Category Archives: pwnt

Fun with Freshers

It’s week one of semester and the campus is crawling with noobs. A lot of noobs apparently can’t spot a prof at 2 metres, and then they say and do stupid shit. Illustrative example:

Privileged White Girl #1: I am going to ask to change my stats class. I am having a problem understanding the prof.
Privileged White Girl #2: Is he that British guy?
PWG#1: No, he’s Asian and he talks really quietly.
Me: Be sure to tell your Academic Advisor that you want to change classes because you are a racist.

Then there was the guy on the bus this morning. I live pretty close to campus, so by the time I get on the bus it is often a bit crowded, and I have to sit next to random dudebros, or old ladies and stuff. This morning, there’s a dudebro in the window seat, and I sit next to him (aisle).

As the bus pulls into campus (which is a good 2 minutes from the STOP), he tries to get me to move so he can get up to get off the bus. And I am like “DUDE, everyone is getting off. Hold your horses”. Well, dudebro is not going to take this from a FEMALE, so he just shoves at my legs until I move, which, I do, because OW.

Then everyone (as predicted) gets off the bus. Except maybe one old lady. I go to class, which is the first time this class meets. Guess who is there?

He left.

In other news, I invented a game, which it may please you to play on your respective campi. When you are walking in a busy traffic area (hallway, passageway, area between 2 buildings, you know the ones), spot the people walking with their heads down, texting, and see if you can get them to bump into you.


  • bumping into you (not you into them, that’s cheating) – 1 point
  • if they drop something – 1 point
  • if they drop their phone – 2 points
  • if they fall over – 5 points
  • blood – 15 points

Stuff dropped is non-stackable (ie phones dropped only get 2 points), but you get a point for each thing dropped.

If you don’t live in Canada, you can also get a bonus point if they apologize.


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.

Is that the Smell of your Pants Burning?

I know, long time no storytelling. In all the hullaballoo of the end of semester, I was a bit too exhausted to make with the histoires. I do have some saved up, and then there’s this nice new one to tell you about.

You know how sometimes, you just get the feeling you are being lied to, and while you know it in your soul, you just can’t prove it? This isn’t one of those.

So, I am teaching my regular spring class which is essentially condensed Freshman Comp, and I scared the bejeebus out of half a dozen potential students on the first day, and that one student who told me staying in my class was “a matter of life or death” presumably died, and now I have a nice manageable group of 20 who appear to be able to find their asses with their elbows. Oh, and one flake.

Naturally, it is the flake who generates the content for a blog post, so I suppose I should be grateful.

Spring classes meet every day, and then at the end of the week I have students write a piece in class in which they show they can now do the stuff they learned this week. This structure cuts down on homework, but makes regular attendance absolutely critical. Of course my flake, (hereinafter referred to as the Fibber) hasn’t been to class all week, but she manages to turn up for the crucial in-class essay day.

The first thing she does is start a conversation with the nice helpful student sitting next to her, who has been to class all week, and done the reading, and who then apparently feels obliged to explain 6 hours of class time to the Fibber in 5 minutes. Once I can see this is happening, I wander over and suggest that although it is kind of Helping Student to be helpful, she has her own essay to write, and the Fibber should come to me if she has any questions.

Oddly enough, the Fibber’s questions then dry up entirely. Since the essay is based on class reading for the week, which the Fibber hasn’t at all done, she is kind of stumped. I wander past all the computers a couple of times in the course of the class, and I notice that she has managed to write about a paragraph by the time the class ends.

Now, because I am hip with the technology, and also because I listened to my whiny-ass students from last semester who hated the courseware but loved google docs, this term I am letting my students do all their handing in of work via the google docs. So, at the end of class, half of them have handed in, and I give the rest a few more hours, since all they have to do is share the work electronically, rather than putting it in to my hot little hand.

By the deadline, I have all of the essays, except the one by the Fibber. I spend my weekend procrastinating, but by Monday, I have marked them all, except the Fibber’s, which still isn’t appearing. When she emails me about something else on Monday, I include in my reply the comment “what is up with your essay? I don’t have it.” To which she replies that that is very strange, since she definitely handed it in, ya ya ya.

(Also, delightfully, she tells me she “feels guilty” for “not coming to class”: foreshadowing.)

Now this, I very much doubt given the non-attendance shenanigans, but we go back and forth a couple times, her insisting that she has totally shared the essay with me, and me looking in my documents and saying “well, I don’t have it, make sure you give me access”.

I do suspect at this point that the essay fails to exist, and I wonder whether her insistence that it does is intended to make me shut up, or perhaps make the essay appear out of thin air. Neither of these things happens.

After class today, I showed her my document list, so that she could see that whatever she thought she was doing, she wasn’t getting her work to me, which, I said firmly “I see as your problem, not mine”. Outrageous, right? Perhaps it was her computer at home, failing to share correctly, she suggested. Again, I said “This is your issue. Figure it out and hand it in.” Note the hardness of my ass.

So, finally, this afternoon, she miraculously manages to correctly press the “share” button on the google document (I know, not rocket science), and I take a look at her essay. And by take a look, I mean, go in to the document and press the “revision history” button. And here, let me sing the praises of the “revision history” button, because it reveals, in glorious detail, that the Fibber wrote a paragraph of her essay on the day it was due, and another paragraph a day later, but the majority of it at 2am this morning – yes, that’s right, days after she first assured me she had handed it in.

