Category Archives: snowflakery

PlayDoh, Part deux.

When I last left you, I was hovering on the brink of asking Miss PlayDohPants (hereinafter PDP) if she was mental, but restraining myself, on the grounds that “Are you brain damaged?” is not the kind of question that will have a happy answer. Of course, as you have all guessed, SHE WAS. Here’s how I found out.

It was the night before midterms, and I got a long email, full of fairly correctly put together sentences. At least from a grammatical point of view. From a containing information that had a grasp on university policy, the law, and reality, not so much. According to the email, Miss PDP normally (now here’s an interesting keyword, indicating, for those playing along at home, that this was not her first, nor even her second semester at university, and thus the “I don’t know the rules for accommodations” excuse could not be legitimately on the table) had accommodations for her unspecified mental disability. The email explained that she had not applied for accommodation because of “reasons”, said reasons being alleged in the email to be something to do with being on the wait list for the class before semester started. The email went on to suggest that since paperwork was tedious, and time had passed, and OH YES, the midterm was the next day, I could just go ahead and give the student double time for the assignment, on my own recognizance, as it were.

OH HELL NO. Readers, you know me. I don’t violate provincial law, as a general rule, for people I like, let alone students who disrupt my class with their PlayDohitry. I replied to the email pointing out that while the waitlist reasons might have prevented Miss PDP from completing her paperwork before semester started, she was now, evidently, in the class, and had been for 3 weeks, and whatever the holdup on filling in the goddamned web form was, it was in no way shape or form my problem. I also pointed out that university policy prohibited me from taking unilateral action, a position I still maintain, regardless of what idiotic actions may or may not have been taken subsequently by the fuckwad dean and his douchebag lackeys. But I get ahead of myself. To be clear, I declined the invitation to constitute myself as a mental health professional and/or disability advisor with godly powers to dispense accommodations absent any documentation. Professional conduct, dontcha know.

Miss PDP’s initial response was to email the Disability Office’s Admin person asking her to make me do it. The Disability Office Admin, a woman who, like me, makes her toast by breathing on it, promptly told Miss PDP to either fill in the requisite forms or go fuck herself. (I may have paraphrased the last part.)

Miss PDP turned up in the lab the next day to write her midterm. During this time, I invited all students to come get their MLA citation checked. Many did; Miss PDP declined. This fact will become relevant later.

At the end of the class, Miss PDP approached me with – mirabile dictu – her disability form. Do you see that? It had taken less than 12 hours to generate the required paperwork. Because I am a bitch who takes into account that the “P” in FOIP stands for “privacy”, I declined to discuss the paperwork in front of the class. I did have a burning need to discuss her disability, too, starting with the question – what the fuck is up with the motherfucking PlayDoh? “Bring it to me in my office hour,” I said, “because I won’t discuss this in public, for your privacy.” Miss PDP waited until the end of class, when she approached me in the hallway. “Nope,” I said again, “the hallway is not a place where I will discuss this. For privacy reasons.” She retreated.

When I got home, I had an email asking me what the three reasons were that I refused to sign her stupid form. This, gentle readers, is the level of comprehension we are talking about in every single one of my interactions with the student. “Not three reasons,” I replied, “privacy reasons. Come see me in my office hour tomorrow.”

I held out not a huge amount of hope that she would come and see me, and I don’t think she would have, except that the deadline for getting accommodations on the final exam was looming, and the Disability Office Admin person’s response to late requests for final exam accommodations was likely to be “go fuck yourself sideways”. I started the conversation by asking, perhaps foolishly, for a clarification about what the hell had taken so long with the paperwork. Miss PDP said it was “reasons”; reasons this time being defined as her grandmother, or possibly her mother being ill. Still not seeing the connection, I decided to move on, rather than dwell on the confusing.

