Monthly Archives: June 2011

Arrogant Asshole and the Quest for the Exam

Exams at my institution, as I have indicated previously,¬†are appallingly slapdash, at least compared to the regimented ordeals they were in my day, hem hem. This is particularly true in the case of what we are pleased to call Spring Semester, when there are so few classes the scheduling of the exams by the central authority consists of saying “exams will be in the same timeslot as class, on either of these two days; sort yourselves out”. Sometimes, as was the case for me this year, there is a class immediately before and/or after my class, in which case one class moves to a different, empty classroom, of which there are many.

I mention this time-honoured tradition in the first week of class, particularly for the benefit of students who are working, to let them know that they won’t need to ask for different or special time off for the final (presuming their work schedules are arranged to let them come to class in the first place). This semester, I mentioned the time and date of the final at least 6 times, specifically telling students to take note of the room change to NEXT DOOR. In a charming ye olde touch, the schedule was printed on a piece of paper and posted on a noticeboard outside the department office, and handily labelled “EXAM SCHEDULE”.

In the middle of the semester, in response to a question about what would be on the final, I provided this information, which nowadays, thanks to the Shrinker, includes a digression on why it is not okay to pre-write your essay for the final, shrink it down to 6pt, cut it into strips and paste it to the reading handout for the exam. This conversation also included a reminder of the date and time of the final, and the key information that its location had moved to a mysterious distant room, known as “NEXT DOOR”. This information was repeated in the ultrapenultimate week of semester, the penultimate week of semester, and on the final day of class. Which class consisted of me collecting final assignments and asking if students had all the information they needed for the final. One slightly confused student was, at this crucial juncture, set straight on the fact that the final was on Wednesday, not Tuesday, so clearly it was a valuable conversation, even if it was brief.

Unfortunately for Arrogant Asshole, he missed most of the penultimate week of class, and, by his own admission, did not lollygag over to class on the last day until 27 minutes after the regularly scheduled starting time, by which point, all other students, their thirst for knowledge sated, had departed. AA also declined to read the note I had left on the board indicating that although class was over, I was in my office and would remain there for the next couple of hours. Had he bothered to come to see me, he would have walked past the noticeboard on which Ye Olde Paper Notice about Exams had been posted, but this he failed to do.

Having failed then, to see me, he instead wrote a very snippy email about how it was “obviously too much to expect that class would meet for more than 27 minutes on the last day” (YES, DUH), and that he had submitted his final project electronically.

(I must digress momentarily to have a little MOMENT about this piece of shit he produced. As previously chronicled, AA had declined to present a proposal, and hadn’t done the work for the draft presentation part of the task. He also declined to participate in the peer marking activity, to show me how much he disdained the work of his classmates. When I read his project, however, it became clear that he didn’t ACTUALLY disdain his classmates’ ideas, since he had cobbled together the concepts of two of the best projects into a “blog” which he had written in, best guess, a couple hours. If I had had any doubts about him being a douchebag, they were put to rest.)

This snippy email was followed by another snippy email asking for confirmation of the details of the final. To which email I replied saying, “I don’t know the exact room number, but it’s NEXT DOOR; check the posted information.” I fully admit, here, dear reader, that it did not in the slightest occur to me that the request to confirm the “details” of the final was actually a request for the date and time of the final, since that information had been given half a dozen times in class. My assumption was that it was a request purely about the one piece of information that might have possibly been in dispute, viz, the room change to NEXT DOOR.

Well, apparently this was woefully naive of me. AA then phoned various authorities at the university (including unrelated services, but not, mysteriously the Department Office, outside which the schedule was posted) asking for the date and time of his exam. He was informed that there was no online schedule posted for Spring, because of the “EXAM IS AT REGULAR CLASS TIME” rule. None of this was enough information for AA to be able to deduce the time of his exam. So he waited until 4:22pm the next day (well after the exam was over, what a coinkydink) to make further enquiries.

These enquiries consisted of:
1. Yet another snippy email to me including my name with no salutation, and several one word sentences like “Okay.”
2. Finally a phone call to the Department Office, at which point he was informed he had missed the exam.
3. A snippy email to the Assistant Head of Dept, who awesomely replied it was a shame he hadn’t thought to contact the Department earlier.

I replied to the snippy email saying I would be in my office at a specific time the following day, and that he could take the final at that specific time. RADIO SILENCE.

