First, the Flava, which is a bit long but bear with me:
I teach mostly HamsterWriting, but every semester I get to teach one HamsterLit course. Lately, I am noticing a trend among students that amounts to course shopping, with a twist:
They look at the syllabus and listen to my description, then openly criticize the course right there in front of me.
Case #1: A student comes to my office during add/drop. He is a bit weird and twitchy and smells as though he doesn't bathe or do laundry regularly (an olfactory fact confirmed by visual confirmation of an old, crusty mustard stain on his hoodie). He asks about my HamsterLit for Huge SF Nerds, and I hand him the syllabus and reading list. Immediately, the criticisms begin:
"You don't have Bradbury on here."
"No, I don't." I've spent several years developing the course theme and subthemes (What it means to be human, the impact of technology on our lives—the moral, political, and social ramifications of our dependence on machines—a dependence as old as civilization itself. Some of the sub themes deal with the idea of progress; industrialization (and its ancillaries: capitalism and globalization); the corporatization of society; the Othering of the feminine; and a quick and dirty gloss of postmodernism. It's a survey course).
"You don't have X or Y or Z on here"
At this point, I take the time to explain how I've built the course, how the readings and films have been carefully curated and spread out over the 15 weeks we have to do all of this. And against my better judgment (which turns out to be correct), I added Ser Stynky to the course roster.
Almost immediately, I regret adding him.
- He is chronically late (to a class that starts at 9:30), sometimes by nearly a full hour (for a 75 minute session). On the days he is late, which is most of them, he tends to jump into the discussion and either a) ask a question that had been answered near the beginning of the lecture or b) argue with me about some point I have already made and am reiterating to reinforce (he reads Philosophy in his spare time, but doesn't quite apprehend most of what he reads. I double majored in HamsterLit and continental Philo as an undergrad at a SLAC, so it's best not to make pronouncements to me on Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Camus, or Sartre if you're at all shaky on what they're arguing).
- He is disgusted that one of the main topics of class discussions is the Othering of the Feminine (in Frankenstein, Metropolis, No Woman Born, "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," Blade Runner, etc.) and argues vehemently with his groupmates about why this isn't something we need to talk about.
The rest of the class actively hates him. They cannot understand why I don't just kick him out, or lock him out (I cannot lock our classroom doors--both policy-wise and technically, as they only lock with a key). I teach on a small campus with no security corps. It would take the cops at least 3-5 minutes to get to our room, provided I can make it to the phone (which was installed in the classrooms six months after Virginia Tech).
This is a new experience for me, and I have been in the classroom since 1995. In the words of the immortal Jayne Cobb, he "is starting to damage my calm."
When I finally speak to someone who can intervene with his behavior, his reaction is to be offended that I am offended by his behavior. He is indignant that I cannot "get over" his being chronically an hour late to class. Obviously, he is not getting some help he sorely needs, but it's not my place to say it. I just have to keep putting up with it, and pray that though he is Ser Stynky, he is not Game-of-Thrones violently inclined.
Eventually, he gives up and goes away, failing the course.
And that's just one case. There are others.
So my Early Thirsty is this:
1) Have you ever had a student course shop, then criticize your course?
2) Have you ever had a bad feeling but ignored it to up your numbers, then regretted it?