Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nice Try, Nadine

So.  This past week was Spring Break, and I have an essay due Monday at 11am.  I reminded them up the ass about this.  I have story boarded the damn essay in class in such a way that if Stella, bless her, knew where I lived, she'd pay Strelly to blow up my house.  I asked for drafts from the beginning, but so many had not sent them to me by the beginning of Spring break that I made them one last deal:

I told them if they e-mailed me their drafts by Monday, 11:59am, I'd look at them over the break.  8 did this.  Nadine was the last one to e-mail me something.  I admit I did not specify when, exactly, I would look at them.  I looked at Nadine's (the last one I received at exactly 11:59pm) on Friday morning at around 1am, before taking off for Boston for an overnighter with my 15 year old daughter (we had a blast!) at a more reasonable hour on Friday.  Nadine did not send me anything----she sent me a blank document. I e-mailed her and told her to send it to me pronto and I'd look at it in the morning on Saturday as I would be away from the computer all day on Friday.

Saturday morning, I checked my e-mail like the pussy I am.  I reviewed three essays which students had rewritten with my comments after I had reviewed their essays the first time.  I made more comments on those three essays, then looked at Nadine's.   Nadine sent me her "draft" which was one paragraph and one sentence.  She also told me she had been waiting by the computer, hungry for me to get back to her, waiting waiting waiting.  So anxious. So disappointed that it took me from Tuesday till Friday morning to get back to her.  Can I add here that I assigned this essay three and a half weeks ago? In the intro, they were supposed to identify the theme of the story they were writing about.  There are two full pages in the textbook I use, explaining what theme is and giving examples. I also gave examples and storyboarded in class, as I said.   She said the theme was a car in the story which is a symbol for the love between two brothers.  The car is certainly a symbol for that brotherly love in the story, but that symbol is not the theme, so that was wrong.  That's all she said.  That's it.  So on Saturday morning, while my daughter slept peacefully at the decadent hotel we stayed at (use, folks----we got the Marriott Longwharf in Boston for $99!!!!!!!) I emailed Nadine back and told her the exact pages in the text to read, and that a symbol is not a theme.  And I told her to think about the theme, and to write the full essay in support of that theme (it's more of an old fashioned formalist essay, but then I went to a Jesuit college for undergrad which gave me a strong background in such things and I like it for a first half of the semester essay) and that I would read her draft on SUnday morning---to send it to me by 9am.  At nine am on Sunday, I log on.  There is an e-mail from Nadine, full of the kind of manipulation and blame game that I have come to expect.  She was waiting, desperately, from 11:59 Monday night on, to hear from me.  Now she had to work, and also she had come down with a headache.  She was not going to be able to get me a draft by Sunday morning, and she would not be able to hand in her essay by Monday morning, and the reason was, that I waited too long to get back to her that she had sent me nothing the first time.  If I had let her know earlier, and had been able to send her feedback FRIDAY morning, THEN everything would be different.  But because I had been negligent in my duties, this whole thing was ALL MY FAULT and so I should let her hand in the essay late.

I have a no late essays policy, on account of the fact that so many of my students don't even START their essays until the due date.  Fuck that.

I sent Nadine back an e-mail saying she should try to get it in by Monday in class, because she'd be getting a zero if she did not, as per my syllabus.


  1. Also, I just received another draft. I deleted that one----I've already had my wine quota and am not commenting on any fucking drafts tonight!!!

  2. You are a saint for giving the younglings a draft-reading opportunity anyway.

    Here's what I suspect: even if you had forsaken your family and your free time and responded exactly as Nadine Ne'er-do-well wanted, she still would have (a) ignored everything you asked her to do and (b) found some way to blame you. Sometimes, you just can't save 'em.

    I always offer a draft-reading option, the kicker is that students need to submit at least 72 hours before the deadline. First, they have trouble computing 72 hours. Second, they ignore what I say (even though I routinely extend deadlines for the soft-heads who submit drafts).