It is my general practice, on these occasions, to go through the list of accommodations, and inquire, insofar as the law allows me, into what kind of help students require. This is why I also have a hard line on the “in private” part of the discussion. Experience has taught me that students with accommodations don’t really want to discuss them in front of people, and sometimes presenting the forms in public is a way not to have a conversation. They brush professors off with a “I just need extra time on exams,” and a lot of profs just sign the forms and shoo the students away. I get that. I know that’s common practice, but it doesn’t make it ethical. My response to that crap is “bullshit, you don’t just have ADD for 2 weeks of the year.”

So, rather than just signing the form, which made Miss PDP annoyed at me immediately, I took the time to read it. Which, possibly, in hindsight, was a mistake. Because there on the form it says that I am granting the student permission to record my classes. I have a problem with this, which has to do with running my classes as discussions, and usually I decline these requests after talking to students about whether they really need to record me. Mostly, they don’t. So I asked, just out of curiosity, if Miss PDP has BEEN RECORDING WITHOUT PERMISSION. “Oh yes,” she said blithely.

At this point, I did kind of lose my shit. I asked her about why she hadn’t told me, and first she said she did (astute readers will be starting to notice that this person is a liar liar pants on fire). Then we get into it a little more, and she revealed that she knew full well there are circumstances in which recording is not ethical, and that I am apparently supposed to trust her PlayDoh fiddling, word-find doing ass with making these determinations, and not even bother my pretty little head with knowing that she is doing it at all. I stopped the meeting at this point and refused to converse with her on this topic further unless her Disability Advisor was present. Also, possibly my lawyer, and some guy who might be inclined to rough her up.

After she left, I had an exchange with the university FOIP Dude, who, when asked about students recording in class said “they have to get the form signed, and then it’s okay.” I pointed out that the form had not been signed, and that it was well into week 4 of semester, and what was the sitch with regard to the unauthorized recording. “They can’t record unless they have the form,” he said. Because clearly, in the lawyerverse, there’s some kind of paper-related physics that disables the recording device. We went round and round on this for about 10 minutes, during which he asserted that no recording was possible absent the form signage. “What if she DID?” I asked. “There’s a FORM,” he replied. Okay. No help there.

Amazingly for someone who took 3 weeks to mention that she needed accommodations, Miss PlayDoh only took 30 minutes to let her Disability Advisor know that she needed a meeting with me and the advisor after class the following day. If you are suspecting the dread hand of some puppetmaster behind many of these actions, you are as astute as I expect my readers to be. There was indeed a puppetmaster, and he was to loom large in Part 3.


Okay, so imagine, dear Reader, you are a student. Or, if that’s too much of a stretch, you can, like, imagine you are a normal human being in a parallel situation that involves going to somewhere new.

It’s the beginning of semester. You are new at this institution, and quite probably new to university. You’ve missed the first day of class, because, like, it was on a Thursday before a long weekend, and, like, you really thought it would be a better use of your time to stay a bit longer on vacation in Costa Rica than come back for the first day of class at your new institution where you are taking classes that you need to get into the program of your dreams, which has something to do, no doubt, with interior design, or maybe ferret dentistry, or psychology. Either way.

So, okay, SECOND day of class, but you are totes prepared. You have looked up your schedule and the room number for the class. So you go to the building the class is in, and you go to your classroom. Now, this is supposed to be an English class. That’s what you signed up for. Because, like, that’s the one you totally need to get a C in, according to the lady in the advisings office. So, English class it is. You head into the room.

But wait! This isn’t an English class! It’s a class that’s already going and the teacher at the front of the room is fully teaching Accounting. In your classroom where your class is supposed to be! No way, dude!

So, obvs, you LEAVE. But what’s your next step? DO YOU:

A) Check your schedule and look carefully at the clock, and the room number and maybe even the name of the building just in case, and I know this seems totes unlikely, but it might just have been that you accidentally went to the wrong room, or (okay, this is, like WEIRD, but) the right room at the wrong time?

