Friday, November 19, 2010

It Is I, Yaro, With The Misery.

I am nothing if not optimistic about my young charges and their ability to succeed here at my college.

But at times, even I, Yaro, find myself in a drift of snowflakes, much as many of you also report through these pages.

Yesterday, in my general studies course - which if you remember from earlier missives is populated by and large by freshers - I told a small group which was working toward a presentation about marijuana legalization, that the most recent issue of Time magazine had a spectacular and useful pair of pieces about the topic.

Now, I want to be clear that I did not merely drop this information casually. I am quite aware of the work my young friends are doing, and in fact have been a part of their research processes. I have even reviewed the sources they have unearthed for themselves via laborious EBSCO searches in one of our fine computer rooms.

So, when I noted the issue and date of this particular newsweekly, it was with the whispered proviso that it was a better source to augment their claim than anything else I had seen in their packets.

The troika looked up at me, old Yaro, kind Yaro, befuddled and balding, and they said: "No, we are good, Professor Yaro. We have located the requisite number of sources, and we have decided to plow forward with what we have already obtained through our methods."

"But," said I, Yaro, "I can assure you that the material I mention might indeed be more on point, more useful, and therefore my noting of its availability, up to and including the universal resource locator for the online version, has not been made without some forethought."

"Indeed," the troika replied (and I resist telling you their names or even attributing from which the comments came, for they were all one on this matter), "but since we are only required through your presentation assignment and supplementary documents to use three outside sources, we fear that adding this new source will increase the amount of ideas and notions which we would need to conquer, assimilate, and then present."

I stuttered. I stammered. I held the paper with the universal resource locator in my meaty hand. I proffered it to the closest of the three, but she just grinned and shook her head.

"We are good with what we are currently negotiating," this one said.

Now, to be clear, I am affable, the affable Yaro I am sometimes called, yet even I thought seriously of balling up the paper I held in my hand - though it was indeed just a half sheet, and not likely to require much balling - and tossing it at one of their foreheads in protestation.

Instead I went back to the chair I occupy near the front of the room, and let them carry on in their own manner.

And with that, I take my leave and wish you well,


  1. Ah, Yaro, you have my sympathies.

  2. I have experienced the same thing many times. I can't stop myself from keeping my eyes open for material that my students would find useful. They always do the bulk of things themselves, but if i can turn them on to a bit of info that would help them, I sort of expect they'll welcome it.

    But, I, just like Yaro, find I'm often rebuked.

  3. Wait. You still retain hope that they might care more about learning than fulfilling requirements???

    He's so unusual.

  4. I've come to believe that Yaro is an angel, my better angel, perhaps, one who exists to guide me.

    When he feels like tossing paper balls at students, I know I'm really in trouble.

  5. though it was indeed just a half sheet, and not likely to require much balling

    Yaro is an artist.

  6. Shit, I wish I was in Yaro's class. He does research for his students. Sap.

    And I mean that with all due respect, and I am not bullying or disrespecting him in any way. Purely pedagogical feedback.

  7. If Yaro can't make it work, then how am I supposed to?

  8. Tim, how is it that you can call people names and then claim not to be disrespecting them? Or are you operating a kind of postmodern irony that is beyond us dullards and bitches and saps, as you have called various of us?

    Yaro, on the other hand, is a true prince.

  9. My sympathies, Yaro. I have to admit I'm a bit relieved to hear that you encounter such problems, too. I've also been less than successful in getting students to check out stories on NPR or from the local (very good) newspaper or talks on campus that struck me as germane to their research. And, after years of saying "you need as many sources as necessary to support your argument and reflect various points of view about your subject," I have given in and started requiring specific minimum numbers of sources -- and have gotten better work as a result. One of these days they're going to need to develop their own instincts about such things, but I guess, at the introductory (and even intermediate) level, it helps to give them some guidelines, in hopes that that will increase the chances that they have an experience with working with an about-right set of sources, and so begin the instinct-development process.

    I hate to ask, but is there any chance they're drawing illicitly on a pre-existing work for their project(i.e. plagiarizing)? Marijuana legalization is one of those perennial topics on which there are many already-written papers floating about, and that might explain the unwillingness to incorporate additional sources. (Full disclosure: my first case of plagiarism, which occurred during my first semester of teaching nearly 20 years ago, was a paper on marijuana legalization, and I've yet to get a truly competent paper on the subject). It sounds like you're requiring them to hand in intermediate stages and otherwise observing their progress, however, which usually cuts down on cheating. And I'd think that cheating on a group assignment would be less likely, since it would make the group members vulnerable to each other. But I could be wrong about that.

  10. I'm jealous. My students aren't even at the "I'm so lazy, I settle for 10 minutes on EBSCO" level. They're 5 minutes on wikipedia and don't bother to read the red "This is plagiarism and it's from Wikipedia, which the syllabus specifically bars as a source." written on their previous attempts.

    I think next term I'm going to google "name of experiment, wikipedia" for every experiment and plant misinformation in the article the night before each report is due.

  11. Verboten topic usually popular among dullard stoners.

    I'm curious if the end-product is worthwhile.

    Also, I usually require non-journalistic sources as requirements and then emphasize the usefulness of journalism sources for current information as useful additions to the minimums.

    Because, if there hadn't been a recent attempt at legislation, most of what was in those TIME articles wouldn't have been findable without journalism searches beyond the ability of most freshpeeps. Even those is Journalism 101 *Sigh.

  12. If this were me, I'd want to scream, "TAKE IT! TAKE IT!!! Before I SHOVE IT DOWN YOUR THROATS!!!"

    Yaro, being much more civilized, would of course not dream of this. I therefore hope he'll do what I expect him to do: give those lazy pea-brains a low grade.

  13. P.S. to Yaro: Make sure they know why their grades are so low, too.

  14. @ FF von F
    To me, Yaro is the South American* God among men, someone like the Christ who sees the sins of the idiot students and yet forgives them. May everyone try to become him.

    @Tim (Not Jim)
    ....aaand here's where we slide from Heaven to Hell. I know that you are (possibly) an undergraduate, but that doesn't excuse certain things such as the drama, the crassness, and USING MY CRAPPY FOOTNOTE SYSTEM! People think that either I am a sock puppet of you, or you of me, or that I'm Mathsquatch (which I am not.) So let's cut the crap, eh?

    * Yaro sounds like a Brazilian nickname; I don't care if he is from Philadelphia, Port-au-Prince, Lyons, Manchester, Johannesburg, Lagos, or Tokyo - he will always be South American to me because of that name and that drawing, which looks something like Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

  15. Tim (Not Jim) is vying for the honor of most-deleted posts. Impressive.

  16. I have this issue, too. I am a first year GTA in the humanities, and I followed in my professors footsteps by pointing my students to resources and news articles that may help their research papers. Sadly, I'm learning that they either don't care, or start relying on me for everything. I want to say, "I'm not an expert on *everything,* I just read the newspaper! And when I find something useful to you, I forward it!" I think next semester I will be biting my tongue and cutting down on the emails-- it may increase my enthusiasm when professors point me in new directions, but when it's a required course outside their majors, I can see how this type of help may not be as useful for my students.


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