Thursday, November 21, 2013

Students. What Are You Going to Do With Them?

I did it yesterday.

I flunked every single student in one class.

It was just an assignment, but you'd have thought I murdered their whole families (or deleted their Twitter accounts.)

The dumbest students I've ever had. They refuse to read directions.

The sheet said that you MUST include a well-integrated quote from the text. This is a concept we cover often. They had their texts with them. We've done it on the white board. (This is just one example of what they failed to do.) 4 out of 30 did it right.

Two other things they had to accomplish in this tiny in-class assignment. Not a single student got all three parts right. Most didn't even get ONE item right. There was such laziness in the answers, just the kind of lackadaisical approach that more and more of us see in our students.

It was one of those days when - as I passed out the assignment - someone said, "Do we have to do this?"

"No," I said. "You can go home. You are ALWAYS free to go home."

"And this won't count against us?!?!" Someone said excitedly.

"Well of course it will. Are you kidding? It all counts. It all matters. What you do in here matters; in fact it's the whole idea of living on the planet with the other humans."

Fuck me. I just want to cry. Not for them. For me. I don't know how to do anything else.


  1. You have hit the nail on the head. We have a whole generation of human beings who want nothing they do wrong to "count against them." Well, I suppose they have George Zimmerman to look to, but it's appalling.

  2. Terry, you should in fact celebrate your success. "You'd have thought I murdered their whole families". This means they at least care about these small grades; there's something they're not apathetic about! You can motivate them!

    I can see doing this for a class and have them all look at each other, shrug, and continue on.

  3. Congratulations, Terry! Not for failing your class but for being strong enough to hold them accountable for their performance. You might be the first person, or at least the first instructor, in their lives to do that. If they all deserve to fail the assignment, that's their problem, not yours. I applaud you and will buy you a drink if we ever meet.

    1. Ben said it best.

      Keep doing it. Fail their stupid asses! Hold them accountable.
      "Do I have to do this?"

      "No, you can fail without it."

      They'll find that if they don't feel like doing something they can lose their job. They can also lose:
      Driver's license if they don't renew.
      Right to drive if they don't renew their car tag and insurance.
      Place to live if they don't pay the rent/mortgage and the 'rents won't let them move back home.
      Life, if they don't take their meds like the doctor says.

      We need more of these:

    2. Driving isn't a right, it's a privilege, and my state's DMV makes this clear.

      Go, Terry!

    3. I knew that, Frod. I just got student-lazy and used the term "right" instead of the proper, longer, more-difficult-to-type word "privilege."

    4. Yeah, I hate it when extended contact with bad students makes me wonder whether I'm getting less intelligent. An antidote for it is to spend time with good students, but those seem to get rarer all the time.

  4. "It was just an assignment, but you'd have thought I murdered their whole families...."

    Look up "Sippenhaft"; it's a cruel idea from a cruel regime, but the mere threat of it could keep the little pricks in line.

  5. I'm prepared to do this with all 6 of my sections. I can justify each grade in terms of exam scores, time put in to homework, and attendance.

    Half of them withdrew, so that's 60 Fs I don't have to give out at the end of the semester.

    Every day before I exam I write 3 numbers on the board:
    % who did no homework
    % who spent less than 1 hour on it
    % who spent more than one hour on it.

    I add the first two percentages together, and I say, "This is the percentage of students who are not prepared for tomorrow's exam and this is the percentage of students I expect to have to give Fs to."

    Every week I do this. Every week I carry it out. Every week the same percentage of people don't listen and don't do their work. Gossip around the class is that I'm going to curve at the end, but the tutors tell them I've never curved anything yet and they don't believe I will do it.

  6. Good for you for holding them to a standard! Now to try to get more professors to do the same.

  7. Well, absolutely, I admire your courage. I wish I could do that: give not the entire class an F (on a test, not the course) but merely the 70% that deserve it.

    Or (like Flamen) celebrate that half of them decided it was better to quit than to make the effort required to pass.

    But I can't. Although I announce on my syllabi that I don't "grade on a curve" (and I really don't), the admins at my U have made it clear that if my pass rates are not similar to that of others teaching these courses (a number known only to the Chair), and if large numbers of student drop, or even decline to enroll in my sections, my job is toast. (I'm tenured, but it's not a serious institution, land-grant and all.) And, like Terry, I don't know how to do anything else.

    Also, student evals correlate strongly with midterm grades, so I have to fudge a bit, and highlight the positive when I tell them about grades. In the end there will be lots of Cs, not all of them earned; but they don't know that yet.


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