Monday, May 28, 2012

It Used to Be Part of Our Jobs. Now It's Rude. Or Disrespectful. Or Humiliating.

I remember a time, not so very long ago, when making mistakes, getting advice about how not to repeat them, and following that advice was a part of what we called learning. Poring over my course evaluations for the past year in preparation for my self-evaluation, thinking about comments from my evals last year, and recalling some of the stellar professional development opportunities Large Urban Community College has provided me recently have all led me to the conclusion that many of today's students and educationists now recoil with horror at the thought of any correction being part of the learning process. Here's a list of things my professors routinely did, and I also do, that are now considered abusive:
  • Using red ink to comment on student papers.
  • Making too many comments or corrections.
  • Telling students where to find information rather than repeating it for the fifth time.
  • Informing students they must follow directions.
  • Reprimanding students privately for not following directions and making them aware that they will fail the class if they also fail to follow directions on subsequent major assignments.
  • Recommending tutoring to students.
  • Calling on students in class who don't have their hands raised.
  • Directing students who claim to have disabilities to contact the disability office to get their conditions documented so I can legally make accommodations.
  • Asking students who say "I don't understand" to be more specific about what part of the assignment they don't understand.
  • Requiring students to be responsible for keeping track of their own grades and averages.
  • Refusing to give study guides or extra credit but providing students with tips for note-taking and test-taking which mirror the techniques they should have learned in their mandatory "student success" classes.
Somehow I survived all this abuse and came out of it as an educated person.  Maybe I need therapy because I'm obviously suppressing educational trauma.

What other rude behaviors can you add to this list?





53 comments:

  1. How about using big words, such as "superfluous," or "careening"? Or saying, "If you were more open to education, you'd be better educated"? Or how about "Do I also have to tell you to breathe?" when being yelled at for taking points off for not showing work and units in calculations? Both are now explicitly mentioned in the ol' syllabus, 16 pages and counting!

    But then, remember that this is the generation that got a trophy for every soccer match, even the ones they lost, as well as a ribbon for every spelling bee (or are spelling bees now considered oppressive?), and everyone made the Little League team. Treating children like hot-house flowers has succeeded brilliantly: your pension will be paid and managed by hot-house flowers. Just great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This seriously makes me want to flee the planet.

      Delete
    2. Re: the vocabulary thing--they now come down hard on their peers for using "big words" too. My class sometimes involves peer critique, and every term I get several students who tell the resident smart kid to "tone it down" because "I don't understand these words."

      Delete
  2. EnglishDoc, the kind of crapola you describe is, in my opinion, one of the best justifications for the tenure system. Once you grind out the probationary period, you can pop on that T-shield and be the adult in the room no matter how much the snowflakes weep their melty tears. Dealing with this sort of behavior from a contingent position is much, much harder.

    Super rude things I like to do: 1) Lock the door after class starts on pop quiz days to discourage the chronically late. Don't give make-up quizzes. 2) When students complain "I don't know what you want me to do on this assignment," tell them "Don't try to figure out what I want. Try to figure out the best way to do the assignment." 3) Accept no late work. Remind students that thirty seconds late is still late. 4) Be unwilling to answer questions about homework due in ten minutes. 5) Be unwilling to provide complementary calculators or free office supplies. 6) Be unwilling to let students camp out in my office to do their work "in case they have questions."

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  3. I do every one of those things *except* the red ink one…though that's largely because my comments are almost entirely electronic now.

    Additional crimes I can add to EnglishDoc's:

    * handle plagiarism and cheating "by the book";
    * require extensions "by the book," with paperwork, rather than informally;
    * take 24 hours to respond to email;
    * ignore emails asking after info available in syllabus (this is explicit in my contact policy);
    * take appointments by prior arrangement only.

    Brooke
    http://anumma.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Not wanting to hear the myriad reasons why you missed class. And refusing to confer blessings upon a future absence: "Is it okay if I miss class tomorrow?" "No. But you're allegedly an adult and you need to do what you need to do, which includes settng priorities."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, yes, and yes! WHY do they ASK if they can miss class, as if we would EVER condone it. They might as well ask, "Is it OK if I ram my car into yours and leave a dent?"

      Delete
    2. Yes, or wanting your blessing to miss a class because they need to take a make-up test for some other class, or go to a review session. Mine seem rather shocked when I refuse to defer to their other "more important" class.

