Friday, April 11, 2008

Random Bits of Goddamit: Teaching Edition

1) I have never been on Rate My Professors before - at all the schools I've taught at over the years. I just saw that I've finally popped up at the Dream Academy....and I have a single blue frowny face!! What the f**k??? It's from last December and for some reason it says that the comment is still under review. Why so long? Did they say horrible things that need to be censored? Now I feel like I have to justify the fact that I am a good teacher to everyone. I *know* this is just a stupid website, but none of my other junior colleagues has a frowny face. I feel annoyed and slightly hurt. On my evals from last semester I got only Very Goods and Excellents. This must have been some spiteful little insect who got a bad grade. In fact, I'm morally certain I know who it was. This self-indulgent little boy who threw a temper tantrum in the final exam because I wouldn't tell him how to answer one of the essay questions. After I'd already turned the grade in and (barely) passed him for the class, he started writing these nasty emails about how frustrated he was during the final exam, how I was unfair and awful, etc. The comment on RMP was entered in the day of the final exam for that class. That little punk. Actually, I feel better knowing that it was almost certainly him. But why is the comment still "under review" almost 5 months later? EEK.

2) I am reading thesis statements for my undergrad class and I've already found plagiarism. In their thesis statements!!! I'm a big fan of the several sentence thesis mini-paragraph and so I've given the class instructions on how to construct a thesis. Most of them aren't bad, I must say. But then I saw the tell-tale "cut-and-pasted-from-the-internet-quotation-marks" and I knew I'd caught one. She had taken swathes of her mini-paragraph from some free term paper website; and the rest she'd cut and pasted from a 1991 published journal article that the author had put online! I'm going to report her and fail her for the assignment. I'm debating whether or not to fail her for the entire paper. If I hadn't caught the plagiarism, I have no doubt she would have turned in an entire plagiarized paper - my Chair agrees.

3) I've also recently failed 2 students for my course because they didn't bother to show up for the last exam. Now, I know I'm sounding like a total hardass lately and I really am usually not that bad. But, here's the situation. I have 39 students. On the syllabus, it says that all coursework (excluding quizzes) must be completed in order for the student to pass the class. That means 3 exams and a paper. Okay. I also have a policy that if you have to miss an exam or something after your first 3 free absences, that you have to bring a doctor's note with the date of the exam or missed class on it that says that the student was too sick to come to the exam or class that day. Seems reasonable, no? Okay. I give an exam and 2 students don't show up. Back to the office and no emails explaining why, nothing. So, I email them (this is a Thursday) and ask if everything's all right because they didn't show up for the test. Nothing. No response. Finally, SUNDAY, one of the kids decides to email me a one line email - no greeting, no "I'm really sorry", no signature: "I didn't know we had an exam and I overslept. How can I make this up?"


So, I emailed back and said, "Sorry, I don't give make-up exams for students who oversleep. We talked about the exam in the previous class, which you attended, and the exam is listed on the syllabus. Therefore, you will get a zero. And this brings us to another problem. The course policy is that all work must be completed in order to pass. So, you'll be failing the class." Now, I personally don't think my policies are that frickin' strict or unreasonable. If this kid had gotten up at 2pm or whatever time he'd rolled out of bed, gone to the doctor with a trumped up illness and gotten a note, I WOULD HAVE ACCEPTED IT AND GIVEN HIM A MAKE-UP!! He didn't even bother to email me back for 4 days and then dropped this condescending, totally above it all email into my lap, expecting me to accommodate him. F**K THAT!

(for those of you who can't tell, I'm working myself into a frothing-frenzy of annoyance and righteous indignation).

Then I get a final snide response from him saying: "Well, that was a total waste of 20 hours of my life."

(Breathe, MW, breathe.....*seething*....*seething*.....)

The girl who didn't show up never emailed me back and came to class the next week and said that she'd been "really out of it". I asked if she'd been sick and if she went to see the doctor? "No," she says, "but my roommate gave me strep throat." I said, "Did you go get antibiotics for it?" "No." "Then you didn't have strep throat. You'd be running a horrible fever right now, not be able to swallow, and wouldn't be standing here telling me you were 'out of it'." So, I told her the bad news and she just hasn't showed up since.

