Fuck you. Fuck all you all.

I nearly went over the edge today. I know you want to hear about it.

So, I am in class, explaining to the class my marking rubric, which I have used for several semesters now, where I let students use the rubric to predict their grades and they get a bonus if they get a bulls-eye.

As a pedagogical exercise, this is designed to show students what I am valuing and how I am marking, and also to get them to do a bit of reflection and self-assessment. Of course, it’s also a way in to having a “what makes a good paper” discussion in class. Generally, it works pretty well, and between 3-6 students a class actually manage to get the bonus.

Today, I explain the bonus and go through the rubric, and then this giant asshole puts his hand up and says “Yes, but how do we know you won’t look at our score and then change yours?”

EXCUSE ME? I looked at him and said “Are you sure you want to be asking that?”, to which he said “Yes, it’s a legitimate question.” A few lesser assholes chimed in. One wanted to suggest that I give the bonus mark if they got within the ballpark: no, because that is way easier – you have to earn the damn bonus. Then Asshole 1 and his buddy start going on about how they think they need a “guarantee” that I will stick to the rubric.

I have to admit, I was at the point of being so angry I wasn’t coherent. “This sounds like you are accusing me of cheating,” I said. “I presented this rubric as a way to help you understand how I am marking.”

Yeah, they understand that, but profs mark differently (DUH, I just gave you MY rubric, you moron), and how do they know I will stick to what I said?

Well, I dunno? Trust? Understanding that I am a professional? I said if they thought it was some kind of trap, they could opt out of the rubric exercise, but no, that wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted, I think, a promise that they could have the bonus. Which I wasn’t going to give.

I suggested that the way they were talking made it sound like they thought I was out to get them, and that their assumption that I would act unprofessionally was unfounded and unflattering, but there were at least 4 of them who insisted that voicing this kind of distrust was not disrespectful.

What it came down to, for them, was that “all profs mark subjectively” and that any moves I was making to make my approach as transparent and objective as possible was somehow suspect. IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE I MARK SUBJECTIVELY, WHY ARE YOU PISSING ME OFF? I screamed, in my head.

Some of it must have shown on my face, because a student in the front row said, “Can we move on?” Which was a nice lifeline. So I tried to move on, but I found myself close to tears of rage. I had to leave the room. I’ve never done that before. Honest to god, I said “I need a minute,” and went out into the hallway.

A couple of the female students came out to see if I was okay. I wasn’t going to cry, but I think they thought I might. I said “I just need a minute so I don’t yell at everyone,” I told them. So I counted to 10, and went back in, and ignored the assholes who were snickering, and pulled up my damn big girl pants, and taught them about editing their papers.

But I feel like I went somewhere new today. Not even Pineapple Boy made me feel this kind of despair.

14 thoughts on “Fuck you. Fuck all you all.

  1. Starryknit

    Blerg. I’m so sorry these idiots drove you to this place, it sounds like an awful day. Even if they didn’t intend to stick their feet in their mouths and insult you professionally, doesn’t the fact that 3-6 students get the bonus show that you do, indeed, follow the rubric and that there is a very real possibility of earning the bonus?

    1. whatladder Post author

      No, because that would require the ability to listen to what a woman said, which I am more and more convinced is missing in males under the age of about 26.

      1. Pavlov's Cat

        OH yes.

        You have only to watch the young checkout chaps in the supermarkets pack your groceries to work out whether they were trained by a man or a woman. If they were trained by a woman, they are still putting the hot chicken in with the ice cream and the chocolate, and putting the super-sized cans of dog food on top of the raspberries.

        It sounds to me like some of what you are up against is a value system in some of your students that translates everything into money and the shameless getting and spending of money. The minute they heard the word ‘bonus’ they would have gone into Ruthless Business Practice mode.