      Delete
  5. Answering the request to review before a test by telling students to bring in topics they want me to review - evidently, that is quite rude of me
    Being sarcastic when they ask what's on the test (The syllabus lists the readings covered on the test and they have a study guide, which tells them what to study)
    Being sarcastic once again when the point out that the study guide only provides the concepts to be tested, not the definitions/explanations of each concept
    AND G-d forbid I call on student who does not have his/her hand up. Who the hell do I think I am.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, seriously, WTF is up with that? In lots of my classes, there will be one or two keeners who always put their hands up, and fine, more power to them, because they are going to get those participation points. But if the other students don't talk, then a) there's not going to be much discussion and b) they won't be as engaged and learning if they aren't talking.
      I am supposed to make sure all my students feel comfortable participating, or some crap. Fine, but sometimes they are so comfortable they can't lift their lazy arms into the air. At that point, I call on them. I say "Hey, Dinky, what do you think about Talkative Tommy's idea?" This is RUDE, now?

      Delete
    2. You're damaging their self-esteem. It makes them look bad because they weren't prepared, and they don't want to appear dumb in front of the rest of the class. That's why they don't have their hands up. Preparing for class discussion was not part of what they were supposed to do. Was it in the syllabus word for word? Then they didn't have to do it. Was it in the syllabus? Then they didn't read it.

      Delete
    3. The hand raising thing isn't an issue if you teach something that doesn't require participation. My philosophy is they should be able to show up, sit down, scribble what I'm saying, and leave. Pass the test and I could give a crap whether or not I know what your voice sounds like.

      Delete
  6. Informing a chronic-watcher student that s/h/it was at risk to fail the practical exam in a health sciences course if s/h/it did not Stop Watching and Start Doing.

    Apparently, I was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Professor because I 1) "had no faith" in this student 2) "did not want to provide constructive feedback" and 3) replied that I could not provide feedback until I had seen the student DO something.

    Yes, the student failed the demonstration exam. Trust me, this was a good thing for the safety of the public.

    ReplyDelete
  7. * Talking more than listening, as though they have anything worthwhile to say about the material based on their having the book nearby while they watched ESPN

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    Replies
    1. I just got an email like this froma student- who kindly provided me with his (unsolicited) personal evaluation of my class- is opened with "I just want to be heard" and he blathered on and on about how he should have been allowed to have as much airtime in class as I did- because his opinions are important too. No. No they are not, sorry Snowflake.

      Delete
  8. Telling them to stop texting or talking during class.

    Reminding them that walking in late and across my line of vision is rude.

    Giving a 10-minute grace period for late papers, then starting the clock for marking them down after the pile is picked up.

    Asking them to write down their thoughts and THEN calling on people who have not raised their hand.

    Giving unannounced reading quizzes.

    Having standards for an A.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Reminding them that walking in late and across my line of vision is rude."

      Yeah, they simply do not understand what the problem is with this! They react much like I did when my Mom told me not to "walk in front of people," when I was about 6 or 7. What cured me of it, of course, was to get underfoot of some enormous person.

      Delete
  9. I once had a student say "you don't have to be rude" when I answered a question she asked, so I guess that's another one for the list.

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  10. Reminding them that addressing anyone by their last name only is rude.

    (Frankly, I don't care if they strip me of my professorship or even my Ph.D., since they don't have the power to do it anyway. They do need to know that addressing someone only as "Frankenstien!" is something that a boss in the Real World will -not- like.)

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  11. Not giving an A when they got A's all through high school.

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  12. I actually received a letter from disability support services that forbade me from using a red pen for a certain student. It seems the red pen made them anxious and added to their disability. So I pulled out the green pen for their assignments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think THEY think that they're not supposed to be anxious for a test. HELLO: it's a TEST: it's SUPPOSED to be anxiety-inducing if you haven't studied. ANd since they don't study, they're always anxious. DUH. Sorry, I know people who suffer from REAL test anxiety, and they don't exhibit similar traits as my students who often claim to be too anxious to take a test. When I ask why they are anxious, it's often because they haven't studied, not because they're inherently anxious about test taking.

      Delete
  13. A student asked "what page is that on" every class. My response "same page as when you read it preparing for class" was deemed rude and insensitive.

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  14. Calling sequentially on everyone in class and repeating the process until it's obvious which 4 people did the reading amongst the N=30 bodies there is deemed abusive.