If I'm going to have class policies, I have to enforce them, yes? Also, my policies are CARBON COPIES of at least 10 of my other colleagues! These students all just think the rules do not apply to them and they're dumbfounded when they realize that, yes, indeed, they do.

ARGH! I feel lately like I'm having to justify my teaching constantly.

And all I have is a single blue frowny face.

For giving an exam that "upset and demoralized" the student (and that's a direct quote).



Flavia said...

Have TD write you a glowing review--or write one yourself! There's no real oversight on the site. I have a friend who makes a habit of posting insane reviews for all of his friends--never bad, but hilariously odd, like one celebrating the way Prof X throws objects out of the window mid-lecture--as well as ones declaring the stupefying brilliance and hotness of his girlfriend.

It'll make you feel good. And you can always have him delete it once your average is more in line with your actual evals.

Thoroughly Educated said...

Aww, what crap these students dish out. I am getting all riled up on your behalf. *hugs MW* (but virtually, because I think I am coming down with a cold).

squadratomagico said...

You shouldn't worry about those sites. Even my students tell me they take everything on them with a grain of salt, b/c they tend to bring out the disgruntled students more than the happy ones. You have to keep to your standards, and in the evaluations that matter, the overall student population will appreciate it (hence your very goods and excellents in that forum).

What is it with students who just don't do assignments, though? I had two students never hand in a final paper last term. I didn't submit a grade for them: this gives them 2 weeks into the next term to contact me with an explanation; if it isn;t resolved, the blank grade automatically becomes an F. These students came all quarter, did all the other work, and one of them I thought very highly of... then nothing. It's so strange.

Sisyphus said...

From one hardass to another (and that's a compliment): hold strong, hold strong! Your policies are perfectly fine and just like ours over here in our corner of the world; don't let the little boogers get to you!

Yeah, teaching is a weird, sorta-Freudian, transference-type thingy. People will project their shortcomings and angers onto the teachers (and vice versa too, I admit) and evaluations and student reactions are often more about them and what they're going through than you or what you did. If that makes any sense.

Now go write yourself a funny RMP review! We can all give you some comments too, if you like.

medieval woman said...

I know - this is such a stupid catalyst, right? Anyone is more than welcome to leave comments - even weird ones - as long as they're not frowny faces!

Thanks guys, it's just been one of those weeks....

((hugs)) to you all!!

heu mihi said...

What punks! I'm sorry! But you do realize that you're actually awesome, right? No justifications necessary.

Belle said...

MW, I'm with you today. I spent the last two hours of my Friday trying to track down proof for a clearly plagiarized essay. Everyone who looked at it said 'no way this is an undergrad.' Now, usually I just flat out fail 'em and make them come to me to talk the paper to me. I've had ONE student in 20 years do it; happily gave her an A. And an apology. But this one? There's just something about it that makes me want to have the evidence attached.

So as Sisyphus says: From one hardass to another (and that's a compliment): hold strong, hold strong! Your policies are perfectly fine and just like ours over here in our corner of the world; don't let the little boogers get to you!

Fifi Bluestocking said...

My hubby emailed me delightedly yesterday to tell me that I had finally shown up on RMP. What he neglected to tell me was that I had a rating without comment and with an annoying indifferent face next to it. WTF? Why log into the site and rate me if you are indifferent? So I feel your pain on this issue, MW.

Earnest English said...

MW, I feel for you! Your policies are totally reasonable -- and what's more, they knew about them so tough shit for them.

I really think that at the core of a bunch of this entitlement how-do-I-make-it-up crap is that more often than not, these students see themselves as children with no consequences to their actions and us as the teachers or parents who run after them and try to get them to "live up to their potential." Sometimes I swear I think the best we can do is fail them so they will learn consequences to their actions. Like all children learning a lesson, they are going to be pissy. On the other hand, it they're pissy, they might actually learn something. Or not. Hang in there!

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Don't give in to them -- and get the book "Generation ME" - it will explain a lot. I read it over Spring Break and came back with a whole new attitude.