Monthly Archives: March 2011

Prof Blaming.

Today I had a rash of students who were very upset with me. They were very upset with me because they had ignored, overlooked, or forgotten instructions I had given them, in writing, earlier in the semester. Their inability to get their shit together makes them very angry at me.

I am holding the line on this one, but man, it is a constant onslaught. I have to keep repeating “failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” and similar. Honestly, I think a lot of it is that no one ever made these students deal with the consequences of their actions.

#1 How dare you apply the late penalty?

In my syllabus, I have a clearly explained late penalty; essentially, students get a couple of penalty-free days, then after that it’s 3% per day. The student with the invisible essay from the last post eventually handed her essay in, but by the time she did, it had racked up a record number of late marks. Like, in the region of, after she got her grade, the essay narrowly missed having a negative score. Boy is she mad. Her other essay was a couple days late, so it lost 6% for lateness, too. She stopped me after class to give me a telling off; “What does this -6% and -69% mean?”  I explained it was the late penalty applied as per the policy in the syllabus, which she has had in her possession since DAY ONE OF SEMESTER.

The idea that I would actually TAKE these marks off made her so mad she couldn’t even make the words come out. I mean, she was MAD at me, and she was staring and me and her mouth was moving, but no sounds came out. You handed your essay in 3 weeks late. How is this my fault?

#2 What do you mean, deadline means deadline?

Students in one class have to sign up for presentations, which are on books of the students’ choosing. I am very strict about not allowing duplicate presentations, on account of the extreme physical pain the boredom they induce causes in me and the other students. I deal with this by having a “first come first served” policy. This has the added bonus of allowing the keeners and the nervous get stuff out of the way early in the semester before they have time to get too wound up.

This week was the last week for presentations, so last week, I warned the stragglers that they needed to nail down the book choices for today’s presentations. One student, let’s call her Unlucky Una, said “can I do book A?” to which I replied, “no, that’s taken.” So then she says she will email me, and doesn’t until Monday, when she asks “can I do book B?” Nope, taken. (She’s choosing, let me be clear, from a potential field of thousands of choices, and her problem is that she is going for the utterly obvious every time, as have a number of her fellow procrastinators.)

Then she emails me late yesterday evening with a bid on topic C, which is, guess what, also taken. Said email I do not manage to see before class this morning. In class, all the other students present, but at the start of one presentation, Una sighs audibly and, I kid you not, stamps her foot. We get through all the other students, and I call on Una, and she says “I can’t present because SHE took my book.” I dismiss the class, and say I will talk to Una separately.

At this point, I am subject to a tirade. It is not fair of me to have let other students pick their books before Una. “But, I said it was first come first served, and they told me their choices weeks ago.” Well, I should have answered her emails more promptly. When did she send that last email? Yesterday evening. “I’m sorry, I teach until 9 on Tuesday nights, and I didn’t look at my email after 5.” Well, I should have let her know this morning, then. At which I boggle, because really, she is going to slap together her presentation in 2 hours or less? What a valuable insight into the working processes of a procrastinator. I point out that she has seriously had ALL SEMESTER to work this out, and she left it to the last couple of days, but it’s still my fault.

I want to give her a zero, seriously I do, but instead I offer to give her all the marks for the task for the essay portion (remember, the famous essay portion). I am not really holding my breath for a quality product, here.

#3 But I didn’t look at the due date

In my other class, students have an assignment due this week. A couple of them (and they are a couple, about which I need to rant on another occasion) decided that this task was due next week. From whence did they get this impression? I have no idea. “The date in the syllabus is this week.” It’s been in there all semester, but apparently the fact that they didn’t check is also my fault. I am sure that one is going to bite me in the ass on the evaluation.

Neddy update

I’ve had a few requests, but the sad fact is that Neddy, after making me spend 45 minutes explaining to him why he got a D on his second paper (it was the 21 spelling and apostrophes that did it, and YES, I COUNTED), and another 20 minutes trying to help him get the idea that “I am just going to talk from my own experience” is not a good approach for a research paper, and then a talk about his attitude and how, if I have spent over an hour with him in meetings ALREADY, I AM FUCKING NOT GOING TO TALK TO HIM IN THE 5 MINUTES I HAVE BETWEEN CLASSES, has vanished almost without trace. He sent a couple emails explaining he had missed classes because he had, and I quote, “appointments,” but since then, radio silence.

What do you mean, essays don’t just materialize out of thin air?


My students had to do oral presentations, which were then followed up by essays on the topic. So they presented their ideas, had some class discussion, and then had a week to write it up. The marks for the task were evenly divided between the presentation part and the essay part.

Yesterday, a couple weeks after the latter part of the task was due, and I had marked and returned the essays, I had the following conversation with a student – hereinafter referred to as Clueless Carla – at the end of class.

Clueless Carla: So, I missed both classes last week, can I get my grade for my presentation?
Me, gathering up and enormous stack of books I had to bring to class for an activity: Uh, yeah, I don’t have those essays with me, but you can come upstairs to my office and get it back.
CC: I don’t need to get anything back, I just want my grade for the presentation.
Me: Yes, I put participation feedback on the essays; if you get yours back, you will get the feedback.
CC speaking emphatically, because clearly I am an idiot: I am not talking about our midterm essays, I am talking about the MARK for the PRESENTATION.
Me: Yes, those marks were written on the essays.
CC: What essay are you talking about?
Me: The one that was required as the second half of the presentation task.
CC getting a little tone: Oh? When did you tell us about this?
Me: It’s in your syllabus along with the instructions for the presentation, so, like, on the first day of class.
CC: Huh. Well, I didn’t know anything about it. Are you sure you made it clear?
Me: What can I say?  It was in the instructions, and I handed back a bunch of essays last week.

At this point, Carla goes to check with her friend, Sensible Sue.

CC: Did we have to hand in an essay about our presentations?
SS: Yes.

Carla then lowers her voice considerably and has a long conversation involving Sue and a couple of other students. I head out and go upstairs to my office. A few minutes later, Carla and Sue show up – Sue is playing the role of prop in this scene.

CC: So I am thinking that I did write that essay. I might have just forgot that I handed it in.
Me going through a charade of looking: Okay, here’s my pile of unreturned work. Let me have a look… Nope. No essay here. Let me check this other pile from my other class… Nope. Sorry, I don’t have your essay.
CC: Do you think maybe you lost it?
Me: Do I think I maybe lost an essay that 10 minutes ago you were saying I had not told you to write? No.
CC: Well, can I get my grade for the presentation?
Me: Your grade for the TASK is an F, because you didn’t do 50% of it.

Exeunt Carla and Sue .