    The truth is that only about 5% of students take advantage of the option. The reason I keep it up? It is a priceless tool for grade-grubbers. When they complain (and they always do) I look down through my graying hair and ask why they didn't send me a draft first.

    Similar outcomes?

    1. Hey there tbjb! I have similar outcomes for sure, with a small percentage doing the drafts. It's true, just offering (and not bending over backwards quite so much) is enough to shut them up. I need to do more of that. They really do have to help themselves a bit1

    2. I make them turn it in a week in advance and I would be lucky if I had 5 percent take me up on it. And it is almost always students who least need my feedback.

  3. Every year I teach a elite graduate class which requires a major literature review. I got tired of receiving plaintiff last minute requests to comment on drafts and post result grade-grubbing so last year I tried a new approach. I d split the total marks for the assignment into specific points for emailing me the topic, a draft ref list, a draft review, and the final review -all by specified dates of course. All it created was a pain in the a$$ for me as most students failed to meet most deadlines, and instead sent plaintiff emails begging for special consideration. So this year, I have said I will read and comment on ONE draft from each student, as long as it is received at least one week before the final due date, and is in complete form (only references may be unformatted). I suspect few will make the deadline, and like the brothersjblog above, this gives me a response to the grade grubbers.

    1. Please, Dream-Killer, tell me that you meant e-mails threatening to sue you.

      Otherwise, it's spelled with a "ve". I've just spent a week dealing with that sort of not-quite homonymnody.

  4. You are suffering as a result of the fact that you promised more than grading their papers in a timely fashion and keeping office hours.

    I tell my students to send me drafts via email, if they want to, but I say "I will read them and respond if I have the opportunity,in order of first to last received". They can send them in the night before they're due if they like, I don't care. Chances are of course I won't respond. But I may have time to look at it, who knows?

    "Come to my office hours and I can assure you that I will sit for you as long as necessary to go over your work," I say. Do they show? No. Do they occasionally send drafts? Yes.

    My response to your annoying student would be "rethink this keeping in mind that a symbol is not a theme". Student complains? They get, "Gosh, I just wish you'd started on this earlier..."

    You teach people how to treat you. If you teach your students that they can submit essays over spring break and you guarantee you will comment on them, that is what they will believe, and they will blame you when they don't get what they want.

    No promises? No complaints. Or at least no perceived right to complain.

  5. I completely agree with Stella. Overpromising is a guaranteed path to (perceived) underperformance. I've stopped bending over backwards to give them perks above and beyond the call of duty, and my own respect for my time seems to have had a positive influence on their respect for my time. Worth a shot, Bella!

  6. I did want to comment---and I love when they send in drafts because then the final essays are sooooo much better. It makes me much happier, and I admit I am happier when my students do well and not so happy when they don't. I have not found a way to fix this; my only idea is to leave the profession, to be honest, since it leaves me unhappy much of the time.

    But I like the idea of telling them clearly that I will respond when and if I can in a situation like this. It was a spontaneous thing in class, because I was disappointed so many had not sent drafts. Next time, I'll make my own actions clearer (and admit to myself how little I wanted to spend an entire day grading over spring break, no matter how happy better essays makes me).

  7. There are 12 weeks in my semester. For each week, my TA takes an excerpt from my notes and expands on it - contextualizes it. The students are required to write on 5 of these which makes up 15% of their total mark. They were required to create a wikispace account and to post their weekly submissions on there. I also asked them to add me as a member in order for me to mark these things.

    The semester ends in a couple of weeks, so I thought that I'd get a head start. Basically, almost everyone that already had completed 5 weeks worth was a keener. No one wrote less than a paragraph so everyone that did this received at least an A-. In a class of 90 (there were many more to start, but thankfully several dropped) a total of 30 kept up with their work. Most others had written between 2-4. But most troublesome is that 15 of them have submitted NONE. Not only that, but most of them didn't even bother creating a wiki account.

    And guess who is going to need that 15% just to pass the course? *SMH*