I contemplate writing “LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE” in the comment box, but instead settle for “the revision history makes it clear this is late work” which, thank god, excuses me from commenting in detail on her essay, which is a shonky piece of dreck.

I am filing this one under “BUSTED”.

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 .

Neddy vs the MLA

Right, so, I mentioned that Neddy was unhappy with his grade because he “thought he did better” on his essay than the D he earned, and I didn’t want to discuss it with him pediconference-style on my way to my next class, even though he walked right along and kept asking me to tell him what was wrong with his citation, and I kept saying “I am not discussing this right now”. Eventually, like the next day, he came to see me in my office hour.

Now, the task that Neddy’s class was set was not rocket science. It was “analyse a picture book”. Just to put that out there. We spent 2 classes talking about words and concepts for analysing illustrations, and 2 classes talking about, among other things, MLA, citation, writing paragraphs with supporting evidence in them, and ways to talk about language and vocabulary in literature.

Did Neddy’s essay show evidence of any of this? You know it did not. It was basically a list of all the things that came into his head until he got to the end of the second page, at which point he “constructed” a “works cited”, and that was it.

I spent some time explaining to Neddy that the colour of the pictures in a book is not an example of “sentence structure,” and various things of that ilk. Neddy’s response was basically to dismiss all my comments, rather as he does in class, when he comes out with something really bizarre and then when asked to explain his position, says “well, that’s what I think.” I’ve been banging on in all my classes about how, sure, literature interpretation is subjective to a degree, but that doesn’t mean you get to make shit up. You still need to support your dumbass assertions.

At one point when Neddy was contradicting me, I tried, gently to suggest that part of the problem was that he appeared “resistant to new information”. Which I then had to explain, citing examples from class (yes, the whole “kids” thing came up again, and yes, he said “well, I still don’t think you should say kids are crap”).

15 minutes went by and I was trying to wind it up because there were other students waiting to see me, but we still hadn’t got into the issue of his wildly non-standard citation for the book. The book, I need to inform you, was a SET TEXT. We had been over, in class, how to construct a works cited for this text, so I was rather startled by Neddy’s offering, which had a different publisher and date of publication than the standard, and also the words “Electronic Print” at the end.

I pointed out these flaws to Neddy, asking what “Electronic Print” meant. ”

Well, he explained, he got the book from a collection, rather than a stand alone book. I expressed mild surprise, but agreed it was plausible that such a collection existed. The book is a pretty standard children’s classic, and there are treasuries of Children’s Lit, and similar.

This, however, did not explain the use of “Electronic Print” for the medium.

Well, he explained, the thing was, he had an electronic book, rather than the physical copy. When pressed, he admitted that by “electronic book” he meant “PDF my buddy gave because he scanned the book out of the collection he had.”

Several questions popped into my head, but I asked the first one that occurred to me which was why on earth Neddy had gone to such lengths, rather than purchasing the book, which was a REQUIRED TEXT, from the bookstore. (Said book costs around $10, for those of you who are about to interrupt with a rant about textbook costs.)

Well, he explained, there were no copies of the book in the library, that he could find. Ignoring, the obvious opportunity to remark that I doubted he could find his ass with both hands, I addressed the book-buying issue directly. “This does not answer my question about why you have not bought the set texts for the class!” I said, rather emphatically. Neddy looked at me as if I were mental. Apparently, the idea that you buy required texts is some kind of crazy professorial fantasy. No one does that, dude.

Fine, whatever.

Getting back, then, to the issue at hand, I asked him again to explain exactly what kind of source he had. “My buddy scanned it and sent me the PDF,” he said, and again complained that MLA wasn’t clear on how to cite such an object.

“The MLA is not in the business of supporting your piracy. That’s why.” I explained, rather forcefully (according to Sarcastic Bastard, who was in the room, and offered later colour commentary, I was getting “rather loud”.) “What you did violates copyright, and MLA is about avoiding doing stuff like that.”

Neddy was not prepared to acknowledge that he had pirated the book. “It’s just the same as if my buddy borrowed me the book.” I suggested that since borrowing the book would a) have not created a new copy and b) have not created a problem with determining the medium, as a book would have remained “Print,” that this was not actually the case. (As I am sure you recognise, dear reader, some one a little more savvy would have managed to pretend the PDF WAS the original, thus cunningly fooling me with authentic-looking citation.)

Naturally, Neddy resisted my position, at which point I started waving around the Plagiarism Police’s manifesto on Good Student Behaviour. Neddy allowed that I might have a point, but more in the manner of a person tolerating someone with a medical condition than in a true spirit of concession.

I suspect this is not over. The moral of the story is: “You, sir, are too stupid to be a pirate.”

As Easy as A, B, C.

I posted this on CM as well, but I felt like I needed it here to cheer me up, too.

Because I am hip and awesome and let my students submit their essays electronically, I was online for a couple hours last night to be available for them to chat with me if they were having last minute panic, or trouble with the submission process.

Here, for your amusement, is one such exchange.
Student: I am having real trouble getting my list of sources in the right order for my works cited.

A failure to prognosticate.

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.