Saturday, March 9, 2013

Please Stop Saying That

I'm considering a new section to my syllabus.  It'll start off with "Please, stop saying and writing the following things:"

"I'm not gonna lie  . . . "

Yes, you are.  By saying that, you imply that you would regularly lie to someone, but have decided not to lie to me.  You expect praise for basic honesty, but since this is always followed by an admission that failed to meet some expectations, it doesn't matter that you're honest.  You're still screwed.

"I just feel . . . "
I don't give a crap what you feel.  I really don't.  This is a matter of academic discourse, and feelings are not part of it, at least, not overtly.  Please just tell me what you have reasoned out, and do not sit on your gut like it's a papal cathedra.  This would be okay if you then asked, "but is that true?" but you don't.  You just stop, and that's it.  We are to bow to the wisdom of your solar plexus.  

"It's not fair."
I am so scrupulously fair that it drives the people who know me nuts.  I've been known to drive twenty minutes back to the store to give back an extra dollar in change.  To accuse me of not being fair reveals that you don't know what the word means.  In fact, what you mean by "it's not fair" is "It's not something I like."  

"Can we get out early?"  
Yes.  You can leave at any time you like.  I will not stop you, guard the door, or ask any questions, because I do not care what you do with your money.  I happen to be an expert in my field, and I'm going to be here for the next hour to talk about a topic in my field, answer questions, and guide planned activities designed to teach you.  If you're not here, that is not my problem.  You can get out early every goddamned day.

"Will this be on the test?"
It will now.

"Are we turning this in?"
I get it.  You're asking this because you want to know if you're using a fresh sheet of paper for it or can put it on the back of your notes.  But I still hear, "should I take this seriously?"  

"Did I miss anything?"

"There are many . . . "
If your thesis starts with "there are many," please roll up the paper, set it aflame, and use it to light a joint, because that's what I want to do with it every time I see it.  

"This is gay."
Yes, I think it's interesting as well.  Thank you.  Of course, if you meant that as an insult, welcome to college.  You're now the kid who said "this is gay" to a professor.  Even your peers now think that you are an idiot and probably will for quite some time.  Good luck, jackass.  


  1. The labor camp system would improve these chuckleheads so much.

    Those that survived, of course.

  2. Another great post, Prof. Chiltepin.
    From personal experience I would add:
    "Do we have to...?"

  3. and, "are we respPONsible for this?"

    (with a particularly irritating whine on the second syllable of "responsible")

  4. I add individual words:
    1) Unique
    2) Random

    Mo, it's not, really, and, you don't really know what that word means.
    Oh, and 'relatable'.

  5. And I HAVE handed copies of Tom Wayman's poem to those who ask if they missed anything. (

  6. I'd often be asked: "What's going to be on the exam?" I'd give them a vague answer such as: "Questions." Did they really think I was going to tell them? Of course they did because if I didn't say what they wanted to hear, I'd get: "But we don't want to study the wrong thing."

    I guess they were too dumb to realize that I'd test them on material relating to the course and that they were responsible for learning the material.

  7. Great list!

    "Do we get extra credit???" This is the one that sets me on the edge of teetering into an abyss of rage.

    "Can I come talk to you about my grade?" This sends me into the depths of despair because this conversation never ever ever ever ever never ever ever ever goes well.

    1. In a service course I once taught, I had a discussion about an exam result in which the student in question commented: "Oh, you forgot to mark this!" The twerp added new material after I'd graded and handed it back and demanded credit for it. I knew he was lying through his teeth and he knew that I knew, but I didn't bother contesting it. For one thing, I couldn't prove that he cheated and, worse yet, his department head always sided with the students. I would have lost either way.

      By comparison, while I was working on my second master's degree, I wrote a mid-term exam which turned out to be rubbish. I discussed it with the prof, hoping I could get some more marks but I quickly realized I didn't have a case. I rolled up my sleeves and put even more effort into learning the material.