Seriously. 24 fucking hours of not one single peep from him. He didn’t show up at the scheduled time, although since he is in my gmail contacts (yes, another plug for the Google Empire), I could see that he was online. I took a screenshot and forwarded to the Assistant Head, saying “if he says he didn’t see my offer, that would be an untruth”. Oh, little green available button, what secrets you can reveal.

My Department Secretary, who had been lucky enough to experience some AA douchebaggery first hand when dealing with him on the phone, was highly cynical about his actions, describing them as “playing silly buggers”. She suggested that I enter his grade as an F, since I had finished grading the rest of the class’s papers, and was now, officially, on VACAY. “That will get his attention,” she predicted.

Sure enough, an hour after the posted grades went live, AA proceded to have an email exchange with the Assistant Head about what his options were. I shall paraphrase it for you:

AA: While I admit that Prof Whatladder did, indeed mention the exam during the course of the semester, I still say it is her fault, and not my fault I missed the final.
AH: Yes, it’s a shame you didn’t have the sense to contact the Department earlier. You need to get the “I missed my final” form.
AA: So, is there some kind of timeline on when I should do this?
AH: Minus 24 hours, and counting. Everyone is on vacay, and even the keeners who are still hanging around for a few days will be gone after tomorrow.
AA: Okay, well, I am forwarding the info about my situation to the Dean.
AH: What on earth for? 3 people have now told you to get the form and then come and sit the final. What are you waiting for? An engraved invitation?
AA: I meant the Head of Department.
AH: He’s on VACAY, that’s why you are dealing with ME. Time is ticking.
AA: Did I mention that the last few classes were “practically cancelled”?
ME to AH: This means he skipped them. The rest of us went to class.
AH: I fail to see how this is relevant. You have until tomorrow afternoon to sit.

I called in late this afternoon to see if he had turned up, which he had, BUT without having paid the “I’m a fucktard” fee which the institution wisely attaches to all finals deferred for craptastic excuses. The Department Secretary said “you can mark his final, but we are not changing his grade until we get the cash.”

Arrogant Driveby.

In his essay for the week, Arogant Asshole (from the previous post), referred to “blue collar workers” as “generally ignorant and uneducated”. This was in no way relevant to the task, but it did allow me to write the comment on his work that he should “take care with vocab choices because making judgements like this makes you sound arrogant.”

Did I fist pump? Fuck, yeah.

The Tale of Arrogant Asshole.

This semester I have an Arrogant Asshole (herinafter AA) in my class, of a type I have described before. This one has put off freshman writing, which he sees as beneath him, until the absolute last minute, which means he is forced to do it in the spring semester, when he clearly has better things to do with his time, and my goodness, is the entire thing an imposition. He also (descriptive detail to add realism to the piece) has a piece of hair which he has grown so that it flops over his eye, in order that he can flip it for emphasis when he wishes to particularly express his contempt for me.

I could tell he was an arrogant asshole from Day 1, when he came late, lounged back in his chair and didn’t bother to participate in activities designed to engage the class in learning. He usually comes late to class, and of course he feels entitled to skip at least one class a week.

In the Spring, I have my students do 2 take-home assignments (Task 1 and Task 2) , the details of which they get on Day 1, included in the course syllabus, which has other gems of information like details about what to read, and what the in-class assignments are, and my policy on nose-picking in class (it’s a “no”). The syllabus includes a chart of activities for each class, including deadlines for each part of each assignment, neatly arranged in an easily-readable table. I tell you this because it has become a bone of contention.

On the day the first part of Task 1 was due (viz, a 2 sentence proposal describing students’ chosen topic), AA declined to provide such a thing. “I’ll get it to you tomorrow,” he lied, and then failed to do so.

On the day the first part of Task 2 was due (viz, a 2 sentence proposal describing students’ chosen topic), AA declined to provide such a thing, this time without even bothering to lie about doing it later.

So, the scenario rested in this wise: AA had failed to provide proposals for either of the 2 take-home assignments.

A couple of classes later, we had a class in the library with Lovely Librarian, designed to help students with research for Task 2 (cunning readers will divine that this was the reason I had required students to nominate a topic in advance, so that they wouldn’t spend library time merely scratching their asses). All students but AA arrived in that class with at least a topic idea, and some of them modified their topics in response to help from me and Lovely Librarian, in accordance with my masterful pedagogical plan.