B) Assume that the English Professor and the Accounting, or maybe it was a Tax class? Professor are conspiring to change rooms or something, because they seem really shifty. Everyone in those classes is fully in on the conspiracy, too. Go to the registrar’s office and lodge a formal complaint that the professor for your class is not in the advertised room at the time the class was being held, and maybe someone should do something about punishing him for that. THEN, go home. Cry. Get your MOM to phone the English department to complain about this professor who was reprehensibly not in class when he was supposed to be, even though, like, it was TOTALLY the SECOND class, and what are these professors being paid for, anyway? Have Mom get absolutely livid when the secretary suggests maybe you went to the wrong room, or mistook the class time. What kind of people are they employing at these universities to make outlandish suggestions when CLEARLY what is happening can in no way be attributed to a simple mistake, or getting lost, or something. Regard the secretary’s reasonable suggestion that you email the professor to ask if there is any reason the class might have moved rooms as insulting. Have Mom call back a couple times asking to be moved up the chain of command. After an hour or so, finally give in and have Mom email the professor with a rude, accusatory email complaining about the lack of information and notification about the class. Do not, under any circumstances, check your university email, where you might find a copy of your syllabus, containing information about the room, which is, in fact, the one listed, and was, in fact, occupied by your English class during the hours advertised.

Did you pick B? Congratulations, you are this semester’s duly crowned Snow Princess.

I am desperate to find out what is going to happen next class. I replied to Mom’s email with a description of where the room was. I am hoping the student shows up and accuses me of being a Time Lord who has disguised my Tardis as the classroom. Feel free to speculate heavily in the comments. I’ll update you in a couple days.

On Not Poking the Crazy

So there’s crazy, as in “hur, you so crazy” and then there’s the kind where you walk away slowly. I had three salutary examples last semester, which I shall now share with you.

This first one, I admit, I kind of poked it. This is what you don’t do, folks. So, there’s this student, let’s call her Edgy Ellen, and she asks a LOT of questions. You know, like “when you say 750 words, do you mean 750 words, or can I have 753? I can cut those 3 words if it’s a problem.” And I say, “no, that’s fine, word limits are a general guideline”.

Another time, when I had my students evaluating source materials, she sent me an email about the essay on the 123Write My Essay For Me site I had sent them to. “It says you have to pay to see the whole essay. Did you mean to send us to this site? Do I have to pay to complete the assignment? I don’t think I can complete the assignment without paying, but I don’t think you should make us pay. Are you sure you want me to pay?” and so on. The question I had asked was “would you use material from this site in your essay? Why/why not?” Which, I pointed out, was clearly answerable without paying, since she had essentially answered the question in her email. I was punished for this puckish japery by another set of questions in a subsequent email. “What do you mean I answered your question with my question? You still didn’t say whether I should pay or not. What do I need to put in my answer? I can’t see the list of Works Cited for this essay, so how do I decide?”

Following this barrage, I read some of her work, which really was very good; interesting ideas, mostly well-written, that kind of thing, but she continued with the tightly-wound questions. At this point, I made a serious tactical error. I suggested that the student relax. I said “You are doing fine, and I think you just need to relax a little.” OMG. Well, then I got an email saying, “What do you mean relax? Do you think I am anxious? Did you mean to make me self-conscious about my anxiety? What if I need to ask a question? Can I still ask questions?” Then we had to have a MEETING.

At this meeting, the student chided me about “attacking her personally” and “suggesting she had an anxiety disorder” and “being insensitive to her disability” (what disability? Being a psycho? Where’s the paperwork?). I had to spend half an hour explaining to her that I see a lot of students (mostly, but not all, female) who get really worried about the quality of their work, and what I was trying to communicate, from my perspective, was that she was doing fine, and that she didn’t need to be so worried, and YES, she could still ask me questions, but that she could also trust her own judgement, because she seemed to be DOING FINE.

