Tag Archives: snowflakes

Oh, did we start, already?

So, semester started last week. On a Monday, no less, and how’s that for unusual? Although the start date of semester has been available since the calendar for the 2010/11 academic year came out in, what, MAY of 2010, many ‘flakes failed to grok what “start” actually means in this context.

Yes, the first day of class is kind of weaksauce, because we are meeting for the first time, and even I don’t think it is possible to email students before semester starts and get them to do preparation work in advance. I did try it once, and it worked about as well as you would expect, which is to say, not at all. However, we all have to start somewhere. Having a first day means I can set reading for the second day, which is then when the actual learning starts to happen. At least in theory.

(Missing the first class can mean you also miss vital information like “we only meet once a week, and the other day is for online learning,” which has resulted, this semester, in half a dozen students in my online class milling hopelessly around campus on Tuesday afternoons. Only one of them was bright enough to try contacting me via email to try to discover what my deal was.)

As I am sure you can all imagine, dear readers, literature classes involve the discussion of literature. In order for discussion, as opposed to lecturing, to happen, students need to do the reading. I provide a list of readings, and generally nag students to do the reading. When they don’t, I do mean stuff like calling on them and then embarrassing them when they admit they haven’t done the reading. This often makes the ones who don’t want to read and don’t want to get called out drop the class, which is fine by me. It winnows the class down to a smaller group who want (or are willing) to read and talk about the reading, and then we all generally have a good time.

This semester, I am teaching a class that meets only once a week, for 3 hours, instead of meeting 2 or 3 times a week for shorter periods. This means, among other things, that the first class, in which not much happened, was actually a WEEK’s worth of classes. I actually gave students some reading to do in class in that first class, and very sternly said “THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN,” just so they didn’t get some goofy assumption about not needing to do their reading.

The students who came to the first class, then, were prepared for the second class, having done their reading, and in some cases, even optional homework. That was great. Or, it would have been great, but for the 14 people who hadn’t bothered to come to the first class.

I am not talking about one or two random slackers here, but HALF the class, who didn’t bother, and who also didn’t bother to send me an email in the intervening week asking if there was anything they should catch up on. Oh, no, wait, one of them emailed me an hour before class to do that, which was a nice show of willingness, except it was totally ineffective.

These dozen or so students clearly thought missing that massive block of time wasn’t an issue because nothing happens in the first class. Except, of course, some things did happen, not the least significant of which was preparation for the second class. What are we going to do for 3 hours in class if you haven’t done any reading? The mind boggles.

Rather than accommodate their nonsense, I sent them all to the bookstore. “You need to read the first 2 stories,” I told them. “Come back and join the class when you are done.” This radical approach to not letting them sit in small group discussions like a bunch of wet puddings was really upsetting. One girl asked me 3 times what time she should come back. “When you are done the reading,” I replied. “No, like what time?” “When you have finished reading the stories, come back,” I said again, while she looked at me like maybe I was speaking German.”So, like, I can just come back when I am done?”

There were two dipsticks in the front row who appeared to be sharing a brain between them really didn’t want to go buy their books at all. “We didn’t do the reading,” one of them said, possibly because she was in charge of the speech centres at that moment. “Why not?” “We were not in this class. We switched from another teacher’s class.” Oh, shoppers. The phrase “because we thought that other class sounded like too much work, and we are hoping that meeting once a week means you are more slack,” hung unspoken in the air. I suggested that they do what I said and go get the book, then. “But we just joined this class.” “Yes, and now, in order to participate in it, you need to go get the book and read the material.” They had a whispered consultation, pressing their heads close together to facilitate neuron synapsing, and eventually left.

Once all the flakes had blown out of the room, I turned to the ones who were actually ready to be university students, and took attendance, saying I would give them a bonus participation mark for being prepared. This is a devious tactic designed to bring them into an in-group with me, united against the slackers.

We got on with class, and gradually, over the course of the next 90 minutes or so, the flakers drifted back in. All except 2 shoppers, who had left their laptops in the front row. We took a short break at this point, mainly because I had to pee. I was out of the room for no more than 3 minutes, during which time, they snuck into the room, grabbed their stuff, and fled.

“Oh, they bailed?” I said, when I noticed. “Awesome.”

Bow down to the King of Flakes.

Hang on to your hats, I am about to go ballistic.

To begin at the beginning: this semester I am teaching Children’s Literature, which is a course not without its problems, said problems often involving having to hammer info into the heads of those destined to be kindergarten teachers. This semester, instead of a bunch of delicate little kindergarten teacher types, my class is made up of monumental slackers.

