Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Shit They Say. Smithie in Scottsdale is Speechless.

"You can stop. You've
already won my heart."
Started class last week. My 3 pm class meets 15 weeks, twice a week. 30 meetings.

Nice 22 year old woman comes up after the first meeting with her smartphone. She says, "I wanted to let you know some days that I absoLUTELY can't be in class."

She waits until I make a move to write them down.

9 classes. Out of 30. She has 9/30 classes where she already knows she's not coming.

She reads the list off and sometimes mentions why she's not going to be there - sister's out of town wedding (like on a Wednesday?) - but sometimes doesn't give any explanation.

I look at my list and then at her. "Why didn't you take a different class if this one seems to be a bad time for you.

"Oh," she said brightly. "This was the only section that fit my schedule."


  1. It has been said before. You cannot make this shit up.

  2. Over 20 years ago, I was working part-time on my second master's degree. One term was particularly difficult as, on one day, my work schedule didn't allow me to attend all the lectures in the course I was taking.

    I knew that in advance and I may have even let the prof know, but I made no excuses for myself. I got copies of a fellow student's notes for the days I was absent and I arranged to write the mid-term at an alternate time. I knew it was my responsibility to keep up and I did the best I could under the circumstances.

    All that would have been far too complicated for many of my students.

  3. I wonder what makes them think we care about this information (especially if there is no attendance requirement, but even if there is one.) It's acceptable as a courtesy to the prof, but not if they expect any sort of special treatment when they choose to prioritize other commitments.

    I would have stopped her on her tracks with "that's your responsibility. Be sure to find out what was covered if you have to miss class." And not recorded any dates.

  4. How nice of her to let you know when to give quizzes worth 50 points. :)

  5. I teach very small classes where attendance is necessary to pass, though there's no specific attendance requirement. I have had a few students tell me they're unable to attend, like, 1/3 of the class meetings. That's when I tell them, "You won't be able to pass if you can't make 1/3 of the class meetings. I suggest you withdraw and try again another semester when you can come to all the classes." Mind you, I'm unionized and I have the backing of my administration, so I'm not worried about losing my job. But in every case, the student has either dropped the course, switched to another section, or miraculously become able to attend class after all. I'm sure they cursed me behind my back the whole time, but oh well.

    1. I have the same system--I take attendance without an attendance requirement, just to keep track of things and keep some hard evidence of why certain people are floundering. I always point out it's impossible to pass the course if you miss more than a handful of lectures. Yet every semester there are students whose attendance hovers at about 50% (or even much lower), and still hope to pass. I wish I could just tell them to drop (or drop them from the rolls myself), but my dept counts all Ws and Fs "against me" when computing success rates, regardless of the evidence in attendance records.

  6. I think I can count on one hand the number of students I taught who missed more than 2 weeks-equivalent worth of class meetings and actually passed the class.

    Back in my day - the dim early 90s - we could miss one week-equivalent before we failed the class by default (unless we were already doing well before an illness or something). Now, I have students who are already doing poorly. miss 3 weeks of class meetings, and then are SHOCKED at their bad grades. It's always MY FAULT.

    1. Our school technically has a version of that one-week default rule, but aside from the most basic service courses (which need it to weed out the true slackers) no one actually enforces it.

      I prefer to let the poor performance speak for itself, whatever the attendance tally at the end of the term.

  7. I'm beginning to think that, for some students, "fit[s] my schedule" simply means that the class doesn't actually overlap with another one for which they're registered (which I believe the registration software would balk at). The fact that they're regularly scheduled to be at work, getting their kid of to school, taking a non-university yoga class, commuting from another commitment across town, etc., etc. at that hour doesn't seem to register as a conflict for some of them.

    I actually have some sympathy for the students whose work supervisors keep changing their hours on them (though not so much sympathy that they don't still have to deal with the consequences of missing class, if that's what they choose to do). But students who know at the beginning of the semester that they're going to be unavailable for 1/3 of the class meetings, but still sign up for/remain in the class, baffle me.