      I managed to pass the course and went on to not only finish my degree but went on for my Ph. D. as well. I think that prof did more than anybody else to help me earn those degrees. Years later, our paths crossed again and I mentioned that to him. I thanked him for what he did.

    2. Cynic, regarding extra credit, I used to tell them what my SIXTH GRADE teacher told us: extra credit is credit you get for doing something extra. I'm not giving you "extra" credit for doing something you were supposed to do anyway, like showing up on a rainy day or making sure your paper has the required number of pages. They always seemed baffled by this concept...

    3. I tell my classes that I do not do extra credit. Why should I put extra work on myself because they chose not to do the assigned work in the first place?

    4. I have enshrined my no-bonus policy in my syllabus. That has saved me countless times...

  8. "Every other professor [insert some ridiculous claim]" ....

    We all know there are some profflakes out there, but simple tea partying probability refutes the claim that I am the only professor who actually expects cited sources ... or proper English ... or original writing.

    "I've had a 4.0 until now ..." (see above)

    You mean to tell me that no other professor noticed you do not know the difference between "loose" and "lose" or think that stringing together paragraph long quotations qualifies as original writing?

    Stop, please just stop ...

    1. I often had some kid who tried the "every other prof...." stunt with me. I tell them in no uncertain terms that, first of all, every other prof or instructor isn't teaching my section of the course. If they persisted, then I'd tell them to get one of them to teach it. Until that happened, I was in charge and my judgement prevailed.

      Whenever I heard someone tell me that they had an excellent GPA until they took my course, I smelled a rat. Often, I'd find out from other sources that what they told me wasn't the case. Also, I surmised that if they were telling me that, they were in serious trouble and were trying to get concessions out of me to allow them to pass.

      Then, once in a while, I'd get some kid who claimed that he or she studied the same material in high school that they were taking in my course and that they got high marks for it. Often, that statement meant that they weren't doing as well as they figured they should and were, again, trying to weasel their way out of it.

      If, however, what they presented me with earned them such high marks, either the standards of whoever taught it to them were low or those teachers were sloppy or trying to coast through themselves. If, however, that work represented a high standard at Podunk Corners high school, or wherever that student graduated from, that didn't speak well for that institution.

  9. And...

    1. "How many questions are on the exam?"

    I always answer "Why does it matter? It's an hourly exam. It could be 100 questions or just 2. As long as you are prepared, it will take you less than an hour."

    2. "Is the exam hard"

    My answer: "Wasn't for me. Got a 100%."

    1. I once, as a joke, answered that one: "Not too hard. I got an 88, which is pretty good for me!"

      I never, EVER joke about exams with students now. At least three of them were in the Chair's office demanding a 'competent' instructor, as I couldn't even answer my own questions.


    2. "What's the exam going to cover?" was a favourite with my students. When I tell them that it'll be on everything that we'd covered up to a certain point in the course, they often looked terrified. How dare I test them on anything covered by, say, a previous mid-term?

      The thing is I didn't do so explicitly. But the material on that previous exam usually provided the basis for subsequent topics and, if the students didn't know those basic concepts, they would have had a difficult time passing the upcoming exam. I was, therefore, testing them on what we'd covered since that previous exam.

      Frequently, someone would mutter that I was being harsh or intimidating, though I don't recall anyone actually filing a complaint about it or trashing me in an evaluation.

    3. Last time someone asked what the exam was going to cover, I started listing things in order from the Table of Contents of our primary textbook. They were all frantically writing down what I said. Only two realized what I was doing and smiled.

  10. "I've had a 4.0 until now ..."

    Well, you don't anymore. You should have been more careful to preserve that high GPA.

  11. "I've had a 4.0 until now ..."

    Well, you don't anymore. You should have been more careful to preserve that high GPA.

  12. I had a first-year grad course prof whose head just exploded one session when asked what would be on the exam. (Brooklyn accent) "Jesus Christ! If you people can't figure out what's gonna be on the exam, I can't fucking help you. You shouldn't be in a goddam grad program if you can't tell what's important and what you oughta study! Fuck!" Nobody complained to the dept. chair.

    Also: Gary FTW.