Monday, January 16, 2012

...And So It Begins

Dear Prof Terg,

I understand that we will be dropped from the course if we do not show up the first week, but I have other plans the first week. I promise after that I’ll never miss a day. I’m an A student. I promise I’ll be a great student. Plz let me know if this is ok.


Flakey McFlakerson, III

"I’m an A student?" Seriously? Oof. Any student I’ve ever had to make these “promises” always turns out to be the WORST!

I also found out I didn’t even get an interview for a job that I’m so damn qualified for.

Ok. Back to the booze.


  1. Whenever a student tells me, "I'm an A student," I get a copy of their grades. I then tell the student, "For an A student, you sure have a lot of other grades..."

  2. One year, at the place where I used to teach, our department attempted to improve the quality of our incoming first-year students by interviewing any interested people who came by. Two of us would sit down with that person for about half an hour, hear what they were interested in, and explain what we did there.

    One day, a young chap came in and he was enthusiastic as the dickens about being a student in our department, portraying himself as really eager to learn what we taught. We were impressed with his attitude and decided to let him in, but we needn't have bothered. By the end of that first year, he had distinguished himself as a lazy and talentless whiner. We never conducted those interviews again.

    But the story with him didn't quite end there. Each year, after the students left for the summer, we would go through the list of those first-year students and determine who we would let back into the department to finish their studies. I don't remember if he was allowed to return, but if he was, he barely made it as he didn't have a good reputation with any of my colleagues.

  3. Replies
    1. That's very flattering, Liz, but you might change your mind if you saw me going absolutely batshit loco when students transparently lie to me, especially when they don't even have to.

  4. I've had two emails after 10 pm this evening from students begging to be allowed into the course (term started two weeks ago, first quiz is this week.) And, predictably, also: could I send them lecture notes or powerpoint slides to make up what they've missed since OMG there's a quiz?

    I used to bend over backwards for late adds, but eventually I noticed that what they all had in common was poor planning. They tended to be either high-maintenance or early drops or both. Feh.

    So my answer: sure, you can register in the class, it's no skin off my nose if you want to start two weeks in. The list of readings is on the CMS. I don't upload powerpoints. I don't have any notes. Good luck on the quiz.

  5. Over the past few years, the students who have begged me to be allowed into my classes, and who insist that they LOOOOOOOVE my subject and ALWAYS do the reading, have almost uniformly turned out to be the biggest pains in my ass. They don't do the reading; they sit at the back of the class and chat or browse the internet; they submit assignments late and produce mediocre work.

    Now, if I have students requesting to add the class, I always go online to check their transcripts to see who the ACTUAL good students are. They don't have to be A students, but if they have a bunch of D's and W's I'm far less inclined to let them in. If I'm going to go over the enrollment cap (something I usually refuse to do, anyway), then it's only going to be for a student who makes my class easier and more enjoyable, not harder and suckier.

    This semester is looking good so far, though; none of my classes are quite full, and I've had no emails begging for permission to add.

  6. I've never understood "A Student" as an identity, perhaps because, though I was pretty successfully academically by most measures, I wasn't one (admittedly I was born into the population trough at the very tail end of the baby boom, but I got into an Ivy League college with a B+ average from a demanding but not particularly selective prep school, and into grad school with, once again, a B+ average -- perhaps a bit higher in my field -- and -- the crucial element -- a prize-winning undergraduate thesis). When I first encountered the phrase, uttered by weeping first-years who'd gotten some kind of B on a paper, I was genuinely puzzled by their distress. However, thanks to a combination of the baby boom echo and (perhaps related) rampant grade inflation, I'm now all too familiar with it, especially on the lips of pre-meds. My ideal would be to get back(?) to a system where no high school student consistently gets As, but instead is sufficiently challenged in all hir classes to learn something about hir academic strengths and weaknesses. But I realize that would require a major adjustment by parents and teachers as well.

    I'm sorry to hear about the interview, Prof T. Hope the booze helps, at least temporarily.


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