Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cassie From Callicoon With Today's Snowflake Email.

For reasons too complicated to explain, I'm giving my Hamsterology 101 final exam as an online take-home. We have a course website with an Assignment Dropbox link, and I, kind and gentle proffie that I am, recently posted a "mock exam" there so that the snowflakes could test out how the system works (you download the exam, type in your answers, and upload the completed exam back to the site). I told them all to test out the mock exam before May 1 so they'd be comfortable using the online system, and that if they didn't run this test before the exam period and then had technical problems, they'd be on their own.

May 1 passes, and, despite numerous in-class and online reminders, some students still haven't run the test. So I send one last missive to the outliers.

Here's what I get back:

"Hey Prof, I was trying to do the practice exam submission but I couldn't find it on the course website's dropbox. Is it not there anymore?"

"That's odd," I reply. "What do you see when you click on the Dropbox link?"

"It says Testing: Mock Final Exam. Is that the practice exam?"



  1. They are stupid. And not just stupid because they're young. Stupid little shits. Their brains are not turned on.

    Guess who is once again fed up with his profession!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Most, if not all, of us were young and stupid at one time due to youthful inexperience. We made mistakes, got scuffed and bruised in the process, and often paid the consequences for our foolishness. We did so because real life demanded it from us. It reminds me of the refrain from the poem "Vitai Lampada" by Sir Henry Newbolt.

      Unfortunately, many students nowadays have no such sense of duty or responsibility. I'm baffled as to how that came about.

    3. Actually, I think they're more anxious than stupid, especially when faced with tests. High-stakes, low-stakes, no-stakes, it doesn't matter; thanks largely to NCLB, they've spent their formative years in an environment that creates a lot of noise (some of it in the name of getting everybody "pumped up") around testing time. This may actually work well for some students (those whose focus is increased by a bit of extra adrenaline); for those who are already inclined to anxiety and/or sensory overload and/or problems on the OCD perspective, all the noise (and, I suspect, to some extent, all the care we put into detailed instructions) just exacerbates the problem, and they respond by trying to make sure, again and again and again, what's expected of them. Or they respond by ignoring the whole situation, including preparatory assignments, as long as they can; then dipping their toe into the anxious-making waters just long enough to get some sense of what's going on but not long enough to comprehend the detailed instructions and activities we've so carefully prepared; then emailing us with questions that are covered in all that anxiety-making material (which only becomes more voluminous, year by year, the more they seem not to understand it).

      Somehow, they need to learn to manage anxiety better (not necessarily with a pill, though I realize those can be lifesavers for some people, but I think environmental factors are pushing people to the very anxious end of the spectrum who wouldn't necessarily, in another environment, fall there, so I'd be inclined, at least at an institutional level, to try other solutions first). And we need to think about how/whether we may be contributing to their anxiety (which is not the same thing as taking responsibility for reducing it; they're going to have to do that). Personally, I suspect that students need more experience with only partial success, and even outright failure, earlier in their school careers. Give them a few tests in 5th grade that they shouldn't really be able to pass until 8th grade, or in 9th grade that reflect what they should be able to do in 12th, grade the tests, tell them (probably afterward, so they'll really try) that's what we've done, and then go back to work on increasing their skills so they'll make progress in the 3 years to come. Give them other experiences of taking on challenges that are well above (but not impossibly above) their current abilities, and praise them for getting 1/3 or 1/2 or 3/4 of the way there. They need to experience frustration and fear of failure and even failure itself, and realize that the world doesn't end (and that the feeling isn't fatal, just uncomfortable).

      Sports are supposed to provide some of the experiences above, and I assume that they actually do (one gets good at hitting/dunking/kicking a ball by doing it a lot of times, most of them not very well), but somehow the experience isn't transferring to academic work.

      In the meantime, headdesk indeed, and thanks, Cassie, for sharing the experience.

  2. For me, the worst/funniest thing is when they email you a question like "What does this term mean?" I always reply with the link for the Google search of the term. I would call their emails lazy if it weren't for the fact that it's harder to write me an email than type a phrase into Google or look at the index in the textbook. They are way beyond stupid.

    1. I have gotten to where I don't even bother sending a link. I tell them to look it up themSELVES. *gasp!*

    2. If you are feeling sufficiently mean spirited (and why not, under the circumstances?) you could always send them a link.

    3. I remember teaching a course in which the students had to select components for the hardware they were designing on paper. I gave them the URL to a manufacturer's website and said that they could use the company's on-line catalog to choose what they would use.

      I later got an earful for not giving them the *exact* address and they had to look for the right page. I wondered what they did when they had to do something like that in industry. Would they have sued their employers for unsuitable working conditions because they didn't have catalogs that magically opened to the right page whenever they had to look up parts specifications?

      Then again, I taught the class ahead of them and among the students were some who didn't know what the index of a book was, let know how to use it.

    4. Pumpkin: Love it, thanks!

      Crayon: I have done something similar and said:

      1. Go to
      2. Type your term in the empty box.
      3. Press enter.
      4. ???
      5. Profit.

    5. To be fair, many of them have had it drummed into their heads not to trust sources on the internet at large.

      On the other hand, in my experience, the classes/sessions designed to drum said concept into their heads then go on to spend much more time showing them how to find reliable information through the library website. I think we need to spend more time emphasizing the idea that it's rude to ask someone a question that is answered in hir publications (a lot of them also want to interview proffies rather than read their publications), and/or in a standard reference work. At least that's probably more socially acceptable way of putting it than saying "you look stupid when you ask me questions to which you can easily find the answers."

  3. my go to for questions-easily-answered-by-google: - type in the search term, copy the link that it produces, and watch the magic. it's beautifully snarky.

    disclaimer: may not be suitable for use in settings where you could be punished for hurting feelings.

    1. That was funny! Never heard of it before, vietcong. Thank you so much!!

  4. @Crayon Eater: "I have gotten to where I don't even bother sending a link. I tell them to look it up themSELVES. *gasp!*"

    But it's your JOB!

    Actually, I think Cassandra hit it on the head: they've been trained to "respond by trying to make sure, again and again and again, what's expected of them." In addition to desensitizing them to failure, we (parents and/or grammar schools) should be challenging and rewarding them for self-sufficiency. For starters: let every K-12 classroom have an appropriate dictionary in a prominent place that students may consult at any time (except for tests). Set a goal in the lower grades that each student should look up some number of words per week and reward the kids who meet the goal with free reading time.

    Also, Cassie's snowflakes may think that "mock" refers to a kind of turtleneck because that's the most frequent use these days. (Doesn't it irk you when catalogs like Lands End (grr, without apostrophe) call such shirts "mock necks" or just "mocks"?)

    When I was a kid, I thought that "mock" referred to Ritz crackers due to the ubiquitous recipe on the box for mock apple pie. Thus I had no idea what Lewis Carroll meant by a "mock turtle".

    1. My mother used to make mock apple pie for company. I'm not sure whether I ever got to taste it, but it must not have been absolutely horrible, since she made it more than once. The real thing still seems like a much better idea to me.

      And yes, I suspect that they don't know what "mock" means (well, unless they're accusing a proffie who has appropriately corrected them, or even just asked a question, of mocking them, but that's another meaning).

  5. For when even lmgtfy is too subtle: