Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tell me a story...

Hello, possums! I am still cleaning out my sent mail folder and found a request for posts from last year I sent to RYS ...that they denied! Bastards! ;) I've updated it because, well, I think it might be a fun moment of sharing. --meany

I am turning 40 this week, and I am horribly depressed. I have now fully realized that I was under the mistaken impression I was being trained to be a professional in grad school, not just an underpaid (yet glorified) babysitter. (Ok, I knew before now, but it's rather sharply highlighted this month as my middle-aged ennui overwhelms me.)

I'd like to hear (read?) some stories from my peeps about the daring-do of some SUCCESSFUL battles with students. I wanna hear about stories of REVENGE. Stories about how the biggest ass-flake got his or her comeuppance! I want stories about VENDETTAS! About how proffies have felt gleeful schadenfreude at turning down a pest's request for a letter of recommendation. Or, even better, about how a proffie wrote an entirely truthful BAD letter. I wanna hear about some EPIC FAIL scenarios. Like plagiarists you've gotten EXPELLED! I want some deeply satisfying dirt.

Critics always harp on how mean we are to students, how we don't care, blah-blah-blah. We all know that's bullshit for 95+% of our students. Well, fine, let's show them our mean sides. Served up with a side of JUSTICE as punishment for snowflakery. I don't want just stories about proffies being assholes, but stories about how we, as the instructors, got to teach some little life lessons about consequences.

Please help brighten my week with a little touch of Nemesis.

Love and bright blessings,

The Meanest Professor Ever
(according to a snowflake's anonymous student evaluation)


  1. I can't believe RYS didn't publish it. I mean, you even use the word "ennui."

  2. who picks the all time posts on the right side of this page? nobody asked me.

  3. Well, hmmm. I suspect I am a bit of a weenie. But I did have this kid plagiarize a paper for a course of mine -- downloaded most of it verbatim from the internet, and it was by a leading scholar in the field, and the first thing on his topic when you plugged it into Google. So, whatever, threw him to the Ministry of No Consequences, which takes care of all plagiarism issues. A year later he wants into my grad seminar, as an undergrad, by special permission. Doesn't mention the plagiarism, so I do. Oh yeah, that, he says: but I apologize and it was a growing experience and so on. And I get to say, too kindly, listen, child. I would always look at your work with a jaundiced eye, and that would not be fair to you. So, no. There may not be consequences at the Ministry of No Consequences, but the outcome of your decision to plagiarize is that I don't trust you enough to have you in my classroom again.

    So, not a story of wicked revenge, but one of the few moments in my career that I've gotten to administer any real justice (beyond an "F"). Maybe someone else has done better?

  4. I'm pretty much a weenie so far, too. BUT during my first year of teaching I had a student in a course. . . dim memory. . . a foreign student there for the term. Some drama. . . what was it?. . . anyway, due to various drama (intervention in her suicide attempt and such) she wound up remembering me in a semi-positive manner; Back home she got a degree and a gallery job in her home country and put me on their (annoyingly frequent, completely-incomprehensible-to-me) announcements list, bulk list for New Years e-mails in said incomprehensible language, etc.
    So, time passes. Memories fade. Names jumble together into undifferentiated mass. So three months ago this kid e-mails me out of the blue explaining, o hai remember me yer bestest student, and that she's applying for a government job (something cushy and respectable-sounding) in field X, and could I send a nice official looking note to them because they need verification that she has the credits in field X they require. Why don't you get that from the registrar of the old Uni?, I ask. Oh, the transfer document I have only lists total number of credits, not course titles, and I need to show that I took your course Z. Why not request a real transcript? Oh, it would take too long, time sensitive, urgent, plz just send letter k'thxbye.
    Hmm, I think, my memory being triggered by something, and dig out ancient XLS docs. . . oh. That's right. I busted her for using a crib sheet on my final exam and failed her ass. Gnashing of teeth, tears in my office, drama etc. While she did technically *take* my class, she never did *pass and get credit* for my class, which is why a transcript would not work. Weaselly fucker hoped I wouldn't remember the details.

  5. I once killed a student. He looked at me the wrong way.

    You know what I mean.

    Anyway, that one act raised the average IQ at my school a tiny bit. And they'll never find the body. So all's good.

    Next time, maybe I'll go for a fucktard colleague. The student was just too easy and not all that satisfying. The student would have been gone in a couple of years anyway, but the colleague will be here for decades unless I do something.

    I'm listening to suggestions.

  6. Oh, man, where do I start? All of these stories are from grad school.

    1. I always photocopy exams written in pencil. Yes, I should fail them, but I have my marshmallow side, too. Well, young Eraser Ernie came up to the prof I TA'd for and earnestly complained that I must have been commenting on the wrong essay (!!!) because he had written what I had said he had missed. Lo and behold, he had. So the prof called me in. I whipped out my copy of Eraser Ernie's original, showing all the places he had erased his original text and rewritten it ....

    2. Then there was Weepy Winona, who told me that she was NOT a C student. When I showed Weepy why she had a C, she went to the professor. She told him how cruel, rude, and unfeeling I had been to her, and then asked why the professor kept a (insert the n-word) secretary/ (!!!!!) Mind you, this would have been unpardonable alone, but Weepy Winona was asking a black professor (adding stupidity to blatant racism). He called me, asking how close she was to failing. She did make a D- in the course--by one point, and we were both dubious about that.

    3. Then there was the student (Belligerent Bert) who had the misfortune of taking American History with a social historian. In his first essay postmortem, he told me that he wanted to study WAR. When would Prof. Social Historian get off her stupid people and economics kick and talk about what REAL history was about, WAR? Sorry, I said. This is a survey, not a military history class. Deal with the class as it is. Belligerent Bert failed the next two exams, and came to see me again. He would've passed if the stupid cow of a social historian had only talked about WAR, so I should pass him because he had been robbed by the prof. Besides, he was a graduating senior. "Not any more," said I, and left.

  7. Had a total fucktard of a student several years back. He acted out, talked in class, recycled work from another class and so on. He was smart, but way too sure that he could get away with anything because he was smart. Long story short, he applied to the graduate program in our department in a year when I was on the admissions committee. He had only applied to our program, so sure was he that he would get in.

    My only regret in the whole affair was that I could not be there to watch him open that envelope.

  8. @ ELS, RYS said the post came at a busy time, so even my use of ennui wasn't enough to get selected! RE: the favorite posts...maybe they have the most comments? If so, I disapprove of that definition of popularity. Katie's deleted post probably had more comments, but was it popular? I think that's what she wanted to happen anyway.

    @ Marcia. That sort of behavior would have gotten you called into the chair's office at the schools where I taught, Missy! So, you're naughtier than you think you are, Meany#2! ;)

    @ Cranky. Thanks!

    @ Lemurpants. I read that and knew right where it was going. Too many of our students think we're stupid! They think we're just like them: We throw out our notes, our records of the course, and all old papers (at one point, I had 3 years worth of student work in my cramped studio apartment). They think we won't remember them, or look them up, or even say "No." They think we'll just do ANYTHING to help them...even when they were horrible students. Cuz we're TEACHERS who are DEVOTED to them. *vomit*

    @ Bubba. You're confusing your students with possums again, dude.

    @ PickyHistorian. I wish I had your photocopy budget! Sadly, I have had analogues to all three of those students in my classes as well.

    @ Archie. I am shocked your school allows undergrads to apply to the grad programs. The schools I attended didn't like when we did that. "Incestuous" was the word tossed around to get us to apply hither and yon.

    @ Everyone else. Keep 'em coming. As we can all see, these "horrible tales" are really just about maintaining standards. Well, except Bubba's. There's no excuse for him. ;)

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  10. God, my life is boring. Nothing much here at all but the usual. Let's see...

    There was the student who never came to my (copious) office hours (I was teaching this course for moving money, coming off my post-doc) and asked me after the final exam whether there was any way he could pass the course 'cause he needed it for medical school. Nope, sez I.