In my other class, I had Martha the Mormon, who managed to work her mormonity into every single thing she wrote, and occasionally into class discussion as well. After a while, I was getting pretty tired of it, but before I could say anything, she had this massive outburst in class, where she said, “IN MY OTHER CLASS MY PROFESSOR SAID A SWEAR AND WHEN I OBJECTED SHE SAID WE ARE AT UNIVERSITY AND WE ARE ALL ADULTS AND IT IS OKAY TO SWEAR AND IF IT IS OKAY TO SWEAR THEN I THINK IT IS OKAY TO TALK ABOUT MY RELIGION AND PEOPLE SHOULDN’T BE OFFENDED BY MY TALKING ABOUT MY RELIGION IF I WANT TO BECAUSE WE ARE ALL ADULTS AND SWEARING IS OKAY.”

Tempted as I was to respond, “well bugger me,” or “no one in this class told you to shut the fuck up about being a Mormon,” I held my tongue, and suffered silently through a presentation about how reading the Bible was more important than reading her textbooks, and 1500 words on how she was keeping herself pure for marriage.

The universe rewarded me for my patience in this wise: Last week I saw Martha sitting on a sofa with a boy (who I know from a previous class is NOT in any way a Mormon), and he had his hand quite firmly on her ass, and she seemed to be quite comfortable with the position of said hand. I made eye contact, at which point she went red as a beet. A laugh not unlike that of Mrs Krabopple’s may have escaped my lips.

The last, and craziest, was Bus Girl. Bus Girl had a generally quite chippy attitude, often interrupting me in class. One time, when she interrupted me mid-sentence, I said “Yes, I will get to your issue in a minute,” and she responded, “Well, you don’t have to be RUDE.” So there was this history of contentiousness. To be fair, I had her tagged as belligerent rather than certifiable.

So, then we were in the lab preparing for an in-class writing assignment, and I offered the students the option to come up with their own topic. “Pick something you can take a firm opinion on,” was my instruction. Various ideas were tossed around, and then someone came up with “Transit,” in other words “Catching the Bus SUCKS,” which was a theme with instant popular appeal. There was a chorus of groans, which I took to mean general assent to the topic.

Bus Girl said “This is not fair. What if you have never taken the bus in this city?” I responded by offering her the opportunity to think of an alternate topic, and gave the room another 5 minutes to brainstorm. At this point, I called for suggestions. Bus Girl had none. I called for a vote on the topics suggested, and the bus topic won with a huge majority, Bus Girl abstaining. She made some more mooing noises about unfairness, and I pointed out that she had had ample time to think of an alternative. I refrained from pointing out that she had used her brainstorming time to complain, rather than think, and thus deserved the consequences.

I gave the class the rest of the instructions for their task, and set them to work. Bus Girl sat at her computer for a few minutes, then abruptly stormed out of the room. O-kay.

Class continued; the peaceful clickity-click of keyboards occasionally interrupted by quiet conversation as students consulted one another on why Mr Spellcheck persisted in putting a squiggly line under “definately” and “relateable”. I sat at the teacher’s desk on the high chair, doing important pop culture research (aka reading Gawker), and occasionally casting my eye across the room to ask “is that hand up to ask a question, or are you just stretching?” Peace reigned; work was getting done.

Some time later, Bus Girl appeared in the glass panel of the door, gesturing to me to come outside. I obliged. She looked agitated, and, on closer inspection, somewhat cried on.

“I feel like I owe you an apology,” she said, and I did not disagree. “The thing is, I have PTSD, and this is one of my triggers.”

SO MANY QUESTIONS, dear reader. I feel you may also be asking them. This, what? The BUS? Or being disagreed with? If it’s the BUS, then what kind of trauma does a person get into on a bus? Was the bus in Afghanistan? I am sure you can think of several more.

Unfortunately, I cannot supply you with further details. Seeing the crazy, I declined to poke it. Instead, I said “It sounds like you need to go to Student Counselling right now. You go do that, and I will excuse the assignment.”

