Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Epic. Fail.

Anyone notice that
since Tingle left
all of the graphics
are smaller?
I will fail more students this term than at any time in my teaching career. And, yet, I have many bright and lively students. So, what's the problem? Not following instructions. Not meeting deadlines. Not heeding guidelines.

This has all been covered before, so I won't go into detail. But if a paper requires 5 sources and a student turns in a paper with 1, well, that's not meeting the guideline. I even let offenders rewrite, fix it, address it, try again. In the end I want them to the right work to the right level. And for some of my regional uni kids, they need that consideration.

But what baffles me is how these same students, when presented with this offer, just shrug. They say, "Oh, I didn't know."

I sometimes say, "Well, it's on the syllabus, the handout, the LMS, I said it in class, and I sent you an email."

They smile, drink some of their coffee, and go to disappoint someone else.

I'm used to liars and fabricators and plagiarists. But more and more I'm seeing students who act as if they don't care. Didn't do it right? Oh well.

Now some of these, I have learned, will have a realization in the last week, or sometimes after the transcript comes. And I have to deal with them and the Dean later on. But I'm encountering students now who just seem to accept they did it wrong and carry on as if there was no other way around it.

I found 2 students in the hallway of a classroom building yesterday. They sit together, commit about the same amount of effort to the class, and if I combined all their scores they wouldn't even have a chance to pass. I said, "Hey, guys. Get on those rewrites. Both of your papers had some real promise and insight, but you didn't blank, blank, and blank. Take care of that and I'll regrade them."

"Cool," one said, and of course I remembered, after they left, that I'd had the same conversation with them after class one day about another assignment, and I'm still waiting for those results.


  1. I am reading hamsterology papers right now. I have told them in the rough draft, "Do not use quotes," but I still get a paper of quotes I want to bang my head against the table. The lack of direction following is just...Bah! Don't get me started on the need for five references with at least two from an academic journal. I need a drink.

  2. I like it when a student fights a bit. I'm happy to fight back as long as we make the work, the writing, the project better.

    But when I try to get them to fix stuff, make it better, at least meet the guidelines to get a grade, and they DON'T WANT TO, then I remember the old mission statement: don't care more about their education than they do.

  3. Don't forget that it's all *your* fault. After all, you didn't "inspire" them or "intimidated" them or some such nonsense. No matter what happens, both they and the administrators will find a way to deflect the blame from them and dump it all on you.

    Such is the legacy of the "fail once, graduate anyway" policy used by high schools, starting more than 25 years ago.

  4. This level of apathy is what led me to concentrate really hard on those who are trying and ignore those who aren't. I used to become enraged by them and try to cajole and pull and drag them to the finish line...but they just ended up complaining about me and bringing me down, too. So in order to preserve what little energy I have, I adopted our famous motto of not caring more than they do and have actually had pretty good emotional health since then. Coincidentally, my evals have never been better since I started to do that because the ones who used to complain the most were the pathetic ones who resisted my efforts to help them succeed.

  5. They are so relaxed because they smoke so much bud. At least mine do.

  6. In "The Battle of Who Could Care Less" (Ben Folds), I will lose -- I have a mortgage. Therefore, my strategy has been to act almost like a caricature of an amped, enthused, stoked, thrilled-to-be-here teacher. The older I get, the sadder I feel, but the act is never total bullshit; I always have students who seem to be grateful that I'm sweating and gesticulating for their delectation. What the hell? I have more fun when I'm acting like I am. Cheers.

  7. Every semester, I allow for a revision of an earlier essay for a completely new grade (I have never been able to be a prof like Hiram or some of my colleagues who allow revisions throughout the semester--too much to keep track of, frankly). Historically speaking, prior to making the revision OPTIONAL, I would get student after student who either a) made cosmetic (grammar, etc.) corrections or b) just turned in the same goddamned draft as the original. After I'd ground my teeth down to stumps, I realized that I was only making more work for myself at the end of the semester when I am scrambling to get the grading done so that I can either a) celebrate my son's mid-December birthday and Christmas or b) celebrate my daughter's late-May birthday without having to worry about what I haven't gotten finished.

    Now that revisions are totally optional (the new grade on a actual, revised essay replaces the old grade), about a third of my students in any given semester will take me up on it. Last semester, only 20% took me up on it, and it did make a difference between grades for most of the ones who did it. They're happy, and I have way less work to do. Everybody wins.

  8. Been there, Hiram. I had a couple a while ago. One kid turned in the first draft of every single paper. Each one was done incorrectly. He received a zero. I told him, again and again, he could revise and resubmit. Midterm: "Revise, resubmit, you have a zero on everything." Week before finals. "Revise, resubmit. You have a zero on all three papers." He turns in a "revision" of one paper that is, word for word, identical to the first draft. I give him his well-deserved F.

    He appealed, because, as he said, "Dr. Chiltepin wouldn't explain why I got an F when I asked him." My chair turned his cold, withering gaze on the kid, read him the copies of the emails I forwarded to him between me and the kid, and that shut him up (I have a very, very good chair).

  9. Right there with you, Hiram (perhaps in part because we're at similar institutions). I'm the last person to treat "follows directions" as a cardinal virtue. In fact, I'm usually the one giving somewhat flexible guidelines, to give students room to think for themselves, make rhetorical choices appropriate to their purpose, etc. But that means that the requirements I do set down are, in fact, requirements (often designed to meet larger department/program/university requirements). And no matter how carefully I explain them, orally or in the assignments student sometimes complain are too long and detailed, a significant proportion of the students don't follow them. And it gets pretty tiring to keep telling them "you need an x," when x is clearly in the assignment, and to hear "oh; I didn't know."