How do I know? Well, they don’t come to class, and they are having trouble handing work in on time. Pshaw, I hear you say. That seems par for the course. Let me elaborate. These people are such slackers that the girl who turned up stoned to the exam last semester, who is in this class, is one of the more exemplary students.

Want more evidence? A couple weeks ago, their first assignment was due. The following class, I returned the assignment to those who had handed it in (about a third of the class). A couple others handed in their work that class, which meant it was 2 days late. At the next class, a week later, a couple more straggled in. I pointed out that the majority of students were still out to lunch on Assignment 1, and now, Assignment 2 was also due.

At this point, a guy in the class, hereby christened the King of Flakes, put his hand up and asked, “When is the last possible day to hand in the assignment?” WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT, ANYWAY? I mean, quite apart from the fact that they have a course outline that says “work handed in more than 7 days late will not be marked,” which is actually the answer to his question, what the FUCK kind of question IS that?

So that was the first couple of weeks of class. Sensing the mood of these dumbasses, and knowing that this week, I was kicking it up a notch by requiring them to give a 5 minute oral presentation, I began laying the groundwork for the presentation.

I told them it was coming up. I went through the requirements – to whit, you have to get up and tell a story to the class, as if we were, say 4-6 year olds, and it should take about 5 minutes. You can retell a story you know, or tell one about your life, or make up an original, or even just memorize a book and recite it, but there will be no notes. this is about Storytelling. You can even bring props or require audience participation, just as long as you are telling a story.

Is this rocket science? No. I’ve given this assignment to classes before, and they’ve all managed to do it, some of them even do it well. There has been enjoyment and success in the past. I know it’s possible.

I asked if there were questions. I brought in a kid to tell a story to the class. (It was a great story, by the way, and I don’t say this just out of fondness for the kid.) The kid, admittedly, told her story from notes. One of the flakes noticed this, and asked if they could also use notes. I replied: “this child is 9; I think you can probably manage this task without notes.” Following the demonstration, I asked if they were clear on the task. There were nods. I asked if there were questions. No questions.

So, Monday rolls around, and off I go to class, and the first thing that is notable is that of the 16 students scheduled to tell stories, only about 8 have bothered to show. Fabulous.

The first student gets up says “When I was 5 my mom took me to the petting zoo and a goat pulled my pants down.” THE END. That’s it? Apparently so.

The second presenter had the nugget of a fantastic story about how he got left behind on a family trip. This story could have had everything, suspense, exciting action, the emotional high of the eventual reunion, even an element of humour. Instead, he got up and flatly told the bare bones of the story in about 30 seconds, with a horrible scowl on his face.

And so it went. Of course, this is the peril of setting oral presentations. Sometimes they fall flat, or are cringe-makingly awful. I continue to persevere because other times they are interesting and informative and allow students to showcase their ability to convey information in ways other than written work. However, in this case, they were mostly dire, but at least they were short. Because of the pathetic efforts and the missing students, class was over in 30 minutes instead of 90. “That’s it?” asked the King of Flakes. Like somehow this was my fault for planning badly.

Today, I spent the morning debating whether or not to say I thought the previous classed sucked. On the one hand, telling snowflakes they suck means you are labelled “mean”, but on the other, HOLY FUCKING CRAP THEY SUCK.

In addition, I’m getting a vibe that their suckitude is going to be defended by whining. I’ve had a couple of emails, and there’s this whiny tone developing. So I decide to put my cards on the table. They can suck all they want, and half-ass the class all they want, but they can’t also expect to do well. Don’t want to hand your assignments in? Fine, but don’t blame me if you get a bad mark. Don’t want to put any effort into the assignment? Fine, but don’t expect to pass.

I comment on the general suckitude of Monday’s presentations (making sure to note the 2 honourable examples). And I know some of them agree with me because a couple are nodding, and one student had been to my office to ask a question and had made a comment indicating that she thought they sucked. So, yes, it is a dressing-down, and I am hoping that it will have the effect of making the ones who wanted to do well lift their game a little.

In the midst of my rant, King of Flakes puts his hand up. “To be honest,” he says (and OH GOOD, I think), he didn’t really understand what was required until he saw other people faceplant in the previous class. How can this be? Did he not hear the explanations? Read the assignment? Listen to the demonstration? Did he make any effort to ask a question to clarify his confusion? What more did he want?

“Well,” he said, “I thought it would be easier.” Fabulous. I don’t punch him, but instead ask if he can elaborate. “It just seemed that there were easier options.” Okay, whatever. I make the point that sometimes the easy way out isn’t the way to get the best mark, and we move on.