  2. Eugenia Zuroski Jenkins

    I just read this aloud to the spouse, who got some sessional teaching this term and sees more of this brand of asshattery than I do, but who’s never encountered anything of this caliber to date. He said, “Do they think the bonus points cost her money or something?” What kind of perverse understanding do they have of our jobs that we think we would subvert OUR OWN ASSIGNMENTS?

  3. tmkr

    Wow. That beats the occasional “what qualifications do you have to be teaching this class” questions I get to hell and then some. Sorry they pulled this one on you. 😦

  4. fillyjonk

    Gah,. I’m so sorry.

    I think I would have looked at the guys and said, “Okay, then. No bonuses if you get close, since you figure I’ll cheat to avoid giving bonuses. You still have to mark up the rubric and hand it in though; failure to do so will result in a loss of five points” (or whatever.) I mean, what jerks.

    Not to stereotype, but are they pre-law, by any chance? I’ve had my biggest headaches from students who had visions of going to law school, including one who claimed that he had “information” that “proved” other students had cheated on a project. The subtext being, that unless I raised HIS grade on his sorry project, he’d reveal the information (that I was allegedly letting cheaters slide) to my dean. I told him if he had that information the time to have come to me was when he learned it, not after the projects were marked and handed back, and he was free to go to my dean but I doubted that he would listen to his complaint. The guy backed down. Later I found he had pulled a similar stunt on a colleague of mine.

    I have had a few times when I had to walk out of class for a moment. But it was because I was gonna cry. I’m not as tough as you are.

    1. whatladder Post author

      Actually, they were business students, which I think is where the whole “guarantee” idea came from.

      A wise colleague of mine said “the fact that their first thought was about you cheating is an interesting insight into their psyche. Honest people don’t assume other people are cheating,” which I felt was both insightful and consoling.

  5. V's Herbie

    Christ… really? They are preemptively accusing you of discriminating against them?

    I had one of these legalistic assholes last semester and you better believe I gave her test paper extra attention to make sure of each point. The result is that when I made a grading mistake in favor of one of her friends, she showed up demanding the point that her friend got. I finally had to tell her bluntly that if she and her friend both wanted to submit for regrades her grade would not change and her friend would lose a point.

  6. Harriet

    I don’t think I would have been able to resist pointing out that they should not piss off the teacher they believe cannot behave professionally.

    The good news is that an asshat like this will probably provide a full term of progressively lulzier lulz.

  7. Crazy Math Professor

    The correct response in this situation is, “OK. You may have it that way. I can guarentee you that I will not change my score as I will no longer be awarding extra points for the bull’s eye. And for the record bonus points are of little matter to a professor. We don’t get paid based on how few points we ‘give’ or don’t ‘give’. Grading isn’t a me against you situation. I don’t try to award as few points as possible. If I did, I could find a way to fail anyone. The point of a rubric is to award points in a uniform manner. To deviate from the rubric for so stupid a reason as to avoid bonus points is just plain dumb. In fact, it’s better for me in this case to award lots of points as it means that we, teacher and student, have more common values. It’s better for you since you do the things I ‘value’ and it’s good for me since when you ‘value’ what I ‘value’ it’s easier to grade your work because it’s ‘better’ work.”

  8. American College Student

    As far as I’m concerned, my professor gets to decide what grade I get. I do my best to anticipate what my teacher values most and use that to my advantage. One teacher did not actually care if I had a thesis, so long as my paper was in the approved format and had correct spelling and grammar. If a professor does mark subjectively, it is in the student’s best interest to figure out how to make sure that they do not suffer for it. Personally, I am skeptical that professors who see thousands of students over the course of their careers are really likely to take that much of an interest in me and my paper, whether it’s to give preferential treatment or just to pick on me. I honestly don’t think that one student is worth that much energy. College students are enormously self-absorbed. I think it is the age thing. I am too, but I’m not so dumb that I think my professor’s world revolves around me or my cruddy papers. It seems like being subjective takes a lot more effort than just following the rubric.


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