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  15. *Having an attendance policy.

    *Having an attendance policy and actually enforcing it. (Now it's considered insulting and demeaning to take attendance at the beginning of each class.)

    *Requiring them to bring their books to class.

    *Having in-class assignments that actually ask them to use or quote the reading. (Because duh, they shouldn't have to bring their books to class unless they want to.)

    *Lowering grades when their papers don't meet the minimum length requirement. (Because "I can say what I need to say in three pages; if I wrote five I'd just be repeating myself.") As of recently, I don't use length to justify giving a lower grade: I got too tired of getting complaints about how length is just some stupid, arbitrary thing that doesn't really matter. I now give a lower grade based on the paper's flaws, and then I say something like, "Had this paper actually reached the minimum length requirement, it might have been able to address x, y, and z."

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  16. "the professor acted like she knew more than us."

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    Replies
    1. Well, my school is assuring that this doesn't happen very much any more. If you have a PhD, regardless of which field the PhD is in, you can teach MA-level classes in any field. An MA is enough to teach any field. Indeed, you can even be chair of a department with only a BA in the field in question, as long as you have a PhD in something.

      There is a branch of natural science where I have done some popular science reading, enough so that if someone hasn't studied it, I probably know more than they do. But maybe not. And what I do know is superficial and unsystematic. I have a PhD in an unrelated field. You know where I'm going with this. I'll ask if I can offer graduate classes in that field. By the middle of the second week, I assure you I will not "think I know more than the students," because I won't. I might actually get good evals if that raises student self-of-steam.

      Delete
  17. I don't do a lot of discussion (my classes are mostly workshop-style), but, when I do, I'm seeing more and more what seem to me out-of-proportion responses to very gentle correction/redirection/requests for amplification (phrases like "well, that's part of the answer, but," or diplomatic citing of counter-evidence). I don't know whether it's the standardized tests, or the constant clapping and cheering for everything they did, or what, but whatever they've experienced before, it certainly hasn't prepared them for even very supportive, open-ended discussion-based teaching (and heaven help them if they ever end up in a Paper Chase-style Socratic classroom).

    I was just reading classmates' fb remembrances of an 8th-grade teacher who came under the "tough but fair" category, and was tempted to post them here. The general refrain was "I was terrified of him, and I loved him, and I'm very grateful to him." And this was for 8th grade (and yes, he'd be fired in a moment today; in fact, I think he may have been let go from, or amicably parted ways with, a more touchy-feely school even back in those days). If it wouldn't out me, I'd happily supply that string for submission to any of the misguided "educational experts" quoted above.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And now I've just seen something similar to the discussion problem in an online class. The students are doing a workshop-type exercise that is designed to clarify a concept, as well as move a larger project forward (so they all have to do it, and all of their work is on display, to each other and to me). I expect some of them to make some mistakes in the project-related work, and the workshop centered around the concept is designed to help clarify the concept and reveal the mistakes, which they can then go back and correct. All fine and dandy and part of learning, right? But I just got an email from a student who'd successfully and fairly expeditiously gone through just that process which sounds more than a bit defensive (admittedly, tone is hard to read in emails) -- a sort of "all right, already, I've got it now!," as if she feels somehow in the wrong for having not gotten it on the first round, and annoyed at me for having put her through the experience.

      I fear the ways in which I'm being pushed to revise my online activities are designed in part to eliminate just this sort of uncomfortable experience (which might be described as "inquiry-based learning," one of the vaunted buzzwords, but one that seems to be at odds with the direction of much of the rest of the edu-juggernaut), in the name of eliminating possible sources of confusion and giving students confidence.

      Another, older, student emailed earlier today to say she's in a "panic," once again because clarifying the concept is taking some time (I think pressure from other parts of her life is playing a part there). I managed to talk her down, and I suspect she'll eventually be quite satisfied with her experience, but, once again, at least temporary discomfort was part -- perhaps even a necessary and useful part -- of successful learning.

      They used to put us through ropes courses and other activities to give us a chance to overcome fear and prove to ourselves what we could do. Does anybody do that anymore? Why can't we do the equivalent in class without being criticized for hurting our students somehow?

      And why are coaches allowed to yell at kids? I hear them saying things much, much harsher than I would ever say to my students, often with parents present.

      Hmm, EnglishDoc. Your post seems to have struck a nerve for me.

