Monday, October 31, 2011

Lundi Thirsty

Q. Have you ever looked a student (who was in "acceptable" academic standing) in the eyes and said, "You don't have what it takes to be here. Drop out." (or something like that)?

A. ... instead of just waiting for their accumulated string of bad grades (or drug overdoses or whatever) to convince them?


  1. I'm not allowed to do that. It is outlined in my Uni's policy. Part of me understands the culture of poverty does not prepare these students for college level work. What blows
    My mind is that the uni is hell bent on pushing them through instead of making them take remedial courses to get them where they should be.

  2. I once had a student who came to class high all the time. There was a sad, beaten down betting pool about what he might be on.

    And then he came to class one day with both sides of his nose stuffed with toilet paper cause he had a bad nose bleed from all the cocaine he was doing. And we didn't sit down and say "sorry you suck this isn't for you," we sat him down, got him into a rehab program, and he later would graduate with a B/C average.

    And well, that's why I wouldn't say "Drop out." I mean... I've seen enough people beat the odds to think it would be selling some students ridiculously short.

  3. I would no sooner say that to a student than tell Mrs. Beaker, "Hey sweetheart, you know you could probably do better than me."

  4. I almost did that just last weekend. I had a single father of six whose wife died last year in Afghanistan (and who is himself a veteran of Iraq) trying to piece together essays and homework by rewriting the reading one synonym at a time. I could see that his work was taking him hours that he did not have, all the while technically plagiarizing. He was about to go in front of the Honors Committee when I tried to tell him to simply withdraw and retake another time... but my Dean (who is also a personal friend) intervened and told me I could not do that.

    It made me sad. The guy should not be in school right now.

  5. Well, don't most schools have some sort of leave of absence policy for circumstances just like that? Er... 2/4 I worked at definitely did... don't know about the other two...

  6. I'm sorry, no. I would never do that.

    I teach my discipline. I don't chart lifepaths for other people.

    I could never be that arrogant or presumptuous.

    I also have been very uncomfortable with the "I told you so" shit going on about Gloria in another thread.

    We don't know much for sure about that poor kid, of course; not even Darla knows all the information yet.

    Hang in there, DK.

  7. I was cured of this early in my upbringing as an astronomer, since I was told, "You'll never make it" by more than enough people who had no idea about my potential or what I was wanting to do. (Indeed, at least one of them didn't even know what I said: he thought I said, "master physicist," not "astrophysicist.") People can learn and change, even if sometimes they do seem unpromising.

    I will confess that I once had a student who was so whiny, so wheedling, so sniveling, so pathetic, so in-my-face, such a right veritable pain in the butt, I was tempted to scream at him, "I'll make you a deal: I'll allow you to stop coming to class, do no more homework, and take no more exams in this course, if you'll agree to take a grade of D!" I withstood the sniveling, though, and at the end of the semester, he earned his D, fair and square. I can't say I was glad to give it to him: my students earn what they deserve. We are required to sit in judgment of our students, although I always do my best to be as objective and fair about it as possible. I wish he learned something from me, one way or another.

    And I'm sure more than one CMer will exclaim, "I have lots of students like that, every semester!" ;-)

  8. P.S. I had another student so testosterone-poisoned (he saw fit to challenge me even about how Earth is round and we can't see through it), I did scream at him, "Get a girlfriend, or anything to take the inappropriate edge off your personality!"

  9. Frod - I knew someone who had a similar experience back in the day. An instructor told her he'd give her a C instead of a D if she promised not to enroll in any of his classes again. Ouch.

  10. I will also confess to having said to a student, "Is there any way I can BEG you not to become an engineer? You'd be a source of public danger." My conscience is clear on that one, though, because I'd just nailed him for cheating. (This was toward the end of the conversation.) Literally every time he ever spoke to me, he tried to deceive me, and I finally nailed him, with written evidence good enough to hold up in court. I awarded him his well-deserved F, and made it stick. If I could have, I'd have seen to it that he was expelled from the university, but alas, our Incompetent Dean of Students did nothing when I sent him a written report of this with copies of everything, as always.

    I've wanted to say something like this to more than one undergraduate education major (they call it "liberal studies"). I hate knowing how much damage they're doing to kids like I was, much like they tried to do to me in class, but they did earn passing grades.

    There was also this nincompoop who was quite completely incapable of keeping two concepts in mind simultaneously, no matter what. That's not disqualifying for a college degree, though. I awarded this student the C that this student earned, fair and square, and hoped this student wouldn't do too much damage after graduation. I didn't say anything, though.

  11. @Asst Dean: I think that's a really shitty thing you said about Darla. I hope she doesn't read it. I don't see any arrogance in her at all, and I admire her for having empathy for her troubled student.

  12. Yep, I'll second what Cal says.

  13. I'd never do this, as my job is to teach all comers however much I think admissions fouled up. Nor do I think Darla was arrogant. But Kimmie, I went back and read all 14 comments to Darla, and not one said or implied "I told you so." That's a very ungenerous reading of people's sharing of their experience with addicts, and the sympathy they expressed alongside of that experience. If you've been played by someone with a drug problem, you're never quite the same again, and you're likely to give very different advice than someone who hasn't.

  14. @F&T

    Kimmie may have been responding in part to a hateful comment in the thread posted by OrneryBastard that I deleted.

  15. Ohhhh. OK. I thought I was losing my marbles. Sorry, Kimmie!

  16. @AsstDean "Teach your courses, stop trying to save your students. We are not qualified to do that task."

    I couldn't agree more! So where the Tea-Party does this attitude disappear to when the adminflakes hand down the latest bullshit about how we have to 'engage our students', 'meet them where they are', 'meet students needs', and of course the overarching goal 'increase student retention'?

    Is it okay for us to just "Teach our courses" then?

    I didn't think so.


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