Sunday, December 9, 2012

RYS Flashback - 3 Years Ago.

Snowflake Stupefication.

It is nearing the end of classes and for my freshmen English students I am holding mandatory conferences during extended office hours and class hours this week (our program encourages us to cancel up to two classes to allow this kind of one on one time with students). These topics are designed to address questions for the final paper assignment, giving me a chance to gently guide each student to a suitable research topic, and allow one final desperate attempt at correcting common errors in their writing.

Since I canceled 2 classes this week, each student must attend a conference or it counts as an absence; university policy dictates that 6 missed classes means you fail the class. Those that skipped their conferences received an email from me telling them that an absence had been added to their attendance records.

Half of my students come to conferences with drafts prepared, a set of questions to ask and a clear plan of what is left for them to do. The remaining students ask one or both of the following questions.

"What is my grade now?" and/or "What is the lowest I can get on my final paper and still pass?"

It is here, in my office, that these less then enthusiastic students discover that one pesky paper which they failed to turn in weeks ago is dragging down their average. Without a C-, this class will not count for a writing credit and they will have to take another class that makes them write more than circles on a scantron sheet.

This also seems to be the place where the student discover my VERY strict "no late papers" policy. It is on my syllabus, it is on our Blackboard site and I announce it on and before every due date for every paper. However, every single student who is missing a paper seems SHOCKED, SHOCKED I tell you, to discover this policy for the first time. There are protests. There are a few tears. One student threatened to get her mother involved. Another simply stood up and walked out. While I feel I was very clear in both my attendance policy and my late paper policy, I was astounded to find the following emails in my inbox over the weekend.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 3:13 PM
Hi Ms. [Instructor],

I am supposed to have an appointment with you today at 2:45 however, i had blood work done yesterday and was put under Anastasia for it. The procedure has made me very nauseous and i've been throwing up since last night. I know this is an inconvenience to you, but i had every intention attending, i just don't think its wise. I would hate to be marked absent over this. May i please meet you monday or any other day that works for you in order to not be counted absent? Would this be my fourth absence?

Thank you so very much,
Vomiting Veronica

(This is in fact, Veronica's 8th absence. Feel free to negotiate all you want Veronica, you are still going to fail)


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 9:37 PM

I have checked my grade online today and it says that i have only one sentence for paper #2. I am sure if something like happened that because I submitted the wrong document. Since i really do not know exactly what you have received or not it would like to submit all four.
Thank you in advance!


ENG 101
Sat, Dec 5, 2009 at 1:27 AM
Attached: Paper 2=2 months late
Paper 3 = 1.5 months late

Hope these are better than the first one!!


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 3:47 PM
Attached: Paper #2= 2 months late

If anything let me know. We lost this game I am kind of sad but we still [XYZ football team] and hopefully you have a great weekend take care

Last Paper
Sat, Dec 5, at 7:45 AM
Attached: 4 JPEG files

[Instructor last name]
Couldnt get my paper to upload for soem reson so I took pics with my iPhone. Sending them to you know so u can fix my grade

Richy Rich
Sent from my iPhone


  1. Ah, yes; the idea of "fixing" a grade. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, but, dissatisfied as I am with my salary, I still value a clear conscience), it doesn't seem to refer to "a fix" (i.e., a bribe), but it is an interesting concept: "if I don't have a [insert grade of student's preference here], then something is wrong, and you, the proffie, need to rectify it."

  2. At least Richy Rich had the ingenuity to take pictures and send them in. I've had students who, when faced with the need to scan a hamster's underbelly and submit the image as a PDF, just crumpled because they didn't have a scanner or "a PDF machine."

    But here's the real question: Did Richy hold his iPhone level with the paper, or did he take the pic at a 45-degree angle, so the paper's top portion is unreadable and paper's bottom lines appear in enormous high-res glory?

    1. At least he sent pictures of his paper. I had a dude once who got his face bashed in several hours before an exam, and he sent me pictures of his messed-up mug. Eew.

  3. "This is in fact, Veronica's 8th absence. Feel free to negotiate all you want Veronica, you are still going to fail."

    Despite a similar university policy in the catalog, despite my direct quotation of it in my syllabus, and despite absence records in Blackboard that are visible to students, we aren't allowed to enforce the policy unless we personally warned the student in writing during the semester.

    1. One of the things that irritated me while I was teaching was how some students put in a near-superhuman effort into weaseling marks out of me that they clearly didn't deserve. It would have been easier and taken less time to simply learn the material they were supposed to know in the first place.

      It also infuriated me how I was expected to spell everything out for the kiddies, short of how to tie their own shoelaces, and there were times I'm sure I had to do that as well. What was clearly obvious to me when I was their age, such as what to do and what not to do, seemed to be completely over their heads. (Think of something like, "You didn't tell me not to stick my finger in the light socket! I got an electrical shock and now I'm going to file a complaint against you!")

      I thought they were supposed to be adults and expected them to behave accordingly. Maybe not. Many years ago, I knew a group of teachers, one of whom taught kindergarten. She told us one day about the kids she was looking after and how they behaved if they didn't have their nap or get their afternoon snack. Moving the clock ahead nearly 20 years and the behaviour of some of my students was almost identical to what she described.

      Maybe post-secondary education is kindergarten for adults.

  4. "Half of my students come to conferences with drafts prepared, a set of questions to ask and a clear plan of what is left for them to do."

    So is the glass half full or half empty?