    There was the student who turned in, not one, but two papers stolen from her roommate, who was taking the same class. I knew it was her and not her roommate because she didn't steal the final version of her roommate's paper -- the one the roommate modified after talking to me at length about something in it.

    Then she had the chutzpah to come and ask whether she could still pass the class. I did my best Snape Sneer and said no.

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  12. The list of most popular posts is simply the 5 posts that had the most pageviews since the CM started. I thought I'd update it from time to time.

  13. Stories of justice sound fine to me, but there's a difference between justice and revenge. Didn't Odysseus come to regret having taunted a bad guy he defeated, the cyclops? I may have been just a physics and astronomy major, but I actually did the readings in my Comp. Lit. class. It's not nice to gloat over someone's misfortunes, even if they richly deserve it. That said, it feels great to uphold standards, and it should.

    I've never found it necessary to take revenge on students. They screw themselves up far more effectively than anything I could ever do to them.

    I did once beg a student not to become an engineer, because, as I told him, he'd be dangerous if he did. But then, this weasel tried to deceive me during our every interaction. Since then, the university's new prerequisite-checking software has exiled him to Limbo: see, I told you I did the readings in Comp. Lit.

    I also told another dickhead, with an ego far larger than warranted by any ability he could demonstrate, that "it's not good to go through life as a grinning idiot." He didn't go running to the department Chair, because at the time, I was department Chair. R.H.I.P., you know!

    Still, in 12 years of teaching, the only time I have ever gone out of my way to do harm to a student was the time I reminded a tenure-track colleague that he wasn't required to take every student who asked to do a research project. This was because a real smeghead had just asked him, and it would have been a complete waste of my colleague's semester if he had. My colleague ignored my advice, and sure enough, it was.

    I am glad to have given a twerp a D that caused him to get expelled, again because he would have been a danger if he'd been allowed to become an engineer, but it was easy for me to justify that grade: indeed, I was probably being generous. I am glad to have turned in numerous plagiarists, and made their F grades for the whole course stick. I'm just sickened that our Incompetent Dean of Students often makes this so difficult, or sometimes lets them off completely. But instances like these ought to be just part of a professor's job, shouldn't they?

    P.S. I'm sure Bubba knows the difference between students and possums. Possums don't have that foul beery aftertaste.

  14. Oh, Froddy, you revised this comment 2 times just to say the same thing? And still included the scolding about the buzz words meant to distract from the buried lead?


    I'll forgive you, though, because it's impossible to take a scolding about indulging in schadenfreude from a person who describes previous students as weasels, dickheads, smegheads, and twerps. It shows you're neither delusional nor hopped up on Ed S'Kool-Aid. ;)

  15. Dear MPE,

    Isn't a willingness to correct mistakes a vital part of scientific method? If perfection is passing here, I'd better go: no less than Klaatu admitted he wasn't.

    Also, didn't Walter tell us that if it's small, he'd be saying it's small? It's not nice to gloat, but a smeghead is a smeghead, and needs to be dealt with accordingly, without letting one see you gloat. It's hard to escape this.

    Also, are you sure you're using "Schadenfreude" correctly? Many people who use the word think it means taking joy in someone else's misfortunes. Doesn't it have a more subtle meaning, something like taking joy in your own misfortunes? Looking this up in Wikipedia or an online dictionary won't help, of course: I wouldn't trust them to make such subtle distinctions. The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary (yes, I just pulled it off the shelf) says, "the malicious enjoyment of another's misfortunes. [G. f. Schaden = harm + Freude = joy]," but again, nobody's perfect.

    Speaking of German literature, happy 40th. I hope you get tenure before you turn 50. Turning 50 with tenure is a -whole- lot better than turning 40 as an Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor: I know, I did it myself. One of the special joys of turning 50 is re-reading Steppenwolf and realizing it isn't nearly as profound as it seemed when I was 17. (Oh brother, am I going to get a shit-storm for that: no, not you, Poopiehead.)

    Also, in the interest of authenticity, shouldn't you spell it "evar"?

