Monday, March 30, 2015

Academic Monkey Gives Unsolicited Advice!

It's about time to bring back some much-needed Unsolicited Advice. How would you treat these students if they were yours?

Snowflake Complainer Miriam:
"So I have this math professor who is just HORRIBLE. She's like, from another planet, and does not connect to any of her students. She tries to be funny and make little jokes during class, but they are absolutely NOT funny. People just give her an awkward stare and are like, wtf? The worst part is, she is unapproachable. I really need help in math and we have a test soon, and I tried to email her because I have another class during her office hours. She is inflexible, and although I try to be polite with my emails, it gets kind of hard when she repeats the same thing over and over again in a stuck up, sniddy way: It's like me giving her many options of other times I can meet, and her being like, Well, I have office hours on Wed evening. Or, I already told you I'm unavailable for [some of my available times] My office hours are on Wed evening 5-6. After 6 may be possible. BUT I ALREADY TOLD YOU I CAN'T MAKE IT THEN!!! AGHHH!!! Any advice? I hate her so much I'm unwilling to even LEARN for her class."

Unsolicited Advice: 

How horrible darling!! It is always difficult to put our prejudices aside when we encounter those from far-out places, let alone outer space. Nevertheless I encourage you to put your ideas aside and think of your professor briefly as a human being. It's hard I know!! But let's try. You seem to be pretty sniddy and inflexible yourself about making it during her office hour times. Maybe you should try some online interaction (email, Skype, IM) or even.... any of 1000 online tutoring services that help you understand that crazy alien concept "MATH."

 Snowy Snow Snow Steve:
"I know im not the best writer but dammit i try! I feel like this professor just hates me because he sort of ignores me in class and my essay's aren't what i expected. However, this is the problem im probably getting the grades (two high B's) i deserve but i feel so sad and take it really personal and i think he's noticed and doesn't like that. The problem is how do i except that my writing isn't what i thought it was (I never got a B in other English's classes and now i cant seem to get an A) and not take it to personal and move on, accept the grade and don't waste so much time on my writing and focus on my other classes, since apparently it is impossible for me to get an A ): thank you! i just need some advice on how not to feel horrible"

Unsolicited Advice: DO you try? Do you really? Did you try to capitalize "i" and miss the caps key? Or pluralize "essays" and use English as a complimentary adjective but fail through no fault of your own? I wonder if it occurs to you that writing is something that you will literally use for every single class, professional interaction, and casual internet post for the rest of your life? Maybe you should "stop taking this personally" and instead taking it fucking educationally. Your writing really does suck.

 Flakiest Snowflake Fei:
"I don't understand how a paper can "not meet expectations" and I look at the notes she made about how I left things out when the things I "left out" are CLEARLY included! When it asks for limitations and I state "The limitations are..." I'm pretty sure THEY ARE NOT MISSING! So now, when I thought I was done with school until July, I have to drive myself crazy revamping my 17 page paper so it "meets expectations" and I can get my grade for the class. I'm sorry but I hate hate HATE my professor. I had her before and she is ROTTEN. Its an online class and I am SO glad it is because everyone tells me my face makes it impossible for me to hide how I'm feeling. ARGH! (Sorry, just had to vent...) Yell

Unsolicited Advice: Wow, your professor is awesome!! Look at how she gave you an extension with feedback to allow you to save your grade. I'll be honest: I might give extensions, but once the term is over, I am on a beach with lots of alcohol mixed with coconut flavoring. Just a tiny piece of advice: if you include some critical element, but that element is not noticed by your reader, perhaps you aren't being clear enough? Just rephrase (use sign posts if you REALLY must) and knock that baby out of the park. We proffies need to get our beach on after term ends.



  1. Boom! Old school smackdown. What makes the site great.

  2. Snowy Snow Snow Steve, your email clearly shows that you don't deserve a B for writing. You don't deserve a C, D or an A either. If I could make up a lower grade then you would deserve an F either.

    You seriously got an A in an English class before? I'd have deported you. I have kids who grew up in India and write better than you. We'll send you over there for a few years until you get your shit together.

  3. I've actually got a bit of sympathy for Miriam, since the email exchange sounds frustrating. But my sympathy is definitely tested by the attitude she displays in the first six or so sentences, and the last one. Besides, I can easily imagine the situation of Miriam's proffie, who no doubt has a dozen or so Miriams panicking, in various semi-coherent ways, all over her inbox, and demanding meetings at various early, late, weekend, etc. times. And that's not even considering all the students in the other sections she teaches, and/or the members of the various committees on which she serves, and/or the demands of whatever life she manages to maintain outside of school. A virtual meeting (offered by either party) sounds like a good idea to me.

    Steve appears to have been badly failed by the educational system (and/or he's lying, to you and/or himself: "I got an A on an English paper once" has a way of shifting, over time, to "I always get As in English"), but that doesn't really matter at this point. As you point out, he's going to have to learn to write some time, and there's no time like the present to start.

    And Fei. Oh, Fei. Every writing teacher hates the phrase "but it's in there" with a passion, because we hear it all too frequently, almost always from students who are trying to appeal a grade (often, as Fei is, on a paper they've already been told they may revise) while the instructor is trying to make constructive suggestions for revising the paper to make it easier for the reader to follow the good ideas that are, indeed, "in there," but harder than they should be to find, and connect.