Lazy is the New Stupid.

I’ve been saying this for a while, and now it’s totally turning into a koan. Let me illustrate with some examples.

Exhibit 1: Sighing Saul

Last semester I had this student, let’s call him Sighing Saul, who was doing terribly in the weekly writing assignments. I was getting really frustrated because every week, I’d write the same kinds of things on his paper, like “saying the article is ‘fucking stupid’ isn’t really appropriate, especially if you aren’t providing evidence of its fucking stupidity.” The next week, there would be the same mistakes. Anyhoo, week 6 or 7 rolls around, and suddenly Saul storms out of the room, muttering something about “fucking bullshit”.

A couple of classes later he comes up to me, muttering something about how I “may have noticed” his tantrum of the previous week, to which I admit that, yes, it might have been something I saw out of the corner of my eye. Well, says Saul, he hadn’t actually bothered to look at the feedback on his first 6 assignments, so that was why it came as a bit of a shock to him that he was failing. Got that, everyone? LOOKING AT HIS GRADE WAS TOO MUCH WORK.

Shortly after this discussion, Saul came to see me about his research essay, which was “too hard”. After about 15 minutes during which I made suggestions about ways he could approach the task, during which time Saul sighed heavily, rolled his eyes and then sighed gustily, I said, “Look, this actually does require some effort on your part. You have to think about it and do some reading.” His response was to drop the class. Better luck next time, Saul.

Exhibit 2: Chatty Charlie and Yakkity Matt

Both these guys have the same MO; they talk a lot in class, and clearly have decent ideas, but when it comes to sitting down and doing any actual work, they prefer to bail. Charlie sent me at least 24 emails proposing topics for his essay, searching for one, and I quote “that would be easier to write”. When I finally snapped and told him to pick one from the list of his suggestions I had already approved, he dropped the class.

Matt mysteriously forgot to hand in the first couple of assignments, plagiarized the third, and pulled a “I forgot to send it to you” which was debunked by google docs for the 4th. I am still waiting for his most recent assignment, but I am not holding my breath.

The thing about both of these guys is, they are seniors who are still getting tripped up by Freshman Comp. They are clearly both capable, intellectually, of doing the work; in fact, it should be easy for them. Dropping my class solves the problem temporarily, but they are both running out of time. Charlie told me this was his “last semester”. Not anymore.

Exhibit 3: Slackerman

I know, these examples I have given you are nothing new, just part of a regular pattern of snowflakery. Perhaps this is true, but this last guy, this one takes all the cake, and eats it. Except that’s probably too much effort.

Slackerman didn’t do the first couple of low-stakes assignments. Then, just when I was about to write him off as someone who was going to fail for not handing in any work, he produced a 150 word paragraph, for an assignment where the requirement was a 750 word essay. It was kind of a half-assed 150 words, mind you, not some fancy-ass soul-of-wit type thing, either. I (kindly, I thought) gave him 1/10.

Slackerman emailed me about his grade, begging for me to “at least give me 2/10” on the grounds that, I SWARE I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP, he “tried real hard”. Got that? Producing 20% of the required work for the assignment constitutes, in his world, “trying real hard”. Leaving aside the absurdity of the notion that effort rather than results should be rewarded, how in hell can that pathetic amount of effort be considered sufficient? It took every ounce of self control for me not to write back “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” but I managed it, instead providing some temperate comments about the requirements for university being rather more rigorous than those he had perhaps encountered at school. No response.

For his next effort, a 2000 word research paper, Slackerman produced one page (approx 300 words) of text. Appended to it was a note explaining that his computer had “done something” to his essay, and that this was all he could produce. I emailed him, pointing out that if he took a day to try to fix the computer problem, the late penalty of 3% would be a better bet than letting the 300 words stand as the whole essay, since he was forfeiting considerably more marks with this incomplete piece of work.

His response? “No, I’m good.”

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”.

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 .