Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Today on Professor Facepalm: What, Exactly, Did You Want to Talk About?

I had a meeting with a student, per her request. She wanted to talk about "her performance in class."

I found the request baffling, since she has not been in class frequently enough to be said to have any kind of performance in it at all.

Still, it is my job, and doing it keeps me in used books and over-priced coffee drinks, so I said, "Sure, I'd be happy to."

During the meeting, I was informed of the following:

  • She does not know why she needs this class.
  • It has nothing to do with smearing poop on a slide. (I infer from this her prospective job does?)
  • She finds it hard to read the book.
  • She has to read the chapters several times before she understands anything.
  • But she thinks the class is really easy,
  • and she can totally do this. No problem.
  • She understands that the tests will be over the lecture notes and the reading.
  • But she was surprised to see that some of the test questions covered material not in the book.
  • She enjoys my lectures.
  • She's happy I'm not boring.
  • But she has trouble paying attention during class.
  • On other hand, she was at pains to let me know that when she wasn't in class, she had "reasons."
  • Likewise for when she shows up, drops her bag, and promptly leaves for most of the period.
  • You see, she has kids.
  • And, owing to having kids, my expecting her to be present at the start of class is "unrealistic."
  • She hates that she has to take this class.
  • But she really likes the material.
  • She reads a lot.
  • But she finds it hard to read.
  • She is totally good at studying and can easily master this material.
  • But she is at a loss to figure out how to prepare for the tests.
  • She is a really good student.
  • She just doesn't do well in her classes.
Oh, and the perennial favorite:
  • She's graduating next semester.
At no point during the twenty-minute meeting did she stop talking for even a second, nor did she ever - not once - ask a single question. I get the sense that she was fishing for me to say something like, "Wow, you must have it rough; let's see what we can do for you." 

I never liked fishing.

She is one of my more baffling students, but there's a certain amusement value to her sheer stupidity. The amusement lessens, however, when she's keeping me from my well-earned lunch at Subway.


  1. "It has nothing to do with smearing poop on a slide."

    I think this should replace hamster fur as the new academic field designator.

    1. My job feels like it's all about smearing poop on a slide (or the page, as the case may be).

    2. Yeah! And then alternating between sliding through it or cleaning up afterwards, am I right?

  2. It's that time of the semester, when the visits to "discuss my performance in the class" start happening. And oh, I can't make it to your office hours, is is possible to schedule a different time?

    Usually it's people who never have a question about the subject, and if you ask them "what did we do in class yesterday", they don't have a clue. You got a talkative one, most of the time all I get is "can I still get a C?" And, of course, "I need this class to graduate".

  3. BINGO! I was cornered by a hostile one in my office hours recently who took out her midterm paper (I'd given it a B- ) and actually told me, "I'm trying to get into law school, and this grade is not acceptable. We need to talk about my performance in this class."

    She didn't mean that her work was unacceptable. She meant that it was unacceptable that I'd given her a B-.

    Shoot me now.

    1. Sounds like the perfect mindset for a would-be lawyer. Everything is negotiable (except billed hours). If you don't like the verdict, file an appeal. Soon she'll tell you that it would be cheaper to give her the grade rather than go to the expense and trouble of Student Court.

  4. What a winner. I hope her smearing poop on a slide job doesn't require her to be on time or to show up regularly. Because with kids, no one is expected to function or be responsible.

  5. Jeez Louise. Can you IMAGINE what this fool will say when she gets a real job with a real boss in the real world? Probably much the same thing.

  6. Sounds like she may have been throwing things she'd said in the past that worked at you to see what worked on you. Unfortunately, she didn't try just doing the work of the class, more or less on time, most of the time, which works pretty well with most of us.

  7. I once had an angry student who, as class was leaving, informed me I had to cut her slack because she was a single mother. At that point several students, of both genders, came back to let her know she wasn't the only single parent in the room and to shut up.

    This term I have two single mothers telling me that's why they show up late with a coffee in hand. They didn't like it when I pointed out there were several sections that started later in the day. I didn't even mention passing the coffee bar in the hall to get to the class on time.