be all that onerous of a duty, unlike, say, building sets, which I did last year.
What I failed to take into account is that Ballet Moms (and yes, yes, there are a few dads and a few – well, TWO – boys, this is ballet and it is mostly girls and their moms) are even more speshul snowflakes than students. I kid you not. They don’t read emails; they misread emails; they need 4 emails to explain what “regular rehearsal time” means; they ask me to do stuff that is clearly outside my portfolio; they want me to email them separately from the bulk email; they refuse to believe me when I say I am getting error messages from their hotmail accounts (seriously, HOTMAIL? Is this 1998?); they generally act annoying and whiny.
The one who takes the cake, though, is the Mom who complained to me, in the smarmiest patronizing tone ever, that I had caused her daughter to miss a rehearsal on Thursday because I hadn’t sent out the rehearsal schedule for the week. “But I sent the schedule on Sunday morning,” I said. “And I didn’t get an error message from your account (mirabile dictu).” Well, as if that is good enough. “You should have known I didn’t get it and called me,” she said. Seriously? I should have divined, from no evidence at all, that she needed me to phone her?
My ESP skills are utterly inadequate.