And, mirabile dictu, the presentations today are good. There’s humour, there’s audience participation; one guy accompanies himself on the guitar, one girl brings a friend to be a prop; it’s what I was hoping for the first time.

Then we get to King of Flakes’ turn. He gets up and starts to read Green Eggs and Ham. Just read the book. Not retell the story. He’s just trying to read the fucking book to the class.

Green Eggs and Ham, I will point out, is a set book from our reading list – he didn’t even go to the library or the bookstore or, I dunno a box of books in his house; just picked up the first handy book. He doesn’t recite it, like another guy did with a different Dr Seuss book, he’s just going to READ the GODDAMN set book from the FUCKING reading list.

I say to him “you can’t just read the book; the assignment says ‘tell a story without notes’. This is not doing the assignment”. He looks at me like I am insane. See, he wants to do something easier. Rather than, you know, the set task, which I will reiterate, isn’t difficult. I tell him to cut it out. He’s determined to read the book, and the class is bewildered, and I suggest that he sit down and figure out what the fuck he thinks he’s doing, and we’ll have the next presentation while he does that.

As a result of all of this folderol, we ran out of time, and there are a couple more people left, so I have to effectively give them an extension and let them present next class. So at the end of class, I have a talk to King of Flakes. Would he like to TRY the Herculean task of memorizing Green Eggs and Ham for next class? He just looks at me like I am insane again. “I won’t be able do that.” WHAT? This is his response? “I thought you would just take marks off if I didn’t memorize it,” he explains. Well. Yes. Yes I will. All of them.

Can I just repeat something here, in case you missed it in all of the foaming of the mouth? The book it will be too onerous to memorize is Green Eggs and Ham. Yes, that Green Eggs and Ham. The one that goes:

I am Sam
Sam I am

That Sam-I-am!
That Sam-I-am!
I do not like that Sam-I-am!

Do you like
green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.

Snowflakes, I present to you your king.

Another Good News, Bad News Day.

Good News:
The class I have been wondering if it will run next semester looks like it is running.

Bad News:
Said class is at 8am.

Bad News:
The other class I am teaching only has 8 students in it. Rut row.

Good News:
There are lots of students on a waiting list for Children’s Lit, so maybe I can teach that instead.

Bad News:
I was taking an enforced break from teaching Children’s Lit because most of the students who take it are in the Teaching Small Children stream of Education, and they are whiny pussies who can’t cope with criticism, because apparently they think that rules about not giving Kindergarteners Fs, or any negative feedback at all, really, apply to College students.

Good News:
My chair decided that he would take a punt on me teaching the class anyway, especially since many of the students on the waiting list appear to be regular students and not ones pre-stamped with a pink S for “Snowflake”.

Bad News:
He made me promise to try not to make them cry. In the words of Bart Simpson, I can’t promise to try, but I will try to try.

Good News:
I got to go out to lunch.

Bad News:
Going out to lunch was the result of coming home to find that my stove is utterly and mysteriously buggered.

Even Worse News:
The repair people can’t come before Tuesday. TUESDAY! That’s like 6 whole days away.

Dire News of Direness:
Our coffeemaker is the stove-top Italian kind. FUCK. FUCK FUCK FUCK.

It are snow.

Both literally and metaphorically. The weather here is crazy, dude. 2 weeks ago, we were bitching and moaning about it being 30, and now it we have snow, although not the kind that sticks or requires actual snowboots. Which is good, because my snowboots got a recurring hole.

Speaking of snowflakes, man, are they ever coming down in blizzard-like formations in class. What was the trigger? First assignments, of course.

I had a drift of them ignore my comments about how MLA had been updated. Updated, I might add by a group of guys who were apparently smoking crack, because I cannot find one person to explain the logic of the MLA updates, although dear old OWL at Purdue makes a stab at summarizing the changes. They stay the hell away from trying to explain them, though.

Srsly, MLA, WTF is up with the italics; no, underline; no, either; no, italics dance? MAKE UP YOUR FUCKING MINDS.

But I digress. Despite warnings, dire warnings, that relying on previous MLA knowledges would be utter fail, naturally about half of them tumbled into the trap for heffalumps.

In other snowflake news, the words “DO NOT EMAIL ASSIGNMENTS TO ME, ASSHOLES, I WILL SHIV YOU” have no meaning for at least 6 out of every 30 students. One of these jerks, told by return email to shape the fuck up and hand his work in in the approved manner, had the gall to approach me in the lunch line and attempt to hand in his work.

The lunch line.

Boundaries, dude. When I am about to enjoy my fries with tatziki, do I want to do it in view of your tragic scribblings? I do not.