Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If It's Tuesday, Hiram Must Be Baffled By A Student.

Lois pulled me aside after class a few weeks ago. It was a litany of horror stories, personal, financial, related to her scholarship, a parent, etc. It was actually very sad. I felt bad for Lois.

The upshot was modification of her schedule. There was no other way for her to finish the semester, her last on campus.

So we went to my office, got my calendar out, found her a path to coming to some other classes of mine. Even involved my colleague across the hall who was going to proctor a timed essay Lois would have to do, but that she couldn't take at the regular time.

Then we got the testing center involved. Then we got clearance from the chair on something. And by we I mean me.

Lois scurried off, tears still in the corner of her eyes, and I started writing up new material for her to work on to finish her semester. I can't use the same stuff, because she's on an alternate schedule, and I like to remove any possible temptation of sharing info.

Her class meets Tuesday/Thursday, but part of the modifications involve her coming to my Monday 3 pm class instead, to get some of her work. It's in an out of the way building that Lois didn't seem to spark to, so I'd printed her a map off the campus website and circled the spot, wrote the time and day of our first meeting there.

Monday 3 pm came along and she was a no show.

When I went to her regular class on Tuesday morning she was sitting there smiling.

"What's up?" I said.

"Oh, I got it figured out. I don't need all that other stuff," she said, waving a hand and dismissing all of the work I'd done in order to help her is path to graduation.

"You're kidding," I said. I was pissed.

"No," she said, smiling. "It all worked out!"


  1. They never consider all of the unnecessary time and effort we put into accommodating them. That's why I never bother.

  2. NP is right, but I make the mistake ALL the time. They truly are the most self-centered creatures, and it has gotten worse over the period of my career.

    Hiram, if you're like me, you'll be mad for the day, and when another opportunity comes where you think you might be able to help a student, you probably will...don't beat yourself up over it.

    1. Forcing them to recognize that you are doing them a favor would be an improvement. One of my undergrad professors whom I had asked for some favor made it very clear that he was doing something he simply did not have to do and that I should be grateful. I probably didn't really need that kind of prodding, but he was right, and his point was made: professors have lives and do not serve at the behest of students; favors are extras and should be appreciated as such. Teaching students that is a good lesson.

    2. Oh, I've generally found that a majority of *all* people are clueless re: the amount of time/effort it goes into accommodating them & their "neeeeeds". When I've taught, student-flakes were too self-centered. And in the workaday grind, admin-, staff- & prof-flakes can easily be just as self-centered.

      It's a human thing.

      It doesn't mean I/we stop, although it does mean we get a bit more cynical and/or circumspect about honoring any/all such requests (and lord knows its made my bitching threshold WAY lower!).

      Fortunately, there is the minority of people who are situationally & environmentally aware of the workload. Those are the people I willingly help.

      With a smile on my face.


  3. If you ever change such that you are no longer willing to help anyone, then the terro-, I mean, the snowflakes, win...

  4. Agree with what Darla and Prof Poopiehead said; interestingly, though, the students I get the most thanks from are the ones I failed / called out on their BS.

    As ever, happy to see a Tuesday Hiram post, Hiram. Keep it up!

    1. Yes! I hit a couple of students with a flat "no" this week (unusual, for me), and I got the strange feeling that they had been waiting a long time for someone to stand up to them.

    2. Very possible.

      I often got the sense that students are very comfortable simply running something up the flagpole and don't tend to feel much shame. That's why I often required often visits instead of discussion via email. Even the little effort of coming to my office was enough to make students stop and think about what they were asking and if it was worth doing in person. It usually wasn't.

    3. This is a very interesting set of comments. I do think they are universally shameless about asking for inanities.

      Even the ongoing stapler thing is something students CAN solve as soon as you say, "No, I didn't fucking bring a fucking stapler. I'm not your mommy."

      Most will just shrug and figure it out in a way that doesn't bother you.

      Even though some of us get used to bending over for them, we don't have to in many cases.

    4. @HPP: Exactly. Face-to-face interaction often encourages the right kind of self-consciousness, something I never would have thought to value as a young guy in the technological stone age (80s!).

  5. Oh, and fuck Hiram. I wish I'd made that graphic, hell, ANY of the Hiram graphics. Simple, tasteful. So against my ethos, but still satisfying and rage-inducing.

    1. "Fuck Hiram"???
      Hey, Cal, everything's going to be alright. Why don't you play us all a song? Stroke that geetar and make us one of your good fuzzy vidshizzles?

    2. Cal's semester is almost over. He won't be off a golf course now until Sept 1.

    3. No surprise. I've heard he can spend an entire day just trying to get out of a bad bunker. Stubbornly sticking with that old 7 iron. Buy a good chipping wedge, Cal!

    4. I got a "Fuck Hiram!" Fuck yeah! LOL.

      Cal, you da man! How can I be da man, when you already da man!

    5. Fuck everybody. I get out of the bunker with ease each time. If I don't get it out with my 56 degree Tom Watson wedge, I just pick the ball up and hurl it onto the green.

      I mean, I'm not playing at Pebble Beach or anything. It's just me, smoking, drinking, hot dogs, and long mournful cries when a ball goes in the desert and I can't find it.

      And Leslie, don't you have a headstrong daughter to try to reel back in? SMOOOOOOCH.

  6. Making Lois do the grunt work on all of this would have stopped her in her tracks. This is how, by and large, I avoid doing recommendations.

    When a student asks, I say, "Please provide me with a copy of your updated resume as well as a copy of your application essay, so I can write the most thorough recommendation possible."

    Because most students don't want to go through even this minescule amount of trouble to get my recommendation, guess how many recs I actually write a year?

    An average of exactly one.

    1. Yes. This.

      It gets the requester some real skin in the game, and it's an entirely reasonable/defensible requirement to boot.

      As always, you rock Stella!

    2. It's true. Even asking them to remind you which classes they took from me, and send me their favourite paper from one of those classes, seems to be enough. And if I ask them to send me their CV/letter of inquiry so I know what to emphasize in my letter ("so that I can do the best job possible") that cuts down the requests too.

      But I'm being honest. I have large classes and I may not remember them from 2 years ago. And if I know what they want to do I can say something relevant. I'm not being a jerk here.

      Well, not totally.

    3. Oh, I've used for many years a weak version of Stella's strategy: I simply ask anyone who wants a LOR from me to bring me a copy of their academic history. Even this simple request is a useful screening device: about half of them don't come back.

  7. Stella, that is a great idea for LOR's and I am going to use it from now on!!!

    As far as accommodating, I do try to accommodate. I also try to let them know I am going out of my way for them. I don't want to be overbearing about it, but when things like this happen, they are often just so clueless. Hiram, I would be mad too, but I wonder if this little snowflake really did not even think she had put you to any trouble. They don't make the leap from our doing our jobs to our going way out of our way to do more than is required. Some of them would do it for others (go out of their way on the job) but many of them would never dream of it.

    What I like to do is to tell them that I will go out of my way for them in this case, and that they should remember it and go out of their way for someone else who needs it in the future (in a pay it forward kind of way). I probably end up sounding very annoying but it gives me something I need to avoid getting mad when things like this inevitably end up happening.

  8. Then they wonder why we get so upset with them.

    I've also noticed how if they have to do any amount of work, they will suddenly find a way to NOT need any accommodation. And those who REALLY need an accommodation don't mind doing their part to make it happen.

  9. I never, ever talk to a student who is crying. I tell them to wait at least 24 hours and then come back when they're calm and we can have a productive discussion.

    It sounds as though Lois was in immediate emotional reaction to whatever curveballs had been thrown her way. Once she had time to calm down and think things through, she worked out a solution on her own. It's important for young people to learn to make good decisions about how to confront unexpected issues effectively. Most of us know not to bother a superior until we've pulled our shit together and know exactly what we need and why. I figure that not being an enabler of inappropriate behavior helps them figure that out.