  16. > It shows you're neither delusional nor
    > hopped up on Ed S'Kool-Aid. ;)

    It it ever came to that, so help me, I'd kill myself. But then, if it really did come to that, I wouldn't, because I'd be a different person. Sometimes I wish I could be that stupid: the world must be a wonderful place for these people, doesn't it seem?

  17. Going to interrupt Froddy's dick measuring with a tale of comeuppance I found very satisfying.

    Just over a year ago, I had a student who chose to interpret permission to put "a few notes" on her exam handout as "write an entire essay, shrink it to 6pt and cut it into strips and glue it on to the white space on the handout."

    She was appalled - appalled! I tell you! - that I gave her a zero for her efforts, and appealed to every available authority, blaming me for failing to give clear instructions. (To be fair, I never did say "don't shrink your essay to 6pt, etc, etc, although I do NOW.)

    After the final hearing, I got the report from the committee, which basically said "since you didn't listen to us in the course of the 2 hour hearing, we have no trouble believing you didn't listen to your prof".


    If you want more details on her egregious behaviour, you can find them on my blog. YES, THAT WAS SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION.

  18. Whatladder, you sucked me in. Your blog is great.

  19. Jesus Christ, WhatLadder! If I wasn't sure you were in the Canada, I'd think we taught at the same school in the USA!!!

    Great web-site, and, yet again, many stories that parallel my experiences too. Yet another reminder that:

    1 - I am not hallucinating about my students' bad attitudes, juvenile behavior, and utter incompetence.

    2 - Students suck all over, and a school in as much denial about student suckitude as Safety School U is probably little more than a diploma mill. Sheesh. At least your admin seems to back you up.

  20. Case A) In my second year of teaching, my most annoying student came in to my classroom with his entire right hand and arm in a cast. He put his books on his desk then came over to me to hand me a doctor's note with a smug grin. "Here's my note. I broke my hand. You have to give me an extension."

    I looked at the note, which was legit, and then back at him, "What the heck did you do?" I asked, "Punch a wall?"

    Okay, you have to understand, I was joking. But...

    "How'd you know? I actually had to punch it about twenty times to get most of the bones to break. You see, I'm weeks behind on my research project for Prof. X and I'm going to fail and--"

    Of course, he said this in front of me and 22 other witnesses, who were all staring at me completely horrified, trying to guess what I was going to do next.

    I asked him to sit down, but I couldn't wait to get to my office. As soon as I did, I put in a call to the Dean's office.

    He didn't get a SINGLE extension, and had to go through two years of physical therapy to regain use of the hand.

    Case B) Two weeks before my Qualifying Exams (and I capitalize on purpose), fall term started. I had redeveloped my course over the summer to reflect my research interests and to make the course more fun for everybody--including me. I still teach a variation of this course and it's still my favorite.

    Class that year started Labor Day week. We had Monday off, like you do, but I had a Tuesday/Thursday class. The first day of class, a student missed. However, he came to class Thursday.

    After class he came up to me to let me know that I should have called every last student in class to let them know that Tuesday classes were still occurring. If I had done that, he told me, he would have came. An e-mail wouldn't be good enough, he really wanted a personal phone call from me.

    The next class period we were due to start watching a movie that introduced a video project. He informed that he had seen that movie and wanted to watch another one.

    Most of the other students were gone. I had one week, at that time, to study for what really was the hardest exam of my life. I was training a bunch of new Writing Center tutors, one of whom cried every time a student challenged her in the least in roleplaying.

    And so I looked at this kid, and I told him to stop being a douchebag. If he had ONE goal in college, it should be to stop being that guy. He needed to stop being the student that everyone loved to hate. That being rude and obnoxious wasn't about to get him ahead in my course, or any other course for that matter, even if it seemed to work because we still gave him the grades he earned, even if we hated him. The work he had turned in was actually really good, but I would certainly never write him a letter of recommendation and neither would any other instructor he had treated this way. I advised that he stop being a dumbass and wake the fuck up.

    He dropped. I never heard from him again.

    Also... it's good to be friends with the undergraduate advisor who knows for a fact that you are taking your exam in a week, and will explain that it was "probably just stress" and ask said student if his instructor had a point.


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