      Delete
  18. Forgot one: Not allowing them to use colloquialisms in their writing. "You're not respecting the way I write. You just want to make my writing stuffy and boring like all the other writers you make us read."

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    Replies
    1. Or grammar! Asking them to use standard grammar seems to also be a way to restrain their "creativity."

      Delete
    2. I could forgive the grammar and spelling, if they were being deployed in the service of coherent arguments bolstered with substantial quantities of actual facts.

      Delete
    3. @ ahistoricality: Our language is sloppy because our thinking is sloppy. But sloppy language decreases our ability to think clearly. (George Orwell, paraphrase)

      I have never seen one of those mythical beasts, the clear thinker who writes poorly. And I live in the sciences, where you would most expect to find it.

      Delete
    4. No question, introvert.prof, that a lot of bad writing comes from not really wanting to say much.

      I've had students who were fairly quick and effective thinkers but who were very poor writers, technically. Sometimes it's anxiety and trying too hard; sometimes it's just that they got so far being briefly glib that they never learned sustained argumentation; sometimes it's really poor training that just doesn't reflect their native abilities.

      Delete
    5. If they think clearly, it's because they've had it modeled. And clear thinking is modeled through clear writing, so they've had clear writing modeled as well.

      No excuses.

      Delete
  19. Not being sympathetic enough when the 5th grandma has died in the last month...

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    Replies
    1. But Cynic, families are complicated these days. Some of them probably do have 5 grandmas (but most likely of varying ages and other qualities, so, yes, barring a tragedy -- or a series of murders -- on a family cruise which you cruelly insisted that the student skip in order to come to class, five of them dying in a month seems excessive. And having five willing to board a boat together also seems unlikely.)

      Delete
  20. I really don't read comments on student evaluations. I have not done so for years. Reading through these stories, I am reassured that this is the right decision.

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  21. Oh, and -- the e-mail I got yesterday asking if it was OK to write a creative paper. Yes, I said, but the risk is that I won't see its creativity as I am not qualified to judge creative writing. So can I still do it? Yes, if you understand the risks. I guess I shouldn't do it then.

    Can't wait for the eval commenting on how I squelched her creativity.

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  22. Expecting to stop talking when class starts.

    It seems to be happening with more regularity. I come into the classroom and announce the start of class. Most students settle down and turn their attention toward me. But 2 students continue their conversation. At first I thought they were just oblivious. But now I think that they think that the class should wait for them to finish their conversation. The technique and standing and waiting for them to finish accomplishes nothing... to talk on and on.

    This happens with different students in different classes. But it seems we should not expect to interrupt their day with instruction.

    Another item for my syllabus... when class starts you are expected to end conversations and turn your attention to your instructor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Be sure to include a time limit on when they are supposed to end their conversation:

      "When class starts, you are expected to end conversations (immediately) (within 2 minutes) (etc) and turn your attention to your instructor."

      Delete
    2. I've got a couple of yappers like that, too. I've started to begin class despite them--but I talk veryvery quietly so that only those closest to me can hear. The rest of the class turns on them and tells them to shut up. It's pretty much eliminated the problem.

      Delete
    3. Hmm... Annie, thanks for the reminder. I remember, once upon a time, trying the "talk-quietly" technique. It worked wonders, and then I forgot all about it.

      You've just added one extra tool to this hologram's arsenal.

      Delete
  23. The ones to blame are the parents. Up until they get to your class there has never been a clear or strict standard. Everything is negotiable. "Because I say so" has passed into disuse.

    Parents have also told them they're brilliant, so if they can't master something on the first (half-hearted) attempt there's something wrong. It certainly can't be them.

    Reading these, I couldn't help but think of Professor Kingsfield in "The Paper Chase," the archetype of Crusty Hell on Students. These snowflakes would do more than melt in his class. They'd plotz!

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  24. Here's a new one that just happened. After class I find a new email. A student sitting in the class emailed a question on the topic we were discussing when the email was sent. But wait ... there's more. The student gets in my face in the next class because I didn't respond to the email.

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  25. I collected the exam when time was up, and threatened to give everyone zeros if they didn't turn it in before I left the room.

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  26. * Waking them up by name in the middle of class.

    * Suggesting (privately) that they might do better on assignments if they took advantage of our (remedial -- wait, that's "developmental") reading program.

    * Telling them it was unacceptable to run out of the room, buy lunch, and return to class eating it.

    ReplyDelete

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