Not AA, though. He had no fucking idea. At the start of class he fed me some bullshit about wanting to write about social media and political change, and then an hour later, his topic was changed to chickens. WTFever, was my response. Having explained in class that the purpose of having a topic approved was to help students not make asses of themselves, I had done my bit. If you want to do your essay at the last minute, I can’t stop you.

So, to be clear, at this point, AA kind of had managed to do ONE of 2 required proposal tasks; the one for Task 2.

A few days later, students were due to give their oral presentations on Task 1, the task Arrogant Asshole had still not started. I sent them a reminder email, entitled “Oral Presentation Reminder Email,” in which I reminded them of the points they should be sure to cover and so on.

On presentation day, students got up and gave their presentations, and a couple were fabulous, and some were okay. In the middle of one, AA, sitting behind me, said “I think I have made a mistake”. How so, I enquired. “My presentation is on my Task 2,” he said. There was only one response to this, so I made it. “How is this my problem?”

AA made a variety of meeping noises, then, said, “I think I can still present.” I suggested he go for it, at which point he got up and started to present on his chicken paper. Students in the front row immediately questioned his method. “How is this about Task 1?” they asked. AA conceded that it wasn’t in any way about that. “So, just tell us about your project,” one helpful woman suggested. This suggestion was particularly kind, because the presentations were being peer marked. Basically, it was an offer to give him a 3 or 4 out of 5 for the task, rather than the zero that appeared to be looming.

AA was forced to concede at that point that he couldn’t even kind of do that because he HAD DONE NO WORK ON TASK 1 AT ALL. This is, FYI, week 4.5 out of 6.

I suggested firmly that he sit his ass down. Fine, but he did it huffily, flicking his hair and thumping into his seat. To further teach me a lesson, he did not fill in the peer evaluation sheet on all his peers, but left it obviously blank, while he sighed audibly during all the following presentations.

At the end of class, he came up to talk to me, asking, in the most fucking obnoxious way possible, what he could do to “redeem himself”. Resisting the urge to suggest prayer, I asked him to explain how he had managed to get himself into such a muddle. His answer was that when he sent me his proposal (for Task 2), I should have recognised that he thought it was also a proposal for Task 1. “Did it anywhere indicate that you thought it was for both tasks?” I asked. “No,” he conceded.

So, basically, having forgotten all about Task 1, he got the two tasks conflated. AA was unwilling to concede this point. So, I turned to consult the Sacred Text (aka the syllabus) and as I turned, he made a noise like a wounded hippopotamus. Seriously, this really loud “AAAARG” of frustration.

“I beg your pardon?” I asked. He said he didn’t want to have a discussion about what he had done wrong, I just had to say if I was going to let him go home that night, cobble a presentation together on a topic yet to be determined, and present on the morrow. “Given that the whole point of breaking Task 1 down into stages was to prevent that kind of last minute behaviour, no,” I said. “You didn’t do the work, so I think a zero on the 5% this was worth is warranted.”

As I was saying this, he pulled out his phone and started texting. “I assume we’re done here, then,” I said, and turned to deal with the other student waiting to talk to me, whose jaw was on the floor at this point. AA is so arrogant, you see, that he is teflon to the embarrassment another student might feel at arguing with a prof in front of other people.

I went home and shared this tale with Feckless Husband, who, in flagrant violation of Freedom of Information laws asked me the guy’s name. “Oh him,” he said when I revealed it. “When he was in my class, instead of doing his interview assignment, he made stuff up, so badly that it was obvious.” Trufax.

Arrogant Asshole declined to come to class the next day, but appeared the following day, and at the end of class, harangued me for another 10 minutes, because, he decided, his failure to present was my fault because my syllabus was ambiguous and UNCLEAR. My response to this was twofold. One: everyone else managed. Two: had you ever done the proposal for Task 1, you would have not been in this mess.

“So, you’re not convinced by my argument?” he asked. This was hilarious, because Freshman Comp is a class that teaches argumentation. “I don’t think you’ve really supported it with compelling evidence, no,” I replied. “Well, I thought it was pretty good,” he retorted, which, I have to point out, is TOTALLY his problem here. Perhaps that swishy piece of hair is a barrier through which information cannot pass.

He flounced out again, much to the amusement of the girls at the back of the room, who said “we were so hoping you wouldn’t give in”.