Thursday, May 23, 2013

An Open Letter to Sad Sally and Her Ilk

To Sad Sally,

Despite what urban legends claim, I am not out to ruin your life and pulverize your dreams under my weather-beaten loafers. I had a myriad reasons to choose the career I did, some of which have crumbled to dust right before my eyes, but believe me when I say that victimizing "impressionable young minds" [but you claim you were hoping I'd treat you "like the adult" you were. Which is it?] was not one of them.

Look, crap happens. I get that. Your close relative died and you had to go to hir funeral; that wasn't a crime. I was morally and legally obliged to give you time to make up your work, to take the situation into consideration when I sat down to determine your final grade. You were passing this course before the aforementioned crap happened and the abrupt descent of your performance could not have been fibbed. I believe you, Sad Sally, I really do.

You say I didn't cooperate with you on this matter. Oh, Sally, but I did. Remember that email I sent you, asking you to come to my office hours with some missing homework that I would grade and enter into the system? Remember when I sat there for three hours, looking from window to door, waiting? Oh, wait - you probably don't remember, because you didn't show up. I read the plaintive missive you sent two days later, entreating for another chance, a different time tailored according to your schedule. I capitulated to that too, Sally; I let you name the time and day and smiled rather amiably when I received your gushing gratitude. Sure, it was the day after grades were due and the semester was officially over, so I wasn't getting any benefit for coming in, but I didn't mind because under all the cynicism and thick skin, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

You. Didn't. Show. Up.

You thought third time was the charm and asked me again, but I, lowly old I, dared refuse your offer. And now I get this email, lashing out at me with every vile accusation under the sun. You insult my reason for my career choice, you question the solidity of my heart, you speculate on the repercussions this could heap on my position as instructor, was it too much to ask me to meet you [YOU!] halfway, who exactly did I think I was? - the list goes on and on.

I am not mad at you, Sally, I am fucking furious. Ignoring for a moment my own wasted time, I want to beat you over the head for forfeiting a semester's worth of time and worthwhile effort, to shake you into understanding that this is important, that your education MATTERS, goddammit! All you had to do was show me some past homework - no extra paper, no extra credit, no test, no handstand, just past homework that you should have done anyway. What more do you want?! How low can standards go?!

My fingers are shaking as I type this - out of frustration, anger, resentment, I don't know. It is like Dick Tingle so eloquently observed; there is something missing in these students, something essential, vital, and I am absolutely terrified of the implications.


  1. Forward her e-mail to your chair with a narrative of what happened. You want your a-- covered with this one. Then let go of the emotions if you possibly can; don't give her a square inch more of your mental real estate.

  2. My sympathies. And what F&T said.

    Figuring out the mentality of the narcissism/drama-prone defeats me (perhaps all the more so because I had some experience of death, starting quite early, and come from a very stiff-upper-lip carry-on sort of family). The suffering is real, I'm sure, but lines do have to be drawn when it comes to acceptable behavior. Maybe you should have drawn it a bit sooner, but it can be hard to figure that sort of thing in the moment. You certainly gave her more than enough chances. Now is, indeed, the time to document, then forget.

  3. Based on her actions, her education doesn't matter to her. If it doesn't matter to her, then it matters to nobody.

  4. I had my share of students like that while I was teaching.

    Usually, they behaved that way because they knew they had a get-out-of-jail-free card. All they needed to do was to come up with some sort of sob story and then tell it to the assistant department head, getting him to feel sorry for them. After the students broke out the hankies and screechy violins, they were let off the hook and the requirement that any outstanding work be completed was promptly waived.

    Meanwhile, my schedule was disrupted because I'd wait for them and they never bothered showing up. All the arrangements I made to allow them to finish any outstanding work were completely wasted as well. Naturally, the students never explained themselves nor did they offer an apology to me.

    Why not? Wasn't that why I got paid the "big bucks"? (Yeah, right.)

  5. Poor Sad Sally. Now she's lost more than just a family member... What nerve! And the fact that more